House Democrats firmly believe that the studies have already shown that Medicaid expansion is the right choice for New Hampshire. We recognize that our communities, our families and our economy will benefit tremendously from implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Expansion has been shown to end medical induced bankruptcies, provide essential coverage to working men and women paid less than living wages, and dramatically reduce depression. We wanted Medicaid expansion included in the budget to guarantee that New Hampshire takes full advantage of the program that will provide about $1 million per day into our economy beginning Jan. 1, 2014. The Republican Senate started the negotiations by stating that they would not entertain a discussion of Medicaid expansion. But, after several proposals back and forth, we agreed to a compromise with a commission that will report back to the legislature in October and gives us a pathway to expansion in time to maximize the benefit to our state.
In total, the budget overwhelmingly passed by the House and the state Senate is $10.8 billion from all sources and $2.8 billion from general funds for the biennium. This is a modest increase over the 2012-2013 budget, an increase that goes a long way towards restoring the devastating cuts to essential services throughout the state.
In this budget, the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) was fully restored, as was the UNIQUE scholarship program. We were further able to fully fund the community college system and provide sufficient funding to the university system to freeze tuition. We protected our state’s commitment to our public K-12 education system by fully funding the existing adequacy formula and raising the cap, increasing funding for 58 towns. School building aid is fully funded for existing schools.
While some Republicans have been quick to criticize her, Gov. Hassan’s leadership in re-establishing the state’s commitment to mental health and the developmentally disabled was critical to funding our priorities. This budget provides $24 million to address New Hampshire’s strained mental health system, including funding for additional beds and community support services.