WINDHAM — Southern New Hampshire’s economic success depends on the Legislature’s approval of expanded gambling and completion of the Interstate 93 widening, Gov. Maggie Hassan told business leaders yesterday.
Hassan, speaking at a Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce forum at Castleton Banquet & Conference Center, began by paying tribute to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings and an explosion Wednesday at a Texas fertilizer plant.
She then told the approximately 150 people that the state and local economies would receive a big boost if lawmakers pass legislation allowing for construction of a casino that would create jobs and generate much-needed revenue. Millennium Gaming of Las Vegas has proposed a casino at nearby Rockingham Park in Salem.
“We must develop sufficient revenue to protect our priorities,” Hassan said. “I believe we should move forward with our own plan for one high-end casino.”
The proposal, Senate Bill 152, calls for allowing up to 150 table games and 5,000 slot machines. It’s expected to create up to 2,000 construction and 1,500 casino jobs.
By allowing expanded gambling, New Hampshire would avoid losing valuable revenue to casinos being built in Massachusetts, she said.
“The true risk we all face is the risk of letting our economy fall behind,” Hassan said.
She testified in support of SB 152 before the House Ways & Means and Finance Committee earlier this week.
The governor included revenue from the $80 million casino licensing fee in her proposed two-year budget, saying the money would help prevent devastating cuts in state programs.
The House approved an $11 billion, two-year budget plan earlier this month, but without the $80 million earmarked by Hassan. The budget now goes before the Senate.
“Without the $80 million from one casino,” she said, “we will see some of our most important priorities are at risk of being cut.”
But Hassan said her proposed budget still reinstates much of the money for important state programs slashed by the previous Legislature, including social services and higher education.