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Feb 17, 2015 4:59 PM

Kevin Landrigan: Hassan on budget: Republicans be honest if deep cuts wanted


CONCORD - Gov. Maggie Hassan says she's willing to compromise on a two-year state budget but Republican legislative leaders will have to be honest about any cuts in spending.

Hassan started her selling job to the Republican-led Legislature today with a friendly pitch of the $11.5 billion spending bill to House and Senate Finance Committees.

The meeting allowed Hassan to expound on spending priorities beyond the one-hour speech she made on the budget in Representatives Hall last week.

Later Hassan told reporters that she's open to changes including to her proposals to raise revenue that include a hike in the tobacco tax, car and truck registration fees and legalizing betting on Keno.

"If they don't want to fund certain things then they need to open about that and tell people what they would cut rather than follow some of the revenue suggestions i have made,'' Hassan said.

Rep. Dan McGuire, R-Epsom, asked Hassan to spell out her desired solution for expanded gambling.

Two years ago, Hassan included one, high-end casino in her state budget plan to raise $80 million.

The House of Representatives soundly rejected a casino bill that year. A similar one fared better but died in the House by a single vote in 2014.

Hassan has proposed in this budget legalizing betting on the bingo-style game of Keno to raise $26 million over the next two years.

Rep. McGuire has his own idea: a gambling bill that would allow all restaurants and bars that have a liquor license to have up to six slot machines a piece.

"I continue to believe one high-end, highly-regulated casino would be right for New Hampshire but I am a realist and I understand it has met with a lot of resistance in the House,'' Hassan added.

The push for a state budget is no rush-hour event; a compromise spending plan will likely not be reached until the end of June.


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