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Friday, January 18, 2013

Senate Democrats vow bipartisanship

CONCORD – State Senate Democrats vowed to work in a bipartisan way to support job creation and a “fiscally responsible” state budget over the next two years.

But the group of 11 in the 24-person Senate has not yet taken a position either whether to legalize casino gambling or to raise the state’s gasoline tax by 12 cents per gallon over the next three years. The 2013 legislative agenda of the Senate Democratic Caucus released Thursday was long on thematic rhetoric and short on specifics. ...

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CONCORD – State Senate Democrats vowed to work in a bipartisan way to support job creation and a “fiscally responsible” state budget over the next two years.

But the group of 11 in the 24-person Senate has not yet taken a position either whether to legalize casino gambling or to raise the state’s gasoline tax by 12 cents per gallon over the next three years. The 2013 legislative agenda of the Senate Democratic Caucus released Thursday was long on thematic rhetoric and short on specifics.

“We are at the beginning of the process. There will be plenty of time to flesh out stands on specific issues,” Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen of Concord told reporters.

Sen. Peggy Gilmour, D-Hollis, said the group supports restoring cuts to state higher education aid to help give needed skills to more New Hampshire residents.

They endorsed Gov. Maggie Hassan’s call to double the number of graduates in science, mathematics, technology and engineering majors by 2025.

“That’s why when it comes to ensuring we have a skilled and educated work force, it’s not an education issue; it’s a jobs issue,” Gilmour said.

On the budget, Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, said Democrats realize that this next spending plan will not be able to restore all the cuts made in the current budget adopted when Republicans controlled the entire Legislature.

“Though we have much to address in the coming years, we must also make smart budget decisions to allow for economic opportunity, growth and stability,” said Soucy, who represents Litchfield. “But with that said, Senate Democrats are aware we will not be able to do everything all at once.”

One of the only specific proposals Senate Democrats supported was to double to $2 million a year business tax credits allowed for research and development.

Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, agreed the Senate would quickly take up the tax break and predicted Senate Republicans would work with Democratic colleagues.

“There will be differences at times but the disagreements will remain very civil,” Morse said. “We hope the Democrats agree with us that there just isn’t enough growth in existing revenues to do all that we might like to do in this next budget.”

Morse is a co-sponsor of a casino bill and a vocal opponent of raising the gas tax. Proceeds from Morse’s gambling bill would support completion of the widening of Interstate 93.

“Senate Republicans do not believe that raising taxes is the answer to our budget; we’ve got to make ends meet,” Morse added.

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