Yesterday labor leaders from throughout New Hampshire stood in the Legislative Office Building urging NH Senators to restore the proposed cuts to the NH Budget.
Well as you have probably already heard the NH Senate passed their budget with millions in cuts. Yesterday at the press conference NH AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie stated:
“They are attacking New Hampshire middle class families by cutting jobs, cutting critical services and following an extreme agenda that comes from the same out of state special interests that fueled last session’s tea party behavior.”
Diana Lacey, President of the NH State Employees Association (SEIU 1984) really hit home in her explanation of these cuts.
“The Senate budget makes across-the-board cuts at DHHS and directs the Governor to reduce personnel costs by $50 million over the biennium. This means the elimination of as many as 700 jobs. These workers provide critical services, pay taxes and contribute to the state’s economy. They are real people that will go on the unemployment line and go from self-sustaining to potentially needing public assistance instead of providing vital services for the state.”
If you remember that the last budget under Bill O’Brien cost New Hampshire over 1000 jobs. This budget would add another 700 to that.
Labor is not the only ones who are loosing as a result of this budget vote. The Senate voted along party lines to reject the Medicaid expansion as part of the Affordable Care Act. Their vote rejects the $2.5 Billion over the next seven years, to cover the cost of expanding the Medicaid program. So much for the state helping those needy families or the new jobs that would be created.
One other area that was noted at yesterdays press conference was the issue of Voter ID. You may not think this is a budget issue but it is. The State of New Hampshire will have to come up with over $11 million dollars to cover the costs of implementing phase two of the Voter ID law as passed last term. Jessica Clark from America Votes told the crowd:
“They are willing to cut jobs and harm critical programs in our state, but waste taxpayer money on needless Voter ID legislation, which is project to cost up to $11 million over the next four years. Senate Republicans need to turn away from their misguided budget priorities that will harm New Hampshire families and voters.”
After today’s vote Governor Hassan had these stern words for the Senate:
“While there are clearly areas of agreement around critical priorities such as higher education, mental health funding, and economic development, the budget passed by the Senate still falls short in a number of areas that are imperative to moving our state forward. The across-the-board cuts to Health and Human Services and employees will impact critical services and cause hundreds of layoffs, and the rejection of $2.5 billion in federal funds for Medicaid expansion undermines efforts to strengthen our economy and improve the health and financial wellbeing of New Hampshire’s working families.
“As the process moves forward, legislators will need to take a bipartisan approach, set ideology aside, and listen to the people of New Hampshire in order to reach a final a balanced budget that reinvests in the priorities needed to build a more innovative economic future.”
The Senate Democratic Leader, Sylvia Larsen released this statement after the vote:
“This budget will cost hundreds of jobs and eliminate critical services for Granite Staters by sweeping, across-the-board cuts. The Senate Republican Budget forces the Health and Human Services Commissioner to cut millions of dollars threatening funding for the developmental disability waitlist, the CHINS program, mental health care, community health centers, and family planning.”
“Although, I have serious concerns about this budget, I hope that by the end of the budget committee of conference, we in New Hampshire can rise above ideology and move forward with common sense solutions that meet the needs of our citizens.”
The budget process is far from over. Now that the Senate passed their version of the budget a ‘committee of conference’ will be created to work out the differences between the two budgets. This is where you can expect some serious fireworks and horse trading. The committee should be working to strengthen NH, not increasing our unemployment.