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Vet 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.

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