LACONIA — State Senator Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia) says that he sees dealing with Medicaid expansion, gambling and infrastructure issues as the top priorities of the 2014 session of the state Legislature, which begins next week.
Speaking before the Laconia Rotary Club Thursday, the first senator in over 50 years from Laconia, said that Medicaid is the top priority and pointed out that 2014 is only two days days old but the state has already lost a million dollars in federal funds through its failure to expand Medicaid, which for the first three years of the expansion is 100 percent federally funded.
A special session of the Legislature failed to reach agreement on Medicaid expansion in early December.
''I'm optimistic we'll reach common ground on Medicaid expansion,'' said the first-term senator, adding that he believes 2014 can be a very good year for the Legislature ''if we don't let politics get in the way of good public policy.''
Questioned on whether or not he was confident that the federal government would make good on the promise of 90 percent funding for Medicaid expansion after the first three years of the program, Hosmer said, that, unlike special education funding, the federal government has kept its promise on Medicare funding since 1967.
He said that he wants to see a trigger provision in the state's medicaid expansion that would allow the state to back out of the program if it wasn't funded at the promised level.
Hosmer also said he would support a casino gambling bill that had a more transparent and open process for licensing than last year's bill and one which had a strict regulatory structure.
''It (the tax income from gambling) won't solve a lot of problems, but if we don't have gambling we're going to lose money to states like Maine and Connecticut that do. I'd like to keep that $25 million or so that we're losing in rooms and meals taxes in the state.'' said Hosmer.
He said that the state's roads and bridges need to be maintained and upgraded as part of maintaining an infrastructure which can support economic growth and, while not endorsing a gas tax increase, noted that gasoline prices in New Hampshire are higher than those of neighboring states which have higher gas taxes.
Hosmer said that the economy and jobs are his major focus and that he thinks that social issues should be off the table in 2014.
A lawyer and the vice president of the AutoServ dealership, Hosmer serves on the Commerce and Ways and Means committee in the Senate
He said that many food things happened in the 2013 session, including passage of a balanced budget with no new fees or taxes and passage of $23 million for mental health services, which he said have been severely underfunded and as a result placed additional burdens on the criminal justice system and hospital emergency rooms.
He said that passage of investment tax credits and doubling them from what had been allocated in previous years was a good step in helping the growth of advanced manufacturing and urged doubling the credit in the next couple of years to create more investment in the state.
He said that he worked with Senator Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) to rewrite the corporate code to make it easier to start businesses in the state and said that he took particular pride in making changes in the water navigation fund so that it would be non-lapsing for the Department of Safety, so that future surpluses wouldn't vanish into the ''black hole'' of the state general fund.
Hosmer pointed out that of the fund had been non-lapsing the state would have built up enough money in the fund that it would have had the funds on hand to build a new $9-$11 million building for Marine Patrol in Glendale.
He said that he has sponsored a number of bills this session, including one which permits cooperative agreements between hospitals which would provide better use of resources and another which would address tax code inequities which discourage mutual fund companies (there are only two operating in the state) from locating offices in the state.
Hosmer said the former State School property in Laconia would be an ideal site for a corporate campus for a large mutual fund company.
He also said that he supports a study commission to look at ways that New Hampshire can help state-based banks deal with provisions which are still being written to implement the Dodd-Frank bill regulating financial institutions.
State Senator Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia) talks about his priorities for the 2014 legislative session. Hosmer was guest speaker at a meeting of the Laconia Rotary Club on Thursday. (Roger Amsden Photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)