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N.H. House Republicans call on own party in push for casino

Pro-gambling Republicans called on members of their own party yesterday to back a two-casino bill when it comes to the House floor again and criticized fellow Republicans for saying a potential loss in revenue from the Medicaid Enhancement Tax is nothing to worry about.

“The captain of the Titanic also told people not to worry,” said Rep. Ken Weyler, a Kingston Republican.

Eight other Republicans joined Weyler in a press conference yesterday, which was similar to one held by pro-gambling Democrats last week. After last week’s tie vote to kill the two-casino bill, a House member filed for reconsideration. That means House members will get to vote tomorrow on whether they want to re-open debate on the bill.

Legalizing casino gambling is the state’s best option for solving revenue problems without creating a tax, the nine Republicans said yesterday. They pointed toward a possible loss in revenue from a tax on hospitals recently declared as unconstitutional and April revenue that was $20 million below projections as evidence that the state is in a revenue crisis.

House and Senate lawmakers will present ideas for solving the MET problem in committee meetings today. Weyler criticized fellow Republican Reps. David Hess of Hooksett and Neal Kurk of Weare yesterday for saying on the House floor that lawmakers shouldn’t panic about the MET problem.

They took particular issue with Hess’s idea of taxing more health providers but at a lower rate.

Casinos are “a fix that we can pass without having to burden those businesses and chase them out,” said Rep. Frank Sapareto, a Derry Republican.

Kurk, for his part, said the fact that lawmakers are offering solutions is evidence that the MET problem can be dealt with.

“The MET tax – for thoughtful, calm people – should not make a difference in the gambling debate,” Kurk said.

Weyler and Rep. Dick Hinch of Merrimack also said last week’s tie vote shows momentum is shifting in favor of casinos. A vote on one casino earlier this session went down by 29 votes.

“There is a growing will among members to get this done, I believe the conventional wisdom is shifting among my colleagues,” Hinch said. “There is real momentum around this idea.”

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

Legacy Comments2

I am surprised to see an elected republican come out so strongly against a main plank of our party platform. I suspect there will be lots of primaries around this issue. The MET court case is a trojan horse. First, it is a superior court decision and the appeal will take years. Second, there is a very easy fix to this. If the tax were imposed on all medical services, it would pass constitutional meter and would raise 250 million each year. When the MET tax was first put in place it wasn't a real tax as it was a pass through from the state to the hospitals to the feds. We republicans turned it into a real tax when having to cope with the financial crisis, so the issue of whether we have a tax is moot. I know of no one, however, who doesn't believe that if we are going to have a tax it shouldn't be fair to everyone.

I've heard that some Republicans are "hoping" the MET is lost so they can start cutting budgets (like they have been trying to do) and be able to put 100% of the blame on the court.

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