This Wednesday all the money is on the table. Supporters of legalized casino gambling are feeling a little more confident following the narrow vote taken by the super-committee (23-22 to ITL). The Joint Committee spent the morning listening to 17 various amendments to SB 152, which included a bipartisan omnibus amendment. After returning from lunch, the Chair of the committee quickly entertained a motion to kill the bill (ITL) without considering the amendments. This did not sit well with some committee members who might have voted against the proposed changes to the bill. No doubt, this made the vote closure then it might otherwise have been. State House pundits agree the vote will be close Wednesday. One thing is certain, undecided House members will be receiving plenty of phone calls and e-mails over the next few days. They can also expect Governor Hassan to be calling them into the corner office and reminded just how important casino revenue is to her proposed budget.
BURNING THE MIDNIGHT OIL
The Senate Ways and Means Committee has estimated $170 million less in state revenue than the House budget writers need to balance its two-year operating budget. Not a good sign to say the least. Besides the Medicaid Enhancement Tax, other significant differences between the House and Senate estimates can be found in the tobacco tax, revenues from the increase in the audit staff of the Revenue Department, and money from the tobacco tax settlement funds. Senate Finance now has to build a two-year budget around these new numbers. The committee will be meeting all this week to complete its work by the end of this month to allow the full Senate to vote on the budget by the June 6 deadline. A Conference Committee on HB 1 & HB 2 will be appointed to work out the difference in revenues and expenditures. June 27 is the last day to act on all Committee of Conference Reports.
SO WHAT ABOUT THE GAS TAX YOU ASK
Last week the Senate Ways and Means Committee voted 3-2 to recommend HB 617 be re-referred to their committee. The full Senate will take up the recommendation this Thursday, May 23. Adopting the recommendation will mean the subject will sit in committee until the 2014 legislative session. So what does this mean? Basically, it keeps the bill alive without Senators having to vote at this time on the any increase. But wait gas tax supporters! Anticipating the Senate might do this Potomac Two-Step, the House incorporated HB 617 in HB 2, the budget trailer bill, where it will be part of the budget discussions.