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Senate budget would spend $71m more than House, $250m less than governor

By Tom Fahey
State House Bureau Chief

June 01. 2011 11:52AM

CONCORD - The state Senate voted 19-5 this morning to adopt a two-year state budget that spends more than the House passed, but less than the budget Gov. John Lynch proposed.

The Senate budget spends $4.4 billion in state funds over the next two years, an 11 percent cut compared to the current budget, Senate Finance Committee chair Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem said.

The Senate spends $71 million more than the House plan, and nearly $250 million less than Gov. John Lynch proposed in February. Total spending of federal, state and other funds over two years would be $10.3 billion.

Republicans voted to reject a series of proposed amendments Democrats proposed that would have added funds for hospital charity care, state colleges and universities, child health care, elderly housing services and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.

The next step will be a negotiations process where the House and Senate will work out a compromise spending plan. A new budget must be in place by the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.

Morse said the Senate budget plan meets three goals: lives within the state's means without taxes or fee hikes;new or higher taxes, fees or bonding; helps those who need state protection, and reforms the way government does business.

Democrats said the budget falls short in the way it treats children, hospitals, colleges and the elderly.

Morse said the Senate move to privatize Cannon Mountain through a lease, and to move toward private services in prisons is part of a larger strategy to reduce the size of government.

'Reforming government is a long process, not a short sprint to meet a June 30 deadline,' he said. Work will continue this summer, fall and into next year to find other areas to find more public-private partnerships.

The Senate plan predicts the state will have a surplus of more than $30 million at the end of fiscal 2013, bringing the state's total Rainy Day Fund to an estimated $42 million.

Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester said with the kinds of cuts the budget makes, putting funds into surplus makes no sense.

'I implore my Senate colleagues to recognize this is a rainy day,' he said.

Morese responded, 'You cannot afford to budget every single penny for spending.'

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