- Associated Press - Monday, June 16, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - The $227 million in capital spending requests that New Hampshire agencies submitted for the next public works budget is more than the state can afford, Gov. Maggie Hassan cautioned them Monday.

Hassan opened two days of hearings on the requests that the next governor and Legislature will consider. The final decision on the spending won’t be made until June 2015, but the requests reveal what the agencies consider their priorities.

Hassan noted that the current capital budget contained $38 million to build a long-overdue women’s prison needed for public safety and to end costly litigation.

But she said her top priorities will be to protect existing investments and to update state government’s technology.

“While new buildings may garner headlines, we must make sure we are repairing roofs, updating the plumbing and electricity, making buildings more energy-efficient and doing the other critical maintenance that keep buildings operating,” she said.

The $227 million in requests from general tax funding sources compares with $125 million approved last year for the current two-year capital budget. The total spending requests for the new budget rises to $376 million when borrowing that’s paid for with federal and other funds is taken into account.

Money to repair roofs and improvements at state parks are among the requests.

One of the largest requests is from the University System of New Hampshire, which is seeking $38 million toward a $50 million project to renovate and expand programs in science, technology, engineering and math - STEM - at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. The money would be spent upgrading science facilities at five buildings.

“We are the state’s STEM factory,” said UNH President Mark Huddleston. “We are at capacity. We can’t fit any more kids in the labs.”

Another major request is to spend $14.8 million on a new Merrimack County Superior Courthouse.

Deputy Administrative Services Commissioner Michael Connor said the existing building is inadequate to detain prisoners and has accessibility issues. He said the proposal is to build a new 34,500-square-foot courthouse in Concord.

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