Senate Finance Committee rejects House-approved tax hikes
The House votes today on Senate Bill 152 to allow one casino with up to 5,000 video slot machines and 150 table games. Budget writers agree the casino will not produce revenue for the upcoming biennium, but could provide the state with $80 million in revenue from a licensing fee that Gov. Maggie Hassan included in her budget.
The House vote is expected to be close. The House has never approved casino gambling, although the Senate has done so a number of times.
The Senate, which is crafting its version of the state $11 billion two-year operating budget, has passed SB 152 but the finance committee has not included the $80 million in its budget and won't unless the House passes it, according to committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, and a sponsor of SB 152.
Morse released a list of $28 million potential reductions in health and human service programs Tuesday which include $4 million to reduce the developmentally disabled wait-list for services. The reduction represents about 25 percent reduction in the money Hassan and the House included in the budget to eliminate the wait-list.
Hassan's decried the reductions.
"The cuts outlined today by Senate Republicans are nothing short of devastating for the health and well-being of the people of New Hampshire," she said. "From cuts to our plan to strengthen our mental health system, to cuts in funds for the developmentally disabled, to cuts for CHINS, critical access hospitals, community health centers, local communities and more, Senate Republicans have decided to ignore the calls of Granite Staters to restore our priorities and meet our fundamental responsibilities, opting instead to continue the irresponsible actions of the last legislature."
"The information distributed at this morning's executive session was intended to start the conversation on how we deal with millions of dollars in unrealistic estimates proposed by the governor and passed by the Democratic-controlled House," Morse said. "Going forward, the Senate will continue to make tough decisions based on honest revenue estimates and not in response to political gamesmanship."
While Senate budget writers proposed cutting $28 million from Health and Human Services, they increased spending in other areas, adding $20 million over the biennium for hospitals to match federal disproportionate share money, bringing the total to $40 million.
Senate budget writers decided to return $19 million to the Medicaid Quality Incentive Program for nursing homes which is matched with the same amount of federal dollars.
Charter schools fared better in the Senate Finance Committee than they did in the House.
The committee added $3.4 million to fund charter schools the state Board of Education has yet to approve.
The Senate Finance Committee hopes to finish work on its budget plan by next week and vote on it June 6.