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Wallner, Morse among nine named to N.H. budget negotiating team

The House and Senate yesterday named nine lawmakers to a committee responsible for crafting a compromise version of the next two-year state budget.

The Democratic-led House passed an $11 billion budget in April, and the Republican-led Senate passed its $10.7 billion version last week. Now, a committee of conference will work to resolve the differences between the two versions.

The biggest divide is on Medicaid expansion, which the House wants to implement but the Senate wants to study further.

“We look forward to working with our colleagues in the Senate to finalize a budget in a timely manner,” said House Speaker Terie Norelli, a Portsmouth Democrat, in a statement.

The House negotiators named yesterday by Norelli are Concord Democratic Rep. Mary Jane Wallner, Nashua Democratic Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, Lebanon Democratic Rep. Susan Almy, Stoddard Democratic Rep. Dan Eaton and Weare Republican Rep. Neal Kurk.

Norelli called them “a great team of legislators working to ensure we restore investments in our state and communities.” She also named eight House alternates, six Democrats and two Republicans.

The Senate negotiators named yesterday by President Peter Bragdon are Salem Republican Sen. Chuck Morse, Lempster Republican Sen. Bob Odell, Meredith Republican Sen. Jeanie Forrester and Manchester Democratic Sen. Lou D’Allesandro.

The conference committee will be chaired by Wallner, the chairwoman of the House Finance Committee, and hold its first meeting tomorrow morning.

It faces a June 20 deadline to complete its work.

Bragdon, a Milford Republican, said the House and Senate budgets are “very similar” but warned House Democrats not to force a stalemate, with the current fiscal year ending June 30 and the new biennium starting July 1.

“It’s the Senate’s hope that House members will not let their desire to increase spending get in the way of reasonable compromise that reflects our shared priorities,” Bragdon said in a statement. “It would be truly unfortunate for the citizens of our state if we were forced into a continuing resolution. This would mean retaining our current funding levels, rather than benefitting from the modest increases we both agree on, just because some members of the House are committed to raising taxes.”

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or
bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

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