AND NOW THE END IS NEAR
The next session of the NH House isn’t until June 26 while the State Senate is scheduled to return June 12. So what lies ahead for bills still awaiting legislative action? The deadline to form Committee of Conferences to iron out any differences on bills between the two bodies is June 13. The last day to have committee member sign off of reports is June 20, 2013. Finally the last day for both the House and Senate to act on conference reports is June 27. This really doesn’t leave much time to deal with difficult policy issues between the two bodies. This is especially the case with the proposed two-year operating budget. House and Senate appointees are expected to begin their work on June 17. This gives them only three working days to get the job done. Not an impossible task, but given the major differences between their operating budgets the conferees will be burning the midnight oil.
TO EXPAND OR NOT TO EXPAND THAT IS THE QUESTION
Without doubt the big elephant in the room is the question of Medicaid expansion. Both Governor Hassan and the democratically controlled NH House support the federally funded program. However, the republican controlled Senate does not. Adoption of the program would extend coverage to over 58,000 low-income adults in New Hampshire. The State would be on the hook for $24 million and the Washington would kick in $2.5 billion to fund the program. So what’s the problem? The Senate Republicans don’t trust Congress to leave up to their part of the deal. They believe that past history shows Congress to be an unreliable political partner. Can you believe this is coming from the same folks that reneged on the State’s 35% retirement contribution to cities and towns? With the loss of casino revenue and the Senate ‘s opposition to raising taxes coming up with a budget may be a hard nut to crack in just a few days.
SAY IT ISN’T SO
The Senate budget writers also included $50 million in reduced personnel costs. Union officials estimate that this could result in 700 state workers being laid off. A similar reduction in staffing was approved in the last budget resulting in 200 lay offs. However, much of the savings came as a result of eliminating unfilled job positions. Needless to say, union officials are not jumping with joy over this idea.
MIRROR, MIRROR ON WALL WHOSE BUDGET IS THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL
Faced with an operating budget that is $400 million less than her proposed two-year budget, Governor Hassan does has some choices. First and most logical choice would be to work with the budget conferees on an acceptable spending plan she can effectively govern with. Not impossible, but given the time frame certainly a difficult task. Secondly, failing to reach an agreement she can refuse to sign the budget and let it go into effect without her signature. Probably not the best approach should she plan to run again for governor. This may show her lack of skills as a leader and political negotiator with the Legislature. Third, Governor Hassan could veto the budget and call the Legislature back into a Special Session. This has been done in the past with some success.