The new two-year state budget starts July 1, and, with the clock ticking, New Hampshire House and Senate conferees spent a portion of the week narrowing differences between their versions of the spending package.
In general, according to published reports, the two sides agree in principle on a number of broad goals that include more funding for higher education and more services for the mentally ill and disabled.
While the House passed an $11 billion budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, the Senate passed a budget of $10.7 billion.
The House had hoped to fund the budget with the help of increases to the tobacco and gas taxes, but the Senate killed those proposals. The Senate had hoped to fund the budget with the help of licensing fees from a casino, but the House killed that proposal.
There are also sharp differences over the expansion of Medicaid. The Democratic-led House wants to expand Medicaid coverage to an addition 58,000 residents as provided for in the Affordable Care Act, but the Republican-led Senate wants no part of what has been derided as Obamacare.
One reason Republicans have given for their skittishness with expanding Medicaid is their uncertainty whether the state can opt out at some point. The director of the Center of Medicaid and Medicare Services sent a letter to Gov. Maggie Hassan assuring her the state may opt out of the program at any time without penalty.
Planned Parenthood of New Hampshire stepped into the issue this week with a press conference encouraging expansion of Medicaid as a way to address women’s health issues.
Negotiators are also conferring on proposed capital budget spending. One priority they appear to agree on is the construction of a new $38 million state prison for women. See a Nashua Telegraph story on the issue here
.The governor’s signature
Gov. Hassan on Thursday signed into law a provision that allows towns and cities to appraise historic stores at a reduced rate to help preserve them. Hassan said historic preservation "is so critical to maintain our sense of history and knowledge of our state" before signing the bill into law at the Statehouse. Lower taxes on a historic pieces of property might encourage their owners to hold onto them rather than sell if taxes get too high.
The Senate on Wednesday sent to the governor a bill (SB 99
) that creates study committees to look at the state Site Evaluation Committee's ability and to do its job and to create criteria for siting wind farms and new electric generation and transmission facilities.The bill is an outgrowth over the Northern Pass transmission line project and proposals to site wind farms in various locations.On Capitol Hill
Attention this week in Washington, D.C., focused in part on Senate action on a bipartisan immigration reform bill.
In anop-ed piece
, Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte said she supported the measure as a way to fix a broken policy.
The bill would allow most of the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship within 13 years. It would add $6.5 billion in border security funding, require all U.S. business owners to check the immigration status of hires through an "e-verify" system and change the legal immigration system to bring in more high-tech and lower-skilled workers on short-term HB-1 visas.
An amendment to the bill to add additional border security failed Thursday with Ayotte voting to support it and Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen voting to oppose it.
Shaheen said the amendment threatened to derail the bipartisan agreement on the bill.2014 election
We’ve heard some rumblings about who might challenge Sen. Shaheen for re-election in 2014. Former Republican state Sen. Jim Rubens’ name surfaced this week. He was a leading opponent of recent efforts to legalize casino gambling in the state.
There are also stirrings in the gubernatorial race. Litchfield State Rep. George Lambert, who describes himself as a “socially liberal and fiscally conservative Republican,” confirmed this week he’s seriously exploring a GOP run for governor in 2014.Odds and ends
More than 2.5 million skier, snowboarder and snowtubing visits were recorded last winter in New Hampshire, according to Ski NH, the industry’s trade group in a report this week.That’s a 20.9 percent increase over the prior winter. See the New Hampshire Business Review story here
The week before we had stories about a Coe Brown senior who wanted to graduate in his Marine uniform. In the end he opted for the traditional cap and gown. This week we have a cancer survivor who is being refused attendance at Pinkerton Academy commencement because he flunked geometry
There’s a lot on the agenda over on Facebook
. Get it on the discussion.
We’ll see you back here next week for a look back at the news.