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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Budget Coverage Roundup

In the Nashua Telegraph, Kevin Landrigan leads with taxes and spending. He notes that the only major change adopted on the Senate floor was a proposal to not raise taxes on businesses by as much as originally planned:
The budget (HB 1) and companion bill that makes necessary changes in state law (HB 2) raises taxes for those who smoke, eat a meal, rent a car or stay in a hotel room and increases fees to use an E-ZPass, register a car, get a driver’s license, have a vanity license plate, register a boat or fish in the ocean.

Senate Republican Leader Peter Bragdon, of Milford, said it was counter-productive to increase state spending over the next two years by more than $250 million when the state faces a severe recession and zero inflation.

“It’s cold comfort the increase in spending is only half the 17 percent in the last budget, and we saw wild revenue projections helped get us in the budget mess we’ve been in,” Bragdon said.
In the Concord Monitor, Lauren Dorgan leads with slot machines, but also reports that the budget is far from complete:
The fight over the budget - and gambling - is far from over. House and Senate negotiators will hammer out a final budget later this month.

Like budget plans drafted by Gov. John Lynch and by House lawmakers, the Senate's $11.6 billion, two-year budget would raise a host of taxes and fees - including taxes on cigarettes, restaurant meals and hotel rooms - and would lay off scores of state employees. Like Lynch's plan, the Senate would shutter the Tobey School, several district courts and the Laconia prison.

The Senate budget, which passed 15-9, would also grant greater autonomy to the liquor commission to, as Lynch puts it, "run like a business." While the House supported a 15-cent increase in the gas tax to fill the state's near-broke highway fund, the Senate plan instead relies on increased car-registration fees and taps revenue from the state's tollbooths to, for the first time, pay for maintenance on roads that are not tolled.

The biggest difference between the budgets: where the money comes from. Lynch's budget, presented in February, projected significantly higher income - about $200 million more - from the state's existing revenue sources than the Senate's budget. The House budget included two new taxes on the wealthy, a capital gains tax and an estate tax, expected to bring in a combined $85 million over the two-year budget. Senators nixed both those plans, instead backing gambling.
And in the Union Leader, Tom Fahey reports that Senators were talking apples and oranges when debating how much this budget increases spending:
Republicans and Democrats debated how much actual spending increases in the Senate plan. D'Allesandro said spending of state funds increases only 0.63 percent compared to the two-year budget that closes June 30.

Minority Leader Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, said the actual increase is 8.8 percent, roughly $270 million, when budget changes and cuts Gov. Lynch ordered over the past year are taken into account.

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