N.H. capital budget not finalized yet, but $38 million for new women’s prison appears safe

Last modified: 6/14/2013 11:13:55 AM
House and Senate negotiators didn’t come to a final agreement yesterday on the state’s next capital budget, but they also seem to have few major disagreements on the plan.

Notably, no one suggested during yesterday’s hourlong meeting that the $38 million proposed by Gov. Maggie Hassan for a new 224-bed women’s prison is at risk of being cut. That’s the single largest item in the capital budget, and it would allow the state to replace its overcrowded and obsolete facility for female prisoners in Goffstown.

The capital budget that passed the Republican-led Senate last week on a voice vote spends $244.9 million over the next two fiscal years, including $125 million in general fund bonding. The Democratic-led House’s plan, which passed in April on a 285-68 vote, spends $227.2 million, about $17.7 million less.

The eight-member committee of conference, chaired by Nashua Democratic Rep. David Campbell, is responsible for crafting a final, compromise budget. It spent most of yesterday’s meeting reviewing the differences between the two plans.

Among other things, the Senate added $5 million as match money for a hoped-for federal grant to rebuild the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge between Portsmouth and Kittery, Maine, and $10 million for new software for credit card transactions at state liquor stores.

Sen. Jim Rausch, a Derry Republican, said the New Hampshire Liquor Commission’s current system is “very problematic” and poses the risk of a breach that could compromise customers’ credit card information.

The House members tentatively agreed yesterday to some of the Senate’s changes. Among the roughly eight items still in dispute are new elevators in the Legislative Office Building and a new emergency generator for the Manchester circuit courthouse. Also at issue: whether funding for capital projects at the University of New Hampshire should be a block grant, or whether some money should be earmarked for specific projects.

“I think we’ve identified the areas of contention. . . . I do think we’re close enough that we should be able to work something out,” Campbell said.

The capital budget committee of conference will meet again Monday. The conference committee on the state’s next operating budget will hold its first meeting this morning.

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

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