EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

December 30, 2012

N.H. lawmakers brace for budget battle

(Continued)

Morse sees expanded gaming as a potential solution. Hassan has asked a transportation outreach team to look at infrastructure needs as she prepares a budget proposal.

Transportation Commissioner Chris Clement has said the method of funding is up to the Legislature, where discussion is likely to include gas tax and toll increases.

Kolodziej maintains the I-93 answer ultimately rests far beyond New Hampshire.

“This all depends on what the boys do down in D.C.,” he said.

Lawmakers will face new pressure for funding from the University System, which sustained major cuts the last two years under the Republican-controlled Legislature, as well as the Department Health and Human Services.

DHHS Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas recently called attention to delays for emergency psychiatric admissions to the state hospital. Mental health advocates in January plan to launch a campaign for increased funding of community-based services.

The Legislature will revisit a long-standing issue that has dominated debate the past 15 years: education.

There’s at least one constitutional amendment proposal concerning school funding that lawmakers will consider.

St. James said lawmakers, once again, will consider public education funding and how to define an adequate education. He expects debate over education reforms, too.

Gun control could be up for discussion, too, after the Sandy Hook School shootings in Connecticut.

“I’d like to see New Hampshire make an effort to get assault weapons off the street,” Till said.

That’s not the only major story of the past year influencing bills.

St. James is among lawmakers pushing for random drug testing of health-care workers and a registry of discharged health-care workers.

He said those are responses to the case where a former Exeter Hospital worker was accused of infecting patients with hepatitis C.

Baldasaro is sponsoring legislation he hopes will help both veterans and the state.

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