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Finance chairman: N.H. Senate’s budget ‘going to look a whole lot different’

The two-year, $11 billion budget passed by the Democratic-led House last month has a $300 million hole for the Republican-led Senate to fill, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said.

Sen. Chuck Morse, a Salem Republican, said yesterday his estimate of a $300 million shortfall in total funds includes $250 million from too-high estimates for revenue from the state’s Medicaid Enhancement Tax.

“After hearing from 60 state agencies regarding their budget requests and considering the indications regarding revenue estimates we’re getting from (the Senate) Ways and Means (Committee), I can tell you flat out, the budget is going to look a whole lot different when it leaves the Senate than it does now,” Morse said in a statement.

The House’s budget included a 30-cent hike in the cigarette tax and a 12-cent increase in the gas tax, but Morse said the Senate “is not accepting tax increases.” He mentioned payments to critical access hospitals and funding for the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program among potential cuts.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee won’t finalize its revenue estimates for the next two years until May 14, according to the Associated Press. The Finance Committee is working on the budget now, and the full Senate is expected to pass its version by June 6.

The House, the Senate and Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan will then hammer out a final budget for the biennium that begins July 1.

The Senate Finance Committee will take public testimony on the budget at a hearing tomorrow, 3 to 5 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. in Representatives Hall at the State House.

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

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