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Governor to lay out spending blueprint for next 2 years



CONCORD - Gov. Maggie Hassan will present her proposed budget today to lawmakers and it's expected to include about $80 million in new gambling licensing revenue.

John DiStaso of the New Hampshire Union Leader was the first to report Wednesday that $80 million from gambling licensing will help to fund her proposed fiscal 2014-15 budget. Hassan said during her campaign she supports one high-end, highly regulated casino along the state's southern border.

Sens. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, and Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester, are sponsors of a bill to establish a casino under the parameters set out by Hassan. The bill has a public hearing Tuesday.

While the Senate has passed a number of casino and video gambling bills in the past, the House has not.

The budget proposal Hassan lays out before the House and Senate today will be the blueprint for government operations for the next two years.

It is no secret there is little new money to pay for any major new spending, but Hassan promised during her campaign to begin restoring cuts to higher education and hospitals.

In the last budget, state aid to higher education was cut in half and money to help pay for uncompensated care provided by the state's largest hospitals was eliminated.

Key areas will be whether the state will expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and whether gas tax and auto registration increases will be included.

Expansion is expected to cost the state about $18 million; hundreds of millions of federal dollars would go to the state's hospitals and other health care providers.

House Public Works and Highways Committee Chairman David Campbell, D-Nashua, is proposing a bill that would increase the gas tax 12 cents and vehicle registrations $15 over a three-year period to fund work on the state's highway system. That bill has a pubic hearing Tuesday as well.

Youth social service workers, parents and school districts have pushed to restore the Children in Need of Services (CHINS) program, which was significantly reduced in the last budget. Only about 50 kids considered a risk to themselves and others are currently being served.

Other areas in the upcoming budget may be dictated by lawsuits brought by mental health patients, women prisoners and 10 of the state's largest hospitals.

"Governor Hassan will present a fiscally responsible, balanced budget that makes difficult decisions in these challenging economic times to move New Hampshire forward toward a more innovative economy where businesses can create good, middle class jobs," said Hassan press secretary Mark Goldberg. "The governor's plan recognizes that we cannot address all of our challenges at once, but it will put us back on the right path by building on the priorities needed to encourage innovation and keep our people safe, healthy and productive."

Her chief of staff Pam Walsh said the theme of the governor's proposed budget will be restoration.

Some of the things will be restored, some will not and some will be partially restored, she said.

The governor's budget invests "in priority areas to build a strong innovative economy that protects the safety of the public and public health," Walsh said.

Republican leaders have already said they do not support any tax or fee increases, and that the budget should not be built on revenue that does not exist.

The only known tax increase included as new revenue would be for the tobacco tax, which automatically increases 10 cents in August. When the tax was cut two years ago, there was a provision if the revenues did not meet their goal that it would revert to the prior rate.

The House Finance Committee will begin work on the budget after Hassan's address and has until the end of March to makes its recommendation to the House, which will vote on it by April 4.

Then the Senate Finance Committee begins its work. The Senate will act on its version of the budget by June 6.

After the Senate acts, a committee of House and Senate budget writers will work to smooth the differences between the two versions. The House and Senate have to approve a new budget by June 30.

grayno@unionleader.com




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