- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 1, 2015

4:30 p.m.:

The House voted 212-161 for final passage of an $11.2 billion, two-year state budget, sending the bill to the Senate.

Voting on the various amendments to the budget lasted more than six hours Wednesday as Democrats tried to restore cuts to many health services, including those for people with developmental disabilities. All of the Democratic-led efforts failed.

Members of a still-divided Republican caucus, with one faction led by House Speaker Shawn Jasper and the other by Rep. Bill O’Brien, were able to agree on several budget amendments that found majority support.

The Senate is likely to change the budget substantially.


2:30 p.m.:

By a vote of 194-179, the New Hampshire House has passed the policy arm of the $11.2 billion state budget. The House will now take up the second piece of the budget bill, which outlines spending line by line. The two bills function in tandem, with one being necessary to put in statute the changes made in the other.

Republican Rep. Bill O’Brien, the former House Speaker who leads a conservative caucus of the party that does not recognize the leadership of House Speaker Shawn Jasper, called the bill fiscally responsible and urged his colleagues to support it. Prior to Wednesday’s vote, Republican leaders were unsure whether the two Republican factions would come together to pass a bill.

The bill reduces spending in Gov. Maggie Hassan’s budget by more than $300 million through cuts to higher education, health services and the state’s renewable energy fund, among other things.


1:48 p.m.:

Democrats’ efforts to return a 2 percent state employee pay raise to the budget and adopt all of Hassan’s revenue proposals, including an increased cigarette tax, both fell flat in the House.

House members are working through a slew of amendments to the $11.2 billion two-year budget proposal, which Democrats have decried as an unacceptable budget that removes money for critical services and unfairly shifts costs onto counties and towns. The budget does not include the pay raise recently negotiated by the state employees union and Hassan. Restoring that raise failed 167-199. Seventeen Republicans voted in favor of the raise.

An amendment to raise the cigarette tax, close offshore tax loopholes and raise car registration fees, as proposed in Hassan’s budget, also failed.


11:45 a.m.:

The House has voted to legalize keno in bars and restaurants to bring in an additional $8 to $12 million in non-tax state revenue over the biennium.

Members voted 206-176 in favor of the gambling game, which involves wagering by picking a series of numbers that can appear on an electronic screen. Hassan included revenue from keno in her initial budget. She says bringing the game to New Hampshire would keep revenue from the state’s citizens who play the game in Massachusetts here. The House passed keno last year, but it died in the Senate.

Under the amendment, a town or city would have to approve keno before any bars or restaurants there could establish it. Licensees would keep 8 percent of the proceeds, with most the remaining money going into the state’s education trust fund.


11:35 a.m.:

The House has passed a budget amendment that restores $36 million in public school funding, eliminates the creation of a chief operating officer, cuts overtime pay in the Department of Corrections and takes $10 million from the state’s rainy day fund.

The amendment, approved by a vote of 210-170, was drafted by House Finance Chairman Neal Kurk and Rep. Steve Stepanek, a close ally of former speaker Bill O’Brien. Republican leaders had been scrambling to cobble together a deal that would appeal to a conservative faction of lawmakers led by O’Brien and moderates led by Speaker Shawn Jasper.

The amendment also cuts $2.5 million from Hassan’s budget for the community college system, still leaving the system with more than it has now, and eliminates seven nursing positions at New Hampshire Hospital.


10:30 a.m.:

Hundreds of people are lining the New Hampshire Statehouse halls to protest proposed cuts to education, health services and substance abuse treatment as part of the House’s $11.2 billion budget.

The 400-member House will spend Wednesday debating the budget bill that cuts more than $300 million from Gov. Maggie Hassan’s $11.5 billion proposal. The House would cut money for people with developmental disabilities, end the state’s Medicaid expansion plan and delay the opening of a 10-bed crisis center for people with mental illness.

It also would eliminate money Hassan had included to extend substance abuse treatment services to people on traditional Medicaid programs. Hundreds of people protested the cuts by playing dead on the Statehouse lawn to represent the 300 people who died from substance abuse last year.

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