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House to vote on budget that cuts kindergarten aid and funds infrastructure



Monitor staff
Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The Republican-led House will vote on the $11.9 billion state spending plan Wednesday that allows keno, authorizes a welfare-to-work program and does not fund full-day kindergarten programs.

In it, both Republicans and Democrats have found things to dislike. A handful of GOP representatives say it spends too much money, while Democrats in the minority are unhappy with the lack of education funding, among other things. Since Republicans hold just a slim majority in the 400-member chamber, some in the GOP worry the party doesn’t have enough votes to pass the spending plan.

“It’s a good budget,” said Neal Kurk, chairman of the House Finance Committee. “I hope that at the end of the day Republicans see that and support it.”

Education

While Gov. Chris Sununu proposed spending $18 million on targeted grants to districts with full-day kindergarten, House budget writers eliminated the money in their own plan. They also cut $10 million Sununu had allocated to a new college scholarship fund.

The plan will level fund the state university system and give the community college system an additional $6 million, as Sununu’s plan requested.

Infrastructure

While Sununu proposed creating a new infrastructure revitalization fund controlled by the governor’s office, House budget writers nixed that plan. Instead, the House Finance Committee allocated $15 million to municipal bridge aid, $10 million for school building aid and $15 million for highway block grants. The House also allocated $50 million over two years to towns and cities for property tax relief.

New revenue

House budget writers tout that the plan doesn’t raise any new taxes or fees, but it does create new revenue sources. The House budget plan would get roughly $16.5 million from authorizing keno, an electronic lottery game that would be played in bars and restaurants. They also signed off on letting the Lottery Commission sell scratch tickets online, through mobile apps, in an effort to attract younger players. That is expected to raise roughly $10 million.

Health and HumanServices

The House plan revives a program former governor Maggie Hassan pitched last year, but calls it by a different name. The welfare-to-work program, now known as Granite Workforce, would provide job training to low-income residents and offer subsidies to employers who hire them. The $11.5 million pilot program is funded through money in the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families account.

The plan would maintain 1.7 percent of state liquor profits going to a key substance abuse treatment fund. The House would also give the so-called alcohol fund an additional $2.5 million each year for roughly $12 million total over the biennium.

Retiree health

Retired state workers between ages 65 and 68 would face a new 10 percent premium contribution for health benefits under the House budget plan. The premium would apply to retirees eligible for Medicare who were born after 1948.

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or amorris@cmonitor.com.)