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How lawmakers' budget choices could affect you

CONCORD - College students, smokers, motorists, the mentally and terminally ill, the developmentally disabled, state employees and the parents of at-risk children could feel the most direct effect from the $10.7 billion two-year budget plan and laws the House and Senate will vote on this Wednesday.Here is a brief rundown of what the Legislature has come up with this session:

-- Lawmakers will be asked to establish a commission to study Medicaid expansion. Proponents say expansion would add 58,000 people to the Medicaid rolls and provide about $2.5 billion in federal money to pay health care providers. Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, and others want to hear recommendations from the commission before the state makes a decision. The deadline for those recommendations would be Oct. 15.

-- Budget negotiators approved $100 million more in state aid intended to prevent tuition increases in the New Hampshire Community College System and the University System of New Hampshire.

-- A conference committee decided students can continue to use their college IDs to satisfy voter identification requirements. Without the change, college IDs and any others that were not government-issued could no longer be used to meet the photo identification requirement, meaning those people would have to sign a voter affidavit and have their photo taken.

City and town election officials fear that would create long lines at the polls during elections.

-- The state is being sued over its once model mental health system. The new budget provides $28 million to upgrade the system, which officials say will mean fewer mentally ill languishing in emergency rooms waiting for a bed to open at New Hampshire Hospital.

Also the developmentally disable who turn 22 years old and are no longer the responsibility of school districts would be able to access services they now wait for.

-- Lawmakers are expected to approve a medical marijuana program, which would make New Hampshire the last state in New England to adopt a program intended for those who do not respond to traditional medicines.

-- Charter school proposals awaiting State Board of Education approval will get the state financing they will need to open. The budget contains $3.4 million over the next two years for four new charter schools and ends a moratorium on new charter schools. . Parents of at-risk children who are not a threat to themselves or others will again be able to access services with the reinstatement of the Children in Need of Services program. Two years ago, the program was scaled back to serve only those who are a threat to themselves or others.

Lawmakers have changed the program so now parents can voluntarily participate, and children are required to be placed in the least restrictive setting, which will reduce the number of children at the Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester.

-- State employees will receive their first raise in five years under new collective bargaining agreements, but will have to pay health care deductibles for the first time. About 200 to 300 employees may be laid off.

-- Smokers should not see the price of cigarettes increase dramatically because lawmakers defeated an attempt to increase the tax by 20 cents a pack. The tobacco tax will increase 10 cents automatically in August to return to the pre-fiscal 2012 level, which continues to be the lowest in New England.

-- Lawmakers also refused to increase the gas tax by 12 cents over the next three years, although the tax has not been increased since 1991. The money was intended to help finish the Interstate-93 widening project from Manchester to Salem and provide more money for the state and municipalities to fix their crumbling transportation infrastructure.

-- Ten new state troopers will be added to the force.

Eric Church
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Discover Wild NH Day
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Kathy Griffin
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Peter Wolf
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Motor Booty Affair
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