'Keno-garten' Bill Finalized, But Without Bipartisan Support

Jun 15, 2017

The committee of conference met to discuss the bill Thursday afternoon.
Credit Jason Moon for NHPR

House and Senate lawmakers have settled on the final language for a bill to fund full day kindergarten in New Hampshire. But the bipartisan cooperation around the bill may be faltering.

For months, legislators have been bargaining over what a system to provide state dollars for full day kindergarten might look like.

The compromise reached Thursday in a committee of house and senate members would fund full-day kindergarten by legalizing and taxing the electronic gambling game, keno. But exactly how much the state would spend per-student will depend in part on how much revenue is raised from taxing keno.

Republican State Senator Jeb Bradley:

“While this isn’t everything that everybody would want, it’s a significant step forward. That’s how we do things in this building.”

But the bill left the committee without the support of Democrats, including Senator David Watters, who wants to fund kindergarten at the same rate as other grades. That would cost an extra 1800 dollars per student.

“What’s unfortunate about this bill today, is that it ties it explicitly to keno. And if keno doesn’t produce enough revenue, then there’ll be no more than 1,100 dollars available for each student. It leaves families and taxpayers on the hook for kindergarten once again.”

The bill now heads to both chambers for a full vote next Thursday. It’s unclear if it has the support needed to pass.