The 2014-2015 budget passed the New Hampshire House with 346 votes for and 12 against; it passed unanimously in the Senate. Everyone from Governor Hassan to former speaker Bill O'Brien claimed credit for the bipartisan vote, but the credit, no doubt, resides with New Hampshire voters who told us to stop bickering, avoid political grandstanding, and get to work. If only officials in Washington could do the same.
The budget restored funding to our university and community colleges, to LCHIP and CHINS, as well as to our mental health system. We were pleasantly surprised when revenues came in stronger than expected and made agreement between the Senate and the House easier. If revenues continue their upward trends, we will be able to avoid layoffs of state workers, most departments having been decimated by the previous budget already.
Unfortunately, the Senate and the House failed to implement Medicaid expansion which would have covered about 58,000 New Hampshire residents (the numbers vary) and brought $2.5 billion into the New Hampshire economy, federal money that would otherwise go to other states. The Senate was concerned that this would become an unfunded mandate in the future, while the House argued that we should try it for the first three years, when the feds would cover costs at 100%.
If one feels, as I do, that this is a worthwhile program which would introduce preventative health care and thus reduce the number of gravely ill uninsured people going to our emergency rooms (increasing everyone's premiums), one should get in touch with Republican senators and convince them that Medicaid expansion is the right thing to do, both morally and economically.
The Senate did the right thing, however, in restoring 100% funding for towns affected by the non-payment of flood control money owed by Massachusetts. Salisbury, for instance, will get approximately $85,000 out of these funds.
Renewable energy funds, to the tune of $16.5 million, were unfortunately raided in this budget. We will work hard to restore them in the future.
Speaking of the future, we can expect reintroduction of the gas tax bill and the casino bill in year two of this legislative session. This year's session is about over, except for Medicaid expansion.
I would like to welcome two new businesses to our area. Naughty Nellie's, already known for its fabulous ice cream, has now opened a cafe, and Audrey Pellegrino has done a great job restoring the Country Store in Danbury.
Finally, I would like to congratulate The Andover Beacon on its 100th issue in June. The paper is always in need of volunteers.
I am available at 735-5440 and at MarioRatzki@nullgmail.com.