N.H. legislature faces major budget decisions

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May 15, 2013

New Hampshire

By Phil Sletten

CONCORD, New Hampshire: The New Hampshire General Court faces major budget decisions in the coming weeks, with the House and Senate both taking up key funding proposals. The House will consider the Senate's plan to expand and tax gambling in the state, while the Senate has not yet completely rejected the gasoline tax proposed by the House.[1]

The House has formed a super-committee, through a combination of the House Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, to tackle the Senate's gambling proposal. Several proposals to change the legislation, including raising the tax rate of casino earnings and spreading the revenue collected from the proposed casino across more years. Representative Neal Kurk (R) has authored several of these proposals, though he has never supported gambling in the past. Historically, the entire House has not been favorable to efforts to expand gambling in the state. However, the House is controlled by Democrats, and Governor Maggie Hassan (D) may be able to attract more support for expanded gambling, which has been the key fiscal policy proposal of her first term.[2][3]

The House super-committee voted 23-22 to recommend killing the legislation on Wednesday. Seventeen amendments were offered, but none were considered before the 23-22 vote. The legislation still goes to the full House, where it has some chance of passage. The Senate supported the legislation with a 16-8 vote.[4][3]

The Republican-controlled Senate has not been interested another source of revenue, a gasoline tax, during this session. However, the Senate Ways and Means Committee allowed a 12-cent increase in the gasoline tax, as passed by the House, to be re-referred to the Senate for next session. The committee's 3-2 vote means that the full Senate must consider the bill by early 2014, rather than during this legislative session.[1]

Amidst this legislative wrangling over budget items comes a new revenue estimate from the Senate that differs substantially from the House's and governor's estimates. Senate revenue estimates forecast that the state will bring in $61.4 million less than the House estimates and cuts $150 million from the governor's February forecast. The primary difference between the forecasts stems from differences in expected revenue from the Medicaid Enhancement Tax, which collects revenue from hospitals in order to obtain federal matching funds before redistributing the federal and some state funds back to hospitals.[5][6][7]

See also