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Garry Rayno's State House Dome: Gas tax increase still a political hot potato
Early in his campaign against incumbent Democratic Gov. John Lynch, Coburn voiced his support for increasing the gas tax. Lynch's campaign pounced and brow beat the poor guy with the issue for the next six months.
Last year was the first serious attempt since 2006 to raise the levy, which has not budged from 18 cents since 1991, although inflation has more than doubled since then and gas prices have more than tripled.
Under the formula, the state's 18 cent gas tax would increase about 4.2 cents a gallon, raising about $30 million in new revenue dedicated to transportation projects. Some of the gas tax would be siphoned off by the Department of Safety (state police), the courts and the Attorney General's Office, among other state agencies.
"I'm trying to restore the purchasing power that has been eroded since the last tax increase in 1991," Rausch said when he explained his proposals to reporters. "I want to be very clear this is a small step."
On Tuesday, the public will have an opportunity to let lawmakers know what they think of the idea. Senate Bill 367 has a public hearing before the Senate Ways and Means Committee beginning at 9 a.m. in Room 103 in the State House.
The association's president, Robert Sculley, said the bill would allow the tax to go up every four years without a public hearing or lawmakers debating the issue.
"I seriously doubt the average New Hampshire citizen would approve of their voice being taken away from them when it comes to the legislative body debating a tax increase that will impact them," Sculley said. "In fact, I believe most of them would be outraged."
This time, Hassan voiced support for the efforts by Rausch, a Republican state senator, and last week said on New Hampshire Public Radio's "The Exchange'' that she would sign the bill.
Meanwhile, Department of Transportation Commissioner Chris Clement continues to beat the drum for more revenue to fix the state's roads and bridges and tackle needed turnpike projects, such as finishing the I-93 expansion, making upgrades to Spaulding, widening the F.E. Everett and adding overhead tolling around the Bedford Tolls, and redoing Interstate 293 exits in Manchester's Millyard.
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Medicaid Expansion: Three Republican state senators and three Democratic state senators last week unveiled their proposal to expand the state's Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, but they - mainly the Republicans - don't want to call it Medicaid expansion.
When the two sides last faced off, the key sticking points were when the expanded coverage would begin and how quickly newly eligible recipients would have to move to private insurance.
The hospitals and providers recoup their lost uncompensated care money by charging those of us with health insurance more, or what is called cost shifting. That is one of the reasons New Hampshire - one of the healthiest states in the country - has some of the highest premiums.
With the state's plan to use private insurers to cover about 75 percent of the newly eligible Medicaid recipients, the managed care companies are looking at a much smaller pool of people than they envisioned when they signed the contracts.
Instead, the new proposal would allow the companies to automatically enroll the newly eligible recipients - who would be on the managed care program for at least six months and probably 18 months - in private plans offered through the state's health insurance exchange.
That not only does away with a potential lawsuit, but also makes a major reduction in hospitals' uncompensated care costs.
That will increase competition in the individual health insurance market, which everyone has sought for years.
Hassan backed the proposal during her State of the State address.
Some conservative groups opposed to Medicaid expansion have scheduled a news conference for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday to remind Republicans they face primaries if they vote for the new plan.
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