CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — House budget negotiators quickly acceded to the Senate on the spending portion of the state’s two-year budget Friday, though debate is expected to increase next week when they get to the accompanying policy proposals.
Compared to the House-passed bill, the Senate’s $13.5 billion proposal included 20 more liquor inspection officers, an additional $5 million for mobile crisis units for mental health treatment and a March 2023 closing date for the Sununu Youth Services Center instead of eight months earlier as the House proposed.
House members of the conference committee said the changes were in keeping with what they would have recommended had revenue estimates been higher when they began their work. By the time the budget got to the Senate, estimates had risen.
“I’m wearing a green dress because I’m jealous of the Senate. You always have more money than we have,” said Rep. Lynne Ober, R-Hudson. "We’re always facing smaller revenues, and most of these changes that you guys made were things we pushed just because we were short of money.”
Sen. Gary Daniels, R-Milford, said the House had provided a strong foundation for the Senate.
“We obviously had more accurate revenue numbers. We were able to take the ideas you were not able to get in and fulfill what I believe are the needs of the state and our local communities,” he said.
With Republicans controlling both Houses of the Legislature, Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua, was the only Democrat on the conference committee. She raised numerous objections, including to a $3 million cut to a loan repayment program for health care workers.
“We have a really critical shortage of health care workforce,” she said, adding that it didn’t make sense to cut funding for the program at a time when the problem is getting worse.
Sen. Erin Hennessey, R-Littleton, said she is hopeful that money coming to the state as part of the latest coronavirus relief funding could be used to help address that issue.
Next week, a different team of negotiators will tackle the accompanying trailer bill, which includes not only policy changes necessary to support the new budget’s funding but several provisions unrelated to the budget. Those include a ban on abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy and a controversial provision about race and education.