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Senate Democrats say budget, economic issues top their legislative agenda

Senate Democrats said yesterday they plan to focus on the state budget, economic policy and implementing new Gov. Maggie Hassan’s “Innovate NH” plan during the coming legislative session.

“We believe government can promote economic growth by supporting education, training, innovation and infrastructure,” said Minority Leader Sylvia Larsen, a Concord Democrat. “We’re looking forward to working in a bipartisan fashion with our Senate Republican colleagues in the coming months to accomplish just that.”

Republicans – led by Senate President Peter Bragdon of Milford and Majority Leader Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro – hold a 13-11 majority in the state Senate. Democrats control the House.

Coming up fast, the Democrats said, is legislation that would double the state’s research-and-development tax credit and make it permanent. Doubling the credit was one of the pillars of Hassan’s economic-innovation plan during last year’s campaign, and Democratic Sen. Andrew Hosmer of Laconia said yesterday he expects the bill could pass the Senate within the next few weeks.

Sen. Chuck Morse, a Salem Republican and chairman of the powerful Finance Committee, said the GOP is on board.

“I think the research-and-development tax credit will go through the Senate as fast as they suggested today, and I hope our colleagues in the House agree with us,” he said after the Democrats’ news conference yesterday. “We know the governor does.”

Larsen said the Democratic caucus hasn’t taken a position yet on any increase in the gas tax; Rep. David Campbell, a Nashua Democrat and chairman of the House Public Works and Highways Committee, has proposed raising the tax by 12 cents over the next three years to fund road and bridge projects.

And she said the caucus hasn’t staked out a position on expanded gambling, which Hassan has signaled could be a source of revenue in the state budget proposal she will present to the Legislature next month. There are also a number of individual bills pending on the issue.

“We haven’t determined a caucus position on that particular topic yet, and it may be one which is an individual option,” Larsen said.

She and other senators who spoke yesterday emphasized that they hope to work with Senate Republicans. Morse said the GOP caucus may have other policy priorities, but noted that the Senate has a tradition of cooperation across party lines.

“I really do think the Senate has always been that way,” Morse said. “I mean, Senate Finance, we have a process and we go through that process and we set priorities, and that’s what we will do during this budget phase.”

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

How does the budget portion work here? Seems to me if we are focusing on spending more that just might mess up the budget. That is what happens in my house if my income level is lower than my spending level.

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