N.H. House, Senate reject revenue proposals, budget in turmoil

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May 28, 2013

New Hampshire

By Phil Sletten

CONCORD, New Hampshire: The New Hampshire House of Representatives, controlled by Democrats, rejected the proposal for expanded gambling in the state forwarded by Governor Maggie Hassan (D) and the Republican-led State Senate.[1] The following day, the State Senate rejected two key alternative revenue proposals from the House, killing a bill to raise the cigarette tax and removing raising gasoline taxes from the legislative agenda until at least 2014.[2][3]

The House of Representatives has historically opposed expanded gambling.[4][5] However, strong support from the Democratic governor and a bipartisan majority of senators gave gambling some significant momentum.[6] Despite this momentum, opponents succeeded in killing the legislation with a significant and bipartisan majority in the House, 199-164.[1] Democrats narrowly favored the bill, while Republicans largely opposed it. The bill was rejected before amendments could be considered. House Speaker Terie Norelli (D) remained neutral, but her leadership team was opposed to the legislation.[7]

The casino bill's death opened an $80 million deficit in Governor Hassan's proposed biennial budget, due to be implemented July 1.[7] However, the Senate moved the next day to reject the alternative methods of increasing revenue proposed by the House. In what some perceived as retaliation against the House for rejecting their gambling bill, the Senate removed the gasoline tax from consideration for the rest of the legislative session and also killed the cigarette tax increase. The Senate also rejected Democratic House initiatives to repeal the controversial "stand your ground" self-defense law and reintroduce a state minimum wage.[8][9][3] These votes put New Hampshire's budgetary stability in question, and with only two weeks remaining in the session, some are suggesting that the New Hampshire General Court may vote to continue the current budget.[10][11]

The budget debate will consume the legislature's attention for the next two weeks. Governor Hassan has declared that she will fight to fund her priorities, although she has not specified the revenue source. Her office has not signaled any support for a sales or income tax, of which New Hampshire has neither.[12] The debate has turned to budget cuts in some circles as revised revenue estimates have suggested that New Hampshire will not collect as much money as previously estimated.[13][14]

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