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N.H. governor, GOP leaders push for budget deal

CONCORD, N.H. — Nearly three months into the state’s budget stalemate, Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan and top Republican lawmakers are trying to forge a compromise before legislators return Wednesday to try to override several vetoes.

The Republican-controlled Legislature will take up 10 vetoed bills, with all eyes on the two budget bills. Hassan vetoed the Legislature’s $11.3 billion, two-year plan in late June, and a short-term spending plan on budget levels is causing difficulties for state agencies and leaving social service programs without expected increases.

Republicans don’t have the necessary votes — two-thirds in both chambers — to override Hassan’s veto, forcing both sides to seek a deal.


‘‘We know we have to accomplish a budget for the state of New Hampshire, and we’re working to get one,’’ Republican Senate President Chuck Morse said.

Business tax cuts remain the focal point of the dispute. The Legislature’s budget cuts the rate of the business enterprise and business profits taxes, two major drivers of state revenue, over a number of years. The goal is to bring the business profits tax, now at 8.5 percent, down to 7.9 percent, below the rate in neighboring — and competing — Massachusetts.

Republicans say the cuts will make New Hampshire more business friendly, but Democrats worry the cuts will lead to major revenue losses in future budgets.

Hassan’s office says her primary opposition to the proposed tax cuts is that they are ‘‘unpaid for.’’

‘‘We’re 100 percent behind the governor’s position,’’ said Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn.

Hassan has offered to cut the tax to 7.9 percent in 2016 in exchange for raising the cigarette tax and car registration fees, among other changes. Republicans say raising taxes is a nonstarter, but they have proposed restoring a pay raise for state employees that had been in Hassan’s original budget plan.


Neither offer prompted agreement. Other proposals on the table include cutting the tax rates marginally in this budget and letting future legislatures cut it further, or including a ‘‘sunset provision’’ that would allow the tax cuts to expire in several years.

If a deal is reached by Wednesday, House and Senate leaders must then sell it to their members. Republican House Speaker Shawn Jasper, who won the speakership with support from Democrats, may have trouble convincing more conservative members of his caucus to back a deal.

If no plan emerges, lawmakers will face another looming deadline of Jan. 1, when the short-term spending plan stops.

On both sides, leaders say they’re hopeful the stalemate will end Wednesday.

‘‘Deadlines do create pressure,’’ Woodburn said.

Beyond the budget, gun rights activists want to overturn Hassan’s veto of a bill eliminating the licensing requirement to carry concealed guns.

Advocates say removing the license will create a fairer and safer system, while opponents say the license provides an extra check to keep dangerous individuals from carrying hidden weapons.

Another vetoed bill creates a 30-day residency requirement for voting. Republicans backing the bill say it will help prevent voter fraud, but Democrats contend the requirement unnecessarily restricts the right to vote.

Other vetoed bills center on the common core education standards and a tax law change sought by gym company Planet Fitness.