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Boutin Attacks Cavanaugh In New Mailer, Mistakenly Shows Support For Voting By Mail

The election in Senate District 16, formerly held by the late Sen Scott McGilvray, is heating up and former Senator David Boutin is already slinging mud with his new mailer.  The most ironic part of Boutin’s mailers is that he is now pushing to have people “vote by mail.”

Last week Sen. Boutin sent out this mailer attacking Alderman Kevin Cavanaugh highlighting a variety of different issues that Cavanaugh has voted for in the last year. My favorite is the one where he highlights that Cavanaugh has “40%” of his campaign funding from “Special Interests.”

Because campaign finances are public record, it is easy to see who has supported Sen. Boutin in previous elections.  According to FollowTheMoney.Org,  Boutin’s 2014 campaign received 712 total donations from totaling $223,377.  Boutin had 312 donations totaling $70,876 from individuals and 387 donations totaling $151,908 from corporations and PACs.

If my math is correct that means that 55% of his campaign funding came from “special interests,” funding more than two-thirds of his entire campaign. So it seems funny that Boutin would attempt to attack Cavanaugh for campaign donations, when the overwhelming majority of his campaign cash came from special interests.

The irony comes as Boutin is encouraging people to “vote by mail,” as the Republicans have continually voted down measures to allow more people to vote by mail.  New Hampshire does not officially have “vote by mail” like Oregon but voters can always vote by absentee ballot, provided they provide an viable excuse for not being able to vote in person, which would allow them to mail in their ballot.

The absentee ballot process is somewhat restrictive as there are only certain “excuses” that can be offered to obtain an absentee ballot. NHPR explains:

Under the state’s current absentee voting law, those reasons include being out of town on the day of the election, or being prevented from getting to the polls because of a disability, a religious commitment or work.

Over the last few years there has been an effort to eliminate the excuses for absentee ballots and try to move New Hampshire to a vote by mail state.  All of those efforts have failed.

However as NHPR reports this new push by Boutin to encourage absentee ballots may indicate that the NH GOP is ready to support expanding voting by mail.

The NHGOP, New Hampshire Democratic Party and the Cavanaugh campaign all said they support a move toward “no-excuse” absentee voting, which is an option in more than two dozen other states.

The Boutin campaign didn’t immediately respond to a follow-up question about his stance on the issue.

On his campaign website, Cavanaugh lists as one of his priorities, “ensuring access to the ballot box.”

“Kevin believes that all eligible voters should have full access to the ballot box and that New Hampshire must pass modern, common-sense voting laws that have been implemented and successful in a majority of other states.”

Cavanaugh wants to implement “no-excuse” absentee ballots, in-person early voting, and online voter registration.

Since winning the Democratic Primary, Cavanaugh has garnered some strong support from the local community, labor organizations, and elected officials. (Click here for a full list of endorsements.)

“We need leaders like Kevin Cavanaugh with fresh, new ideas who are focused on fighting the opioid crisis, supporting our schools, growing our small businesses and being a champion for working families,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who helped Cavanaugh kick off his campaign over the weekend.

“I’m excited to announce my support for Kevin Cavanaugh for state Senate,” said Senator Maggie Hassan in her endorsement yesterday. “As a former state Senator and Governor, I know how crucial Kevin’s voice will be to standing up for Granite Staters and fighting for equal opportunity for families, workers, and students.”

“Throughout his career as a union worker, Kevin has shown that he understands the importance of protecting workers’ rights across the state. And as a Little League coach and father of three, he knows how critical it is that we support educational opportunities for all of our people. When Kevin sees a problem, he dives right in, and that’s exactly the kind of hands-on leadership we need in Concord,” added Hassan.

“Kevin Cavanaugh is clear in his commitment to advocate for the interests of New Hampshire’s working families. Whether it be providing affordable health care, ensuring equal pay for equal work, or maintaining NH’s commitment to providing and funding quality public education available to all, Kevin Cavanaugh will always prioritize the interests of ordinary New Hampshire citizens. AFT-NH shares that commitment with Kevin Cavanaugh, and we are proud to add our name to those who endorse and support his election to the NH Senate,” said AFT-NH President Doug Ley in their endorsement last week.

Male Senators Are Deciding Women’s Healthcare Behind Closed Doors

On Senate Floor, Senator Hassan Says “Trumpcare is a Disaster for Women”

Senator Shaheen Takes To The Senate Floor Calling On Republicans To Work With Democrats To Improve The ACA

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Maggie Hassan delivered remarks on the Senate floor, highlighting that “Trumpcare is a disaster for women” in New Hampshire and across America. Senator Hassan also noted how Senate Republicans are working on the Trumpcare proposal behind closed doors – without any women Senators.

“To compete economically – on a level playing field – women must be able to make their own health care decisions,” said Senator Hassan. “They shouldn’t have to pay more than men do for their health care. They should be able to visit providers of their own choice who understand and have expertise in the woman’s health care needs. The health insurance that is available to women should be equal to that of their male colleagues – that means it should cover their basic health care needs. And to fully participate not only in our economy, but also in our democracy, women have to be recognized for their capacity to make their own health care decisions – just as men are.”

Senator Hassan highlighted the story of Carla from Newfields, New Hampshire, who depends on Planned Parenthood for birth control to treat her ovarian cysts. Senator Hassan described how Trumpcare would completely defund Planned Parenthood, leaving Carla and millions of women across the country without essential health care.

“Defunding Planned Parenthood would leave many women in the Granite State and throughout the country without access to care – plain and simple,” Senator Hassanstated. “There just aren’t enough other providers – as I heard from medical providers throughout my state when I was Governor there – to absorb all of the patients that Planned Parenthood cares for now.”

Senator Hassan also stressed how under Trumpcare, for a mother, giving birth could be considered a pre-existing condition, giving insurance companies the ability to charge them more. Additionally, Trumpcare would increase the cost to women for maternity care in other ways, including undermining the Essential Health Benefits.

“The Congressional Budget Office says that the House-passed Trumpcare bill would increase out-of-pocket spending for maternity care for women… by thousands of dollars per year,” Senator Hassan explained.

“Any cut to Medicaid would disproportionately affect Granite State women – as 62 percent of Medicaid recipients in New Hampshire are women,” Senator Hassan added.

Senator Hassan concluded her remarks urging all Granite Staters and Americans to continue speaking about how Trumpcare would impact their lives.

“It is critical that people in New Hampshire and across our nation continue to speak out and share their stories about how Trumpcare would impact their lives,” Senator Hassan concluded. “And I am going to continue to work with my colleagues to defeat this bill.”

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) also spoke on the Senate floor in opposition to President Trump and the Republican leadership’s healthcare repeal bill and the devastating impact it would have on women’s healthcare. “The Republican bill would take us back to the days before the Affordable Care Act, when insurers could charge women more just for being women, with no other reason needed,” Shaheen said. “It would take away the federal protection against discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. Bear in mind that many of these ‘conditions’ apply mostly or exclusively to women.”

Shaheen went on to read stories from Maura Fay of Exeter and Samantha Fox of Bow, both of whom wrote to Sen. Shaheen about why the Affordable Care Act is vital to protecting their health.

Shaheen urged her Senate colleagues to “put ideology and partisanship aside. Let’s work together to strengthen elements of the Affordable Care Act that are working in the real world, including Medicaid expansion, and fix what’s not working.  This is what the great majority of the American people what us to do.  It’s time, now, to respect their wishes.”

Leo W Gerard: Subjugation in Steel

Image of USW member at EVRAZ North America by Steven Dietz

One cost of freedom is steel. To remain independent, America must maintain its own vibrant steel industry.

Steel is essential to make munitions, armor plate, aircraft carriers, submarines and fighter jets, as well as the roads and bridges on which these armaments are transported, the electrical grid that powers the factories where they are produced, the municipal water systems that supply manufacturers, even the computers that aid industrial innovation.

If America imports that steel, it becomes a vassal to the producing countries. It would be victim to the whims of countries that certainly don’t have America’s interests in mind when they act. In the case of China, the attempt to subjugate is deliberate. Beijing intentionally overproduces, repeatedly promises to cut back while it actually increases capacity, then exports its excess, state-subsidized steel at below-market costs. This slashes the international price, which, in turn, bankrupts steelmakers in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Spain and elsewhere. Then, China dominates.

To his credit, President Donald Trump has said America can’t be great without the ability to make its own steel. He ordered the Commerce Department to investigate the extent to which steel imports threaten national security. Commerce officials are scheduled to brief Senate committees on the inquiry today. That’s because they’re being second guessed by a handful of federal officials, exporters and corporations whose only concern is profit, not patriotism. To protect national security, American steel and family-supporting jobs, the administration must stand strong against foreign unfair trade in steel that kills American jobs and creates American dependency.

Imports already take more than a quarter of the U.S. steel market. They rose in May by 2.6 percent, seizing a 27 percent market share. That is dangerous. America can’t rely on unfairly traded foreign steel as it tries to expand manufacturing jobs or when it faces foreign threats. Defense needs are the basis of the administration inquiry, called a Section 232 investigation under the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

National security relies on dependable, modern transportation and utility systems as well as armaments. To produce defense materials, factories need supplies to arrive routinely and electricity to flow consistently. Steel is just as crucial for roads, bridges, airports and utilities as it is for armor plate.

Some importers are pressuring Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross not to recommend imposing limits or tariffs on steel imports, asserting that the only consideration should be price. They contend that if China, South Korea, Japan and Turkey subsidize their steel production, which lowers the cost of exports, then American builders should benefit – no matter how much that damages national security or destroys steelworkers’ family-supporting jobs. Their preoccupation with profit at their country’s expense should disqualify them from consideration.

To be clear, American steel companies and my union, the United Steelworkers, have tried repeatedly to resolve the problem of trade cheating through normal channels – filing trade enforcement cases against the violators. But the United States has refused to take currency manipulation by countries like China into account. And every time an American company wins an enforcement case against a trade law violator and tariffs are imposed on a particular type of steel import, China and other cheaters begin subsidizing a different type of steel and exporting that.

American companies  have won dozens of cases – welded stainless steel pressure pipe, rebar, line pipe, oil country tubular goods, wire rod, corrosion-resistant steel, hot-rolled steel, cold-rolled steel, cut-to-length plate, grain-oriented electrical steel. But in every case, countries like China and South Korea find a way to circumvent the rulings by subsidizing some new steel product and exporting that or by trans-shipping – sending the product to another country first to make it look like the steel originated there to evade the tariffs.

American steel producers and steelworkers can compete successfully against any counterpart in the world, but they can’t win a contest against a country.

The USW and American producers are looking for a broader solution now, something that will prevent cheating and circumvention across-the-board. And they have good reason to believe they can count on Commerce Secretary Ross. This is a guy who knows the industry and has a track record of saving steel mills and jobs.

At the turn of the century, as recession and the Asian financial crisis pushed more than 30 U.S. steel companies into bankruptcy, Secretary Ross bought a half dozen failing steel firms and restored them to solvency.

Because of his experience, Secretary Ross can be trusted to know the difference between China and Canada. American steelworkers and steel producers aren’t looking for blatant protectionism. American firms and Canadian companies have relationships in which steel from Canton, Ohio, may travel to St. Catherines, Ontario, where it is converted into engine blocks that are then shipped back across the border to Detroit, Mich., for installation in cars. Canada doesn’t illegally subsidize its steel industry or manipulate its currency. Only countries like China, Russia, South Korea and others that flagrantly violate international trade rules should be subject to the Section 232 sanctions.

Secretary Ross experienced the hell of 30 steel bankruptcies. He knows just how bad it can be for workers, companies and the country. With President Trump at his back, Secretary Ross now is key to ensuring American steel doesn’t descend back into that hell and that America remains steel independent.

Tax Giveaways For The Wealthy, While Kids Get Funding For Education Through KENO

This is why we cannot have nice things.  

Our screwed up system of state and local taxes creates many problems for state legislators when crafting our bi-annual state budget.  Our current system means we have to rely on the “sin taxes” aka booze and smokes.  Now they are basing funding for kindergarten on Keno sales.

Thats right. Instead of funding full day kindergarten as both Governor Sununu and Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern campaigned on, Republicans have agreed to partially fund full day kindergarten with revenue from a new Keno lottery game.  We are basing funding for the education of our children on Keno.

The Concord Monitor reports:

The amendment approved by a committee of conference would provide an additional $1,100 per full-day kindergarten student and would legalize the online lottery game keno to help pay for it. The plan also guarantees the funding even if keno revenues aren’t enough to cover the grants.”

The $1,100 additional adequacy grant does not cover the costs of full day kindergarten as the Union Leader explains.

The state currently offers school districts a grant of $1,800 per student for kindergarten enrollment. That’s half the so-called “adequacy grant” of $3,600 for students in grades 1-12, assuming half-day kindergarten programs.

Throughout the budget process Republicans have been saying we cannot afford to cover our proposed expenses and pay for full day kindergarten, but there is plenty of money to drop the Business Profits Tax.

Jeff Woodburn the Democratic Minority Leader in the NH Senate said:

Senate Democrats have been leading on Kindergarten for years, and we are glad Governor Sununu has at least attempted to follow our example. But, today’s failure to support full-day kindergarten like any other grade while giving even more tax cuts for the wealthy elite is a major disappointment and once again demonstrates Governor Sununu’s failure to lead. The fact that Governor Sununu could not get the Republican House to compromise raises real questions about the Governor’s commitment to full-day kindergarten and shows, once again, his commitment to partisan politics.”

“Just like his broken campaign promises to lead on reducing tuition at our colleges and universities and on family and medical leave insurance, this kindergarten shell game demonstrates Governor Sununu’s desire to put partisan politics ahead of meaningful progress for everyday Granite Staters.”

It is very clear that Republicans in the Legislature do not care about working people and children as they refuse to make full day kindergarten mandatory and fail to fully fund full day kindergarten.  They are more than willing to slash taxes on “business owners” at the expense of the needs and priorities of the state.

I do not want to hear any Republican say that we cannot afford  to fix our crumbling roads and bridges, fully fund full day kindergarten, invest in repairs for local schools, or that we cannot afford to expand rail service into NH until they replace the tax giveaways in this budget.

Shaheen, Hassan Introduce Bill to Improve New Hampshire’s Health Care Marketplace & Lower Premiums

 

(Washington DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Bill Nelson (D-FL) to introduce theIndividual Health Insurance Marketplace Improvement Act to help stabilize the individual health care marketplace and lower premiums. The legislation would provide certainty in the marketplace by creating a permanent reinsurance program for the individual health insurance market, similar to the successful programs used to lower premiums and spur competition in the Medicare Part D program.

This reinsurance program would provide funding to offset larger than expected insurance claims for health insurance companies participating in the state and federal insurance marketplaces, encouraging them to offer more plans in a greater number of markets, improving competition and driving down costs for patients and families. Additionally, the bill would provide $500 million a year  from 2018 to 2020 to help states improve outreach and enrollment for the health insurance marketplaces, drawing in new members and educating the public about the need to be insured.  This outreach funding prioritizes counties where there are limited insurers left in the marketplace.

“The Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect but there’s no doubt that it’s made New Hampshire healthier,” said Shaheen. “This legislation would inject stability into the individual insurance market through a program included in the original ACA, which sunset in 2016, that helps lower premiums and spur competition. I continue to urge colleagues across the aisle to work with Democrats to improve the Affordable Care Act though legislation like this, not wholesale repeal a law that is working.”

“We must work together across party lines to help ease the burden of health care costs that are squeezing far too many hard-working Granite Staters and Americans,” Hassan said.“This common-sense legislation will help lower premiums for middle class Americans and stabilize the individual market, which the Trump Administration has been working to sabotage. I continue to stand ready to work with anyone who is serious about improving upon the Affordable Care Act and lowering health care costs for Granite State families, and this bill is an important first step.”

The Individual Health Insurance Marketplace Improvement Act would:

  • Lower premiums, which would also decrease the cost of Advance Premium tax credits,
  • Increase competition among insurers,
  • Provide funding to states to improve outreach and enrollment in the health insurance marketplaces,
  • And provide additional marketplace stability for insurers, providers, and patients.

The reinsurance program would increase stability in the individual health insurance marketplaces by providing federal funding to cover 80 percent of insurance claims between $50,000 and $500,000 from 2018-2020. Starting in 2021, federal funding would cover 80 percent of insurance claims between $100,000 and $500,000.

View full text of the Individual Health Insurance Marketplace Improvement Act, here.

Mark Fernald: Trumpcare Hurts The Granite State

What Trumpcare Means for New Hampshire:  Thousands lose their health insurance, hospitals take a financial hit, and the wealthy get a tax cut.

The Congressional Budget Office has now officially ‘scored’ Trumpcare and has estimated that 23 million will lose their health insurance.

Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act has made it possible for nearly 50,000 citizens of New Hampshire to get health insurance. The vast majority of these newly insured are the working poor.  Their employers offer no health insurance, and they could not afford health insurance on the private market.  People making $18,000 a year could not afford a $6,000 health insurance policy before the Affordable Care Act.

If the Republican healthcare plan becomes law, nearly all of the newly insured will lose their coverage.

The expansion of Medicaid in New Hampshire has brought over $100 million per year into New Hampshire.  That new money has flowed to the bottom line of our healthcare providers, primarily our hospitals, which bear huge burdens providing free care for people without health insurance.  One study concluded that Medicaid expansion has cut the cost of uncompensated care over 40% in those states that expanded Medicaid.

Under Trumpcare, New Hampshire healthcare providers would lose hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade, jeopardizing the financial health of some of our hospitals.

At the heart of Trumpcare is a big tax cut for the wealthy.  The Affordable Care Act included the Net Investment Income Tax, a new 3.8% tax on unearned income (such as interest, dividends, and capital gains) received by couples with incomes over $250,000 a year.  Trumpcare would repeal this tax.

The Net Investment Income Tax corrected a flaw in the original financing of Medicare:  the system is funded by a payroll tax on the wages of working Americans, rather than by a tax on the incomes of all Americans.  Part of our paychecks supported Medicare, but dividends, interest, and capital gains did not.

The importance of this flaw cannot be overstated.  Medicare is a program that benefits Americans who reach the age of 65.  It makes sense to pay for it the way we pay for the rest of the federal government—based on our incomes, not just on our W-2 earnings.

(Social Security is different.  It is paid for with a payroll tax, and the benefits you receive depend upon how much you pay in.  With Medicare, your benefits are not based on the Medicare taxes you have paid.)

Warren Bufffet is paid a modest salary by his company. The vast majority of his income is dividends and capital gains that are not subject to the Medicare payroll tax.  Year after year, before the Affordable Care Act, Warren Buffett paid less in Medicare tax than many wage-earning Americans.

To his credit, Warren Buffet has spoken out against Trumpcare as a tax cut for people like him who do not need it.  According to Buffett, repealing the Affordable Care Act—and the Net Investment Income Tax—would have saved him about $680,000 in 2016.

Repealing the Net Investment Income Tax will cost the federal government about $60 billion a year.  Trumpcare offsets that revenue loss with huge cuts to healthcare spending.  Medicaid expansion would be phased out, while health insurance subsidies for the working poor would be eliminated.

Here in New Hampshire, if Trumpcare becomes law, the health of tens of thousands of our fellow citizens will decline as they lose their health insurance.  The financial health of our hospitals will also decline, as the number of uninsured people increases.

Republicans have spent years railing against “Obama tax hikes” without mentioning that the target of their wrath is a tax that corrected one of the great inequities in our tax system.  The health of millions will be harmed to benefit the wealthy few.

The Republican plan is now in the Senate, where it is being revised in secret. Most senators pay the Net Investment Income Tax, as they have large stock portfolios, and family incomes over $250,000.  We will see which senators vote to give themselves a tax cut—while taking health insurance away from millions—and which senators will vote against a personal tax cut and for affordable healthcare.

Mark Fernald is a former State Senator and was the 2002 Democratic nominee for Governor.  He can be reached at mark@markfernald.com.

With New NAFTA Recommendations, Labor Leaders Outline ‘Bold, Necessary’ Changes to Trade

During a teleconference on Monday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, joined by USW President Leo Girard and CWA President Christopher Shelton, announced the AFL-CIO’s comprehensive recommendations for reworking NAFTA to benefit working people. Pointing to staggering job losses and flat wage growth, Trumka minced no words in calling current U.S. trade policy “a bipartisan disaster,” with NAFTA being a particularly egregious failure.

Donald Trump has been highly critical of NAFTA in the past, constantly decrying it on the campaign trail and appealing to the millions of working people whose livelihoods have been affected by the deal. “It’s no secret working people voted for Trump,” said Shelton, “largely because of the promises he made [on NAFTA].” Now that he is in office, labor leaders expect him to make good on those promises to rework the deal, or face the consequences.

If [the new deal] further rigs the rules for the wealthiest few, we will fight him,” Trumka warned. “And if he breaks his promise, workers will never forget it.”

In addition to the recommendations outlined by the AFL-CIO, Edward Wytkind, President of Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, released a statement calling for stronger protections for the transportation workforce, including prohibiting bus and truck traffic from Mexico that violates U.S. safety rules and requiring participating nations to make minimum investments in infrastructure.

Our trade agreements should be designed to put money in the pockets of America’s working families, not large, multi-national corporations or foreign governments,” said Wytkind.

However, leaders have made clear that the goal of this new framework is not to pit workers in different countries against each other. When asked whether there was a middle ground for protecting both U.S. and Mexican workers, Trumka answered, “Mexican and Canadian workers are not our enemy. It’s the trade agreements that are our enemy.”

Both Girard and Shelton agreed that trade agreements should not put workers against each other. Girard said in a closing statement,“It’s not one country’s workers against another’s, it’s all workers rising together.”  Shelton advocated for policies that raise wages and encourage collective bargaining specifically in Mexico.

One thing is certain: a few small tweaks will not fix NAFTA. The recommendations put forth by labor leaders are far-reaching, comprehensive and necessary in order to protect working people from further devastation. And labor leaders have made clear that they will not sit quietly if the administration’s changes are insufficient.

This is bigger than trade itself; it’s about the system of democracy,” said Trumka. “We’re gonna fight and fight hard so that workers can have a fair shot.”

Senator Maggie Hassan Wants Details Of Senate Trumpcare Bill Made Public

At HELP Committee Hearing, Senator Hassan Stresses Critical Importance of Holding Public Hearing on Senate Trumpcare Bill 

Senator Also Highlights Urgent Need for Action to Lower the Cost of Prescription Drugs for Granite Staters and Americans

WASHINGTON – Senator Maggie Hassan today called on Senate Republicans to hold hearings and share details with the public about the Trumpcare bill that they have been working on behind closed doors. Senator Hassan made her comments at a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing,

“Mr. Chair, I come from a state with a large citizen legislature – 424 volunteer legislators – where every single bill is required to get a hearing. You can’t pass legislation in New Hampshire if the bill hasn’t had a hearing,” remarked Senator Hassan. Adding, “we know [Trumpcare] is being worked on in secret, but we don’t even have an outline of that bill for us to be able to examine ourselves or get feedback from our constituents.” 

The Senator also spoke of the critical importance of working together across party lines to help ease the burden of the rising cost of prescription drugs, and noted that from slashing Medicaid to taking away coverage for millions of Americans, Trumpcare would further hurt hard-working families who are already being squeezed.

On the issue of lowering the cost of prescription drugs, the Senator also refuted frequent claims by some drug companies that their products are so expensive because of research and development costs, highlighting the fact that drug makers’ high costs are often due to what they spend on marketing their products and to their high profit margins. The Senator underscored the findings from a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report that found that R&D costs are not the reason prescription drug prices are rising for hard-working Granite Staters. Senator Hassan asked Dr. Gerry Anderson of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, “Do companies spend more on research and development, or on marketing, advertising, and then add to it in the profits they take?” To which Dr. Anderson replied, “They spend less on research and more on marketing and sales in most of the companies. Essentially, you’re correct, that there is no typical relationship between the amount invested in a particular drug and the price of that drug.”

Letter To Editor: Kinder Morgan Wants To Build A New Gas Plant Near Keene

“Kinder Morgan Building Houston” by WhisperToMe – Own work. Licensed under CC0 via Commons –

Does Keene’s Mayor Lane know what a gas plant is? Do you?

Did you know that Kinder Morgan was looking at Vernon VT or Hinsdale NH to build an industrial gas plant? Keene just happens to be on that pipeline route, and now, a willing victim.

Gas expansion creates the need for gas, means to justify a pipeline, and expansion to an industrial gas plant and compressor station.

Keene has a climate action plan, adaptation plan, impressive recycling center and a food co-op. A gas plant is not in line with Keene community values.

In December, I testified at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) #FERCabuses with other pipeline organizations. ECHO Action NH is helping others fight what Keene is welcoming in.

Liberty Utilities has been aggressively pushing gas contracts throughout NH. They offer reduced fuel rates to cities and raise rates on other customers. Hanover said no, Lebanon is opposed.

Mayor Lane and Keene businesses want to convert the city to gas. He says he won’t support a pipeline, but he supported NED. If it were easy to say no, there wouldn’t be a national movement against FERC and eminent domain.

When Liberty Utilities has enough gas contracts, Kinder Morgan gets the thumbs up and they’re in your back yard. You realize you should have done something, and now you’re screaming, “Not in my back yard!” You’re a NIMBY.

An industrial gas plant would impact the entire Monadnock Region and state. Hanover said no. Lebanon is opposed. One would expect Keene to join cities like Hanover who have made the pledge to 100% renewable energy and businesses to be good community partners choosing efficiency, heat pumps and solar.

The fossil fuel industry is dying. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and the trade fracking chemicals are toxic.

The shale deposit in Nova Scotia has nearly petered out so they want to send fracked gas from Pennsylvania to Canada and export it out, making New England their carbon corridor. Once they start exporting, prices go up. It’s the ‘ol bait and switch.

Don’t be a gas victim. Please email and call Mayor Lane and the City Council. Ask for a community forum before gas plant approval. Join us on Thursday at 5:30 in front of City Hall for a vigil and at 7:00 for the City Council meeting and vote.

Stephanie A. Scherr
Fitzwilliam, NH

Leo W Gerard: Trump Offers Fool’s Gold to Fund Infrastructure

Image from USW / Getty

Donald Trump surrounds himself in gold. The signs on Trump buildings shimmer in it. His penthouse in New York is gilded in it.

He claims now to have found the alchemy to conjure $1 trillion in infrastructure gold. He plans to put up a mere $200 billion in federal funds and stir it together with $800 billion in private investment and state dollars.

That is fool’s gold. A falsely-funded infrastructure program is a massive broken promise. America needs real improvements to roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, airports, water systems and railways. That requires a commitment of real tax dollars, not the relinquishment of America’s public assets to profit-seeking private Wall Street entities. Americans should not be charged twice for maintenance of the public good, once through tax breaks to investors and again in outrageous tolls and fees the investors charge.

On Wednesday, standing on the banks of the Ohio River in Cincinnati, Trump reiterated the pledge he made repeatedly on the campaign trail to put $1 trillion into infrastructure. He said “restoring America” is a promise that Washington, D.C., has broken. “It has not been kept, but we are going to keep it,” he said.

“Taxpayers deserve the best results for their investment,” he said, “and I will be sure that is what they get.” But the plan to turn over public assets to private corporations for tax-supported investment is gold only for the 1 percent who can afford to invest.

The Wall Street Journal reported last fall that to raise the private funds, Trump planned to give massive tax breaks of 82 percent of equity to investors that help pay for infrastructure repair. For citizens, that’s a crappy deal – giving Wall Street control over public assets in addition to being forced to fork over the taxes that rich investors will not pay.

That financial alchemy creates poison, not gold.

In addition, there is no profit in many types of infrastructure that need repair, like schools and hospitals. A corporation can’t collect tolls from children entering their elementary school each morning.

Despite Trump’s promise in Cincinnati that he would take care of rural areas, there’s no profit in many crucial infrastructure projects in such regions. Investors won’t pay for a highway needed to connect two isolated towns in West Virginia.

And the profit in some projects is highly questionable. Several corporations that have bought or built toll roads have filed for bankruptcy. This includes highways in Texas, California, Indiana and Alabama.

In other cases, the profits reaped are outrageous. After Chicago sold its 36,000 parking meters to Morgan Stanley, the Wall Street bank doubled the parking rates and charged the city tens of millions annually for meters Chicago took out of service for street repairs, mass transit stops and safety. A city inspector general report on the deal says Chicago under-priced the meters by nearly $1 billion when former Mayor Richard M. Daley signed the 75-year contract in 2008. The bank is expected to make back its $1.15 billion investment by 2020, giving it 60 more years to rake in pure profit on the backs of Chicago taxpayers who paid to install the meters and who feed them daily.

That’s gold for Morgan Stanley, grief for taxpayers.

Another part of Trump’s financing plan is to shift infrastructure costs to states and towns. This also cheats too many citizens. Sure, some places high on the hog like Silicon Valley might be able to afford that. But too many will be left out.

That’s because large numbers of cities and states are facing fiscal crises. Chicago sold its parking meters to fill a budget shortfall. In Oklahoma, where there’s a $900 million budget gap, schools are so underfunded that 96 of the state’s 513 districts have reduced the school week to four days and another 44 may be forced to do that in the fall. The state has shuttered rural hospitals, overcrowded its prisons and limited state troopers to 100 miles of driving a day.

In Kansas, with a $1.1 billion budget deficit, the state Supreme Court just ordered the legislature to properly pay for its schools. The court said Kansas’ under-funding meant inadequate education in basic reading and math for students in one fourth of its public schools. The state shortchanged half of the state’s black students and a third of its Hispanic pupils.

Illinois hasn’t had a budget for two years. The state’s credit rating has been downgraded eight times. It has accrued $14.5 billion in unpaid bills. As a result, more than 1,500 public university and community college workers have been laid off and untold numbers of social service agencies have closed or severely curtailed services.

Other states, including Connecticut, Kentucky, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, face massive pension shortfalls after years of failing to properly pay into the funds.

These places aren’t going to be able to jump up and take on the federal government’s responsibility to invest in infrastructure.

Even the $200 billion that the Trump administration is saying the federal government will provide is in question. It’s in the budget Trump submitted to Congress, but also in that budget is $206 billion in cuts to existing infrastructure programs, including those conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Army Corps of Engineers. That’s the very Corps of Engineers that would pay for the river lock and dam projects that Trump complained Wednesday in Cincinnati were grossly underfunded, causing costly breakdowns.

That kind of budgeting is bad alchemy. That’s not $1 trillion in infrastructure gold.

Trump said Wednesday, “We will build because our people want to build and because we need them to build. We will build because our prosperity demands it. We will build because that is how we make America great again.”

That sounds wonderful. But to build, projects must be properly paid for. And so far, the Trump administration has offered only pyrite.

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