CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire House and Senate budget negotiators combed through competing two-year spending plans Monday, but it was an anti-spending provision on abortion that caused a stir.
A conference committee is working to reconcile differences between the $11.8 billion budget passed by the Senate and an $11.9 billion proposal backed by the House Finance Committee, but ultimately rejected by the full House when a small group of conservative Republicans voted with Democrats.
In a late-night session last month, the Senate added language to its version prohibiting the state from giving money to health care facilities to provide abortions. Republicans argued the language simply codifies current practice under federal law, but Democrats called it an attack on women’s reproductive rights.
“Because federal law already prohibits the use of tax dollars on abortion services, this amendment is a political statement, not a budget statement,” said Rep. Mary Jane Wallner, D-Concord, one of the conference committee members.
Rep. Katherine Rogers, D-Concord, said that reproductive rights are one of the strongest tenants of the Democratic Party and that she would vote against the budget if the provision remains in the final proposal.
“They’ll be lucky if they get three Democratic votes,” she said.
Monday afternoon was the group’s second meeting. Members started by spending several hours listing all the items that still need further discussion, ranging from mental health programs to education to substance abuse treatment. They planned to resume Monday evening.