Last night, the New Hampshire State Senate was burning the midnight oil as Senators battled over the State’s budget. After 11pm last night, the Republicans pushed through their budget along party lines (14-9). Along with cuts to drug treatment programs, funding for full day kindergarten, and DCYF, the budget is a massive tax giveaway to the wealthiest in our state. Republicans also rejected a budget amendment to ensure low-income families would still be able to access healthcare through low cost options like Planned Parenthood.
“This budget creates an artificial, trumped-up surplus to sell the biggest Republican ruse of all, that slashing taxes for the rich will grow revenues and improve the lives of poor, middle-class people,” said Democratic Minority Leader Sen. Jeff Woodburn (D-Whitefield). “The reality is that this budget props up the wealthiest 1% in our state and kowtows to the most conservative 5% in the House.
“Throughout every step of this process, Senate Democrats have been clear that we are willing to work with our Republican colleagues toward a bipartisan, fiscally responsible budget that works for everyone, not just those at the top. But the right-wing budget passed this evening is purely a political document and fails to adequately address the challenges and needs of our state,” added Woodburn.
Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley told the Concord Monitor, “We find ourselves doing as much as we can while protecting taxpayers and growing our economy.” This is essentially the same argument the Trump administration is using to justify massive cuts to the Federal Budget and to justify cutting taxes on the people who pay the most in taxes.
The Governor’s budget undercuts the alcohol fund which is key in combatting the opioid crisis. Tym Rourke, Chair of the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol & Drug Abuse, said yesterday that the additional dollars directed toward the alcohol fund are deceptive, and could be diverted elsewhere, forcing treatment and prevention programs to scramble for resources. Sununu’s uprooting of opioid funds is similar to the Trump budget, which cuts money from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, slashes drug prevention funding by 11%, cuts Medicaid funding in half, and cuts $400 million in substance use disorder and mental health funding.
In addition to underfunding the fight against opioids, Sununu’s Senate budget does nothing to avoid tuition hikes at community colleges and state universities, dedicates no funding toward job training of Community Mental Health Centers, and stops short of providing adequate funding to the Department of Children, Youth & Families and the developmental disability program. Most surprisingly, the Senate Republicans refused to spend even a dollar in the budget on the popular full-day kindergarten program.
The underfunding of key programs for New Hampshire’s working families and most vulnerable citizens are designed to make room for $216 million in business tax cuts in the next 4 years. After 12 years of Democratic leadership in the corner office, New Hampshire has the third-lowest unemployment rate in the country and was rated the number one state in America for economic opportunity by US News.
“What it comes down to is that budgets are about priorities and the priorities laid out in the Senate Republican budget do not match those of hard working Granite Staters,” added Sen. Dan Feltes (D-Concord). “This budget fails to include job training programs that would boost our workforce and close our skills gap, breaks promises made to our retirees and increases health care costs for our seniors, and doesn’t invest in full-day kindergarten, something necessary to closing the opportunity gap and attracting and keeping young working families in New Hampshire. The budget fails to adequately address DCYF and child safety. It also fails to adequately address our mental health crisis in the short-term, nor does it make the cost-effective investments that will prevent the crisis from expanding; including in childhood mental health. Quite simply, this budget fails to meet the critical and time-sensitive challenges we face.”
“A budget based on incorrect, deflated revenue estimates is one that needlessly discards invaluable resources for New Hampshire’s most needy. The budget is the bill that impacts every person in New Hampshire and is the most important piece of legislation that we vote on. While the budget approved today makes steps in the right direction, it simply leaves too many needs unmet,” said Sen. Lou D’Allesandro (D-Manchester). “This budget fails to fully fund full-day kindergarten, fails to fully fund our efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, and fails to adequately meet the needs of those suffering from mental illness. The people of New Hampshire deserve better than what was passed in the Senate today.”
Among the highly contested sections of the budget was severe cut to Planned Parenthood funding. The Senate ultimately rejected an amendment to keep Planned Parenthood’s doors open in the event of a federal “defund.” A federal “defund” of Planned Parenthood, as proposed by the Trump Administration, would block Medicaid patients from receiving care. This move, if passed in Washington, would be immediate, giving no time for budget writers to come back to the table to find a New Hampshire solution to funding.
The amendment was proposed by Senator Feltes (D-Concord), and was an opportunity to ensure that there is continuity of care for patients if Planned Parenthood is “defunded” at the federal level. Currently, New Hampshire consistently ranks one of the top healthy states in the nation, with one of the lowest teen pregnancy and STI rates in the country, and excellent maternal health outcomes. This contingency amendment aimed to keep that enviable status by using state Medicaid dollars to protect federal losses in the event of a federal “defund”. Also speaking on behalf of this amendment were Senator Soucy and Senator Hennessey.
“The Congressional Budget Office estimated that most of the federal savings from eliminating Planned Parenthood would be offset by the high-risk, high-cost of unintended pregnancies which would result in additional Medicaid births. Because many of those patients won’t be able to find another provider, taking away cancer screenings and preventive care will only drive the costs up in other parts of our health care spending. Furthermore, since our state currently uses Medicaid funds to purchase coverage through Medicaid managed care and premium assistance – there wouldn’t be any additional cost for these capitated rates, while there would be the very important benefit of maintaining continuity of care for thousands of Planned Parenthood patients,” said Senator Dan Feltes.
In addition to providing quality care for many Granite Staters, Planned Parenthood’s services are also extremely cost effective, as every dollar spent on publicly-funded contraception saves more than $7 in other costs. Ensuring that Planned Parenthood stays part of New Hampshire’s health care system helps prevent unintended pregnancies and STI occurrences.
The amendment was rejected by a partisan vote of 14-9.
“We’re grateful for the efforts of State Senators to protect the health of people who rely on Planned Parenthood for lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control and other needed health care in New Hampshire. However we’re deeply disappointed that Senate Republicans took a partisan approach which could result in disruption of access to reproductive care. We will continue to strive for a bipartisan approach to protecting women’s health and rights,” said Jennifer Frizzell, Vice President for Public Policy for Planned Parenthood of New England.
“Last night’s vote comes as politicians in Congress are threatening the health and lives of millions of people across the country who rely on Planned Parenthood. We applaud the efforts of our state legislators to help shield our patients in New Hampshire, yet the health and well-being of millions of people across the country still hangs in the balance. If members of Congress do not abandon this attack, it will be nothing short of a health care disaster,” Frizzell added.
Senate Democrats added their distain for this attack on women’s health providers.
“It’s a disturbing reality that in 2017, women in the United States, and now in New Hampshire, continue to play defense against constant efforts to restrict access to the healthcare services that women need to lead safe, healthy and independent lives,” said Senator Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth). “As Republicans in Washington explicitly target major women’s healthcare providers like Planned Parenthood for elimination, there is significant, substantiated anxiety that women are in imminent danger of losing access to the affordable, high quality and preventative health services that clinics like Planned Parenthood provide.”
“When Republican members of the all-male, Senate Finance Committee introduced an amendment on the final day of deliberation in executive committee, without first holding a public hearing, to codify a state-level version of the Hyde amendment to prohibit the use of state funds for diversion to reproductive healthcare clinics, they made clear their intent to promote their personal and political ideology at the expense of women’s health,” said Senator Martha Hennessey (D-Hanover). “This is especially clear given that it is already established in practice that no federal or state funds in New Hampshire are used to cover abortion services. The ulterior intent of the amendment is clear: it is to send a message that Senate Republicans do not value or intend to preserve the lifesaving services that Planned Parenthood provides to the women of New Hampshire.”
“These efforts to defund and restrict access to Planned Parenthood are not only unconstitutional, they also disproportionately impact low income women, women of color, young people and immigrants who rely on Medicaid for their healthcare coverage,” added Senator Donna Soucy (D-Manchester). “In Manchester alone, upwards of 5,000 women utilize Planned Parenthood’s services, including physical exams, cancer screenings, family planning resources and STI testing and treatment. These clinics are invaluable to New Hampshire families and our communities. Given the uncertainty in Washington, we should be doing all that we can to assure the thousands of women who rely on these services that their care will not falter.”
“We find it disturbing that our Republican colleagues not only doubled down on their efforts to deny women’s healthcare coverage, they triple and quadrupled down on it with every subsequent amendment to restrict access,” said Senator Bette Lasky (D-Nashua). “While I respect that this is a contentious issue open to debate and disagreement, these amendments should have gone through the proper, public process, not introduced in the late hours of the night as we take our final votes on the budget.”