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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Dorgan- "Setting the stage for budget battle"

Lauren Dorgan pens a scene-setter in the Sunday Monitor for the three weeks of conference committee negotiations that will turn two very different proposals into the New Hampshire budget:

Heading into the budget negotiations, D'Allesandro, a 70-year-old, six-term senator and cheerily forceful man who sometimes shouts to underline his points - has had a clear message: The House must come around on gambling, or, as he calls it, gaming.

"I'll work till the eleventh hour to try to get it done," he said in an interview late last month.

Last week, D'Allesandro recounted to Senate colleagues his work 12 years ago on a gambling bill that passed the Senate and failed in the House. But, he told them, he doesn't see that as the story this year. "Different time, different story," he said. "Stars are beginning to line up, because we need something."

"The House has got to deal with one significant issue," D'Allesandro told the Associated Press. "The public supports expanded gambling."

The chief budget negotiator for the House, Rep. Marjorie Smith, who will chair the conference committee, has projected an air of calm and had a mantra of her own for the past several weeks: There will be a budget on time. And there will be a "third way," meaning revenue that neither involve gambling nor the House-backed estate and capital gains taxes that were nixed by Senate budget writers. (Gov. John Lynch's office has recently sent up test balloons on a couple of those: taxes on either real estate refinancing or limited liability companies.)

Gambling, to Smith's thinking, is not an option, because negotiators have to figure out a compromise that will pass the House and Senate.

"The House has never supported gambling, that has been their consistent position," Smith said in an interview last week, shortly after the Senate vote for gambling. She said she's seen no change: "I continue to hear from members everything from the dramatic 'I will not vote for a budget if it has gambling' " to the concern that "this will not be an alternative acceptable to the House."

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