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Jun 15, 2015 6:38 PM

Landrigan: NH budget talks get off to slow start, lay out the differences


CONCORD - The first day of state budget talks was more than four hours of watching political paint dry as House and Senate negotiators gave no ground on the key differences between the two.

State Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Wear,e and chairman of the conference committee, admitted they will need to meet into the night Tuesday and Wednesday to meet the deadline for a deal of Thursday afternoon.

Last week, Kurk had said House and Senate leaders intended to set a 6 p.m. curfew on their talks each day.

But after returning from a lunch break Monday, Kurk said it’s clear there’s too much work to stick to that schedule.

Negotiators did agree on some items not in dispute such as a tax amnesty to encourage scofflaw taxpayers to pay what they owe. They also agreed on how much unspent money the Legislature will return to the treasury from its own budget and they rejected studying whether the state should mandate full-day, public kindergarten.

Sen. Jeanie Forrester, R-Meredith, said while time-consuming the first day of talks was useful.

"The House needed to spend the time to hear why we made the adjustments that we did," Forrester said.

The Senate plan added $115 million more in revenue from existing taxes and fees than what the House had in the budget it passed in March.

Negotiators already have agreed to accept the Senate revenue changes.

On spending priorities, however, there remain some significant differences, and on Monday, House leaders made only token moves to restore some of the spending the Senate had added back into the budget.

Among the big ticket items remaining to be discussed were spending for state programs to battle substance abuse, care for the mentally ill, whether to cut the state’s two business taxes and should the state end its program to make up to 60,000, low-income adults eligible for Medicaid health insurance.

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