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June 18. 2013 10:35PM

NH Veterans Home budget reworked after proposed cuts

CONCORD — House and Senate budget writers are doing an about-face on the state Veterans Home.

After both the House and Senate included a $1.5 million reduction in the home’s budget over the two-year biennium, budget negotiators are now talking about eliminating the cut and adding about $330,000 to the home’s budget after they learned the home proposed asking patients to pay for their own incontinent supplies.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Morse, R-Salem, noted the home used this year’s appropriation to pay last year’s utility bills.

“We want to find a way to fund this,” Morse said. “Whatever is proper funding, the Senate will support.” But he said an audit is needed of the home’s financial books.

House Finance Committee Chair Mary Jane Wallner, D-Concord, agreed something needs to be done, saying, “We need to get some resolution on this and fund the veterans’ home in a way that is appropriate.”

Home officials had told budget writers they could live with the $1.5 million reduction because of a rate increase and additional federal funding, but lawmakers later learned of the home’s precarious financial situation.

House and Senate budget writers will discuss the home’s funding later Tuesday afternoon when they convene again at 1:30 p.m.

The House did agree Tuesday morning to an additional $430,000 reduction to the Judicial Branch budget the Senate proposed.

Budget negotiators are trying to reach a compromise on the state’s next biennial budget that goes into effect July 1.

The Senate approved a budget of $10.7 billion, while the House’s budget is $11 billion. Both the House’s and Senate’s plans spend approximately $2.8 billion in general fund money.

Medicaid expansion and a $50 million across-the-board cut in employee compensation and benefits resulting in about 700 layoffs are the major stumbling blocks.

Budget writers will discuss revenues this afternoon. The Senate and House are about $40 million apart.

grayno@unionleader.com


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