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Garry Rayno's State House Dome: Medicaid remains big budget hurdle
At budget negotiators' first meeting Friday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, attempted to take several of the key issues off the table: Medicaid expansion, tax and fee increases and puffing up revenue estimates to pay for additional spending.
Gov. Maggie Hassan and the Democrats who control the House want the state to expand the state-federal health insurance program for the poor, disabled and elderly under the Affordable Care Act.
Morse said the issue is far too complex to discuss in three days.
That is not going to satisfy the House or the governor or even several members of Bragdon's own Republican caucus who want to see something done that will expand health insurance coverage for state residents while the feds are footing the bill for the next three years.
The House upped its revenue estimates enough to nearly make up the $50 million reduction, but that is not likely to persuade Senate negotiators.
Another area of contention is taxes.
Morse tried to end any discussion of tobacco or gas tax increases approved by the House when he said Senate Republicans would not support any tax or fee increases.
Charter schools, school building aid and state help for local water and sewer projects are also areas of contention that need to be resolved but are certainly not insurmountable in the next three days.
Medicaid expansion will be discussed by negotiators Monday, and that should give everyone a pretty good idea whether to expect a long hot summer in Concord or a cool summer breeze off the lake or ocean.
Last week, the drumbeat continued, and it will keep going.
The senators targeted are Jeanie Forrester of Meredith, Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro, Bob Odell of Lempster, Andy Sanborn of Bedford, David Boutin of Hooksett, Russell Prescott of Kingston, Nancy Stiles of Hampton, Bragdon and Morse.
"We committed the greatest mistake in the history of the state," said prime sponsor Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester. "The state gave away its ability to create thousands of jobs and enhance state revenues dramatically."
Clyde Barrow of the Northeast Gaming Research Project at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth said first-year results show the casino is a success.
Bob Bahre, former owner of the New Hampshire International Speedway, is one of the principals in the development of the Oxford Casino, which was recently sold for $160 million to Churchill Downs Inc. Properties, which owns the home of the Kentucky Derby.
D'Allesandro, a member of the Senate budget negotiating team, said a casino would have produced the revenue needed to pay for the things the House and Senate are fighting over.
Aging New Hampshire: While lawmakers are arguing over providing health insurance for the working poor through Medicaid expansion, maybe they should be talking about Medicare, nursing homes, community-based services and assisted living.
While New Hampshire does not have the oldest median age for any state, the median age of Granite Staters increased from 41.2 years to 42 since 2010, or 8.7 percent.
According to Governing, some of the highest concentrations of older Americans can be found in New England.
Within New Hampshire, residents of Carroll and Coos counties have the highest median age, at 49.7 and 47.6, respectively, while Strafford and Hillsborough counties have the lowest, at 37.2 and 40.1 years, respectively.
Other counties with a large number of students — such as Grafton, with Dartmouth College and Plymouth State University, and Cheshire, with Keene State College — also have lower median ages, with Grafton at 42.1 years and Cheshire at 41.2.
Some have been warning for a while that the state's aging population would bring problems. Maybe it's coming to fruition sooner than expected.
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