Thursday, November 27, 2014
My Account  | Login
Nashua;33.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/nsn.png;2014-11-27 03:03:07
Friday, February 15, 2013

Criticism, praise for Hassan’s plan split across political lines

CONCORD – House Republican Leader Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, said he was awestruck when Gov. Maggie Hassan proposed a state budget that bets on $80 million from a high-end casino that isn’t yet legal in New Hampshire.

“I don’t know if we have ever had a governor propose a state budget based on an illegal activity,” Chandler, a casino opponent, told reporters after Hassan’s budget address to the Legislature. “I’m very worried that this is just setting us up for failure.” ...

Sign up to continue

Print subscriber?    Sign up for Full Access!

Please sign up for as low as 36 cents per day to continue viewing our website.

Digital subscribers receive

  • Unlimited access to all stories from nashuatelegraph.com on your computer, tablet or smart phone.
  • Access nashuatelegraph.com, view our digital edition or use our Full Access apps.
  • Get more information at nashuatelegraph.com/fullaccess
Sign up or Login

CONCORD – House Republican Leader Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, said he was awestruck when Gov. Maggie Hassan proposed a state budget that bets on $80 million from a high-end casino that isn’t yet legal in New Hampshire.

“I don’t know if we have ever had a governor propose a state budget based on an illegal activity,” Chandler, a casino opponent, told reporters after Hassan’s budget address to the Legislature. “I’m very worried that this is just setting us up for failure.”

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley said Hassan’s budget is politically risky on three fronts – for a casino, for raising cigarette taxes 30 cents per pack and for leaving open an increase in the state’s gasoline tax or an annual, car registration fee.

“This budget relies on three very uncertain revenue sources,” Bradley said.

And the Senate’s chief budget writer, Chuck Morse, R-Salem, said he’s casting a skeptical eye to the bottom line, a $1 billion increase in total spending even as New Hampshire families continue to recover from the recession.

“I think the Senate is very concerned about any budget that wants to add another $1 billion in spending,” Morse said. “We are going to make sure everything adds up.”

But the top Democrats in the Statehouse gave Hassan high marks for proposing to restore some GOP-led cuts in the current budget by adding back spending on higher education, human services, public safety and health care programs. Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen, of Concord, said Hassan was up front after her election that undoing all the budget cuts made over the last two years would take longer than her first two-year term in office.

“While her budget does not undo all the damage from the last Legislature all at once, the governor is putting New Hampshire back on the right path and building the foundation for an innovative economic future,” Larsen said.

The battle lines are now set over expanded gambling with a public hearing Tuesday on a bipartisan bill for one competitively bid casino.

Jim Rubens, chairman of the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling, said Hassan’s budget is a recipe for chaos as it’s highly unlikely a casino developer would pay the $80 million license fee before the budget cycle ends in mid-2015.

“Every state to have legalized slot machine casinos over the past decade has found that it requires at least two years until any casino revenues flow into state budgets,” Rubens warned. “The Massachusetts process is no different, requiring two plus years to first license revenues and over five years to first casino operating revenues.”

But Scott Spradling, a lobbyist for Millennium Gaming, said the size and timing of the payment for this license fee is reasonable given the state’s proposed tax on ongoing betting is lower than other casino states.

“The governor adds a critical voice in this debate,” said Spradling, whose client holds an option on Rockingham Park to build a $450 million casino on site. “We can get this built and up and running, pay the license fee and beat Massachusetts to the punch.”

New Hampshire Voices for Health praised Hassan for proposing to deliver Medicaid coverage to 58,000 more low-income adults.

“We look forward to working with legislative leadership on both sides of the aisle to make Medicaid expansion a reality in New Hampshire,” said Tom Bunnell, a policy consultant for the nonprofit.

University System Acting Chancellor Todd Leach singled out Hassan for calling for a $55 million increase in state aid that if adopted would freeze in-state tuition for the next two years.

“I think this is great news for the system. This will help us keep more students attending our colleges and universities who live in New Hampshire,” Leach said.

But Cornerstone Executive Director Ashley Pratte said Hassan paid lip service to education as a priority since Hassan wants to do away with a tax credit for low-income scholarships to religious or private schools.

“Parents should have a right to use the taxes spent on educating their child however they deem best,” Pratte said in a statement. “Hundreds of low-income families rely upon this legislation, and we call on Governor Hassan and the legislature to preserve this fundamental right of parents.”

Morse criticized Hassan for moving to suspend for two years four business tax cuts the Republican-led Legislature passed last year while adding onto state payrolls more tax auditors to raise $26 million in additional revenue.

“The governor also calls for more Department of Revenue Administration auditors to increase tax collections from our businesses, while simultaneously suspending much needed tax reforms that are helping make New Hampshire a more business-friendly state,” Morse said. “These legislative changes will likely meet opposition from both sides of the aisle and building a budget based on these speculative revenues or savings is a dangerous proposition.”

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com. wAlso, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).