- Associated Press - Thursday, May 28, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Republican Senate budget writers have signed off on an $11.3 billion state spending plan for the next two years, sending the document to the chamber floor for a vote next week.

The two Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee voted against the budget bill, which does not include money for a state employee pay raise or the continuation of Medicaid expansion beyond 2016.

The Senate’s plan spends more than the $11.2 billion spent in the House plan, largely due to updated revenue estimates that gave the Senate more money to work with. Senators used the additional money to restore spending on social service programs, higher education and renewable energy projects, among other things.

“We have a budget that is socially compassionate,” said Republican Sen. Jerry Little, a finance committee member.

But it falls short of the $11.5 billion plan laid out by Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. She said Thursday she has “serious concerns” about the plan and slammed Republicans for reducing the rate of the state’s two major business taxes. The move reduces revenue in the next budget by about $14 million.

The Senate’s plan, she said, “will hurt families, undermine business growth and take our economy backward.”

Senate Democrats are upset that budget writers did not discuss a pay raise for state employees. The raise has already been agreed to in contract negotiations but the $12 million to pay for it is not in the House or Senate budget.

The full Senate will debate the budget next week, and Democrats are likely to offer amendments on many of these topics. Senate and House members will then enter negotiations before passing a final budget by the end of June.

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