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ICYMI: More Editorials Call on N.H. Senate to Pass a Bipartisan, Responsible Budget

 
Concord, N.H. – Editorials in the Concord Monitor and Valley News continued to put pressure on the New Hampshire Senate to work across party lines and pass a responsible budget that undoes drastic cuts to seniors, people with disabilities, efforts to combat substance misuse, and local property taxpayers.
 
Concord Monitor: Editorial: “State can’t afford price of budget cuts”
 
Over the next few months the Senate, a committee of conference and Gov. Hassan will pluck the spines off the cold-hearted toad of a budget passed by the House and shape into something that doesn’t boil the conscience and stab property owners in the wallet. At least we hope they will, otherwise the state’s seniors, people with a disability, their caregivers and county taxpayers will suffer.
 
… Taken together, the social service cuts would make it even harder for the vast majority of senior citizens in this graying state to do what they want to do – remain in their own homes for as long as possible and, ideally, to the end. More people will end up in a nursing home, exhaust their own resources sooner and wind up on Medicaid. That’s tragic for them, hard on their families and costly to taxpayers. Seniors who stay in their own homes spend down their resources, whether savings or the equity in their homes, much more slowly and require less help from taxpayers. Providing the services that help them do so makes economic and humanitarian sense.
 
… The cuts to social services in the House budget would downshift even more of the expense of caring for the elderly and disabled from the state and federal government to county taxpayers. Every voter should ask their state representative, if they voted for the budget, why they think that’s a good idea. [Full editorial]
 
Valley News: Editorial: “Don’t Just Rescue Opioid Addicts, Treat Them”
 
With New England in the grip of an opioid addiction crisis, much attention is being focused on naloxone, a relatively easy-to-administer drug that saves lives by reversing the deadly effects of breathing failure in people who have overdosed on heroin or prescription opioids. Remarkably, advocates say, all this is accomplished without producing major side effects other than withdrawal symptoms and without creating a high.
 
… Encouraging as all this is, though, we urge policy makers to ask themselves this question: After naloxone, then what? Preventing an addict from dying by overdose is wonderful, but it is not exactly the same thing as saving — or more precisely — salvaging his or her life. There’s no wonder drug for doing that, unless it’s money — money that needs to be invested in the hard work of supplying high quality, affordable and easily accessible drug treatment options at the local level and encouraging addicts to take advantage of those services.

… Given that the opioid crisis coincides with a budget crunch in both states, lawmakers will face some tough choices about how to provide adequate and sustainable funding for addiction treatment. Without that, though, naloxone is just a small Band-Aid being asked to staunch a hemorrhage. [Full editorial]
 
Concord Monitor: My Turn: Senate must restore sensibility, responsibility to state budget
(Richard Gulla is the president of SEA/SEIU 1984)
 
… At this point in the process, the Senate must formulate its version of a budget for consideration. We implore them to restore some of the services slashed by the House and provide the means for much needed revenue and reflect the type of state we envision: one where all New Hampshire residents may succeed, a place where the young can stay and thrive, where those in the middle of their lives can earn a good living to support and grow their families, and where the old can live in dignity.
 
I urge every New Hampshire resident to contact their state senator and demand that they develop a more compassionate and reasonable budget. Tell them that anything less is not right for our state. New Hampshire deserves better. [Full op-ed]

4-5-15 AFT-NH Legislative Update: The NH House’s Devastating Budget Cuts

The full House voted on their version of the budget (HB 1 and HB 2) on this past Wednesday, passing it by a vote of 212 to 161 and 194 to 179 respectively.  The vote pretty much followed party lines, with Republicans providing the majority and passing the proposed State budget, which now moves on to the Senate.

Here are some of the “highlights” contained within this devastating budget supported by House Republicans:

  • Municipalities will see $11.5 million less from the meals and room tax, which likely means higher local property taxes (downshifting).
  • The House siphoned monies out of the Highway Fund that are intended to support the Department of Safety and moved the money into the General Fund, which means fewer state troopers on the road and less assistance to small municipalities.
  • They delay the opening of the new Women’s prison to September 2017.  Keep in mind, the State already lost a lawsuit over conditions and programming in the current women’s prison.
  • They removed $3.7 million in General funds for the Department of Resources and Economic Development each year, money slated to promote tourism in New Hampshire.
  • $28.7 million was cut from the Department of Transportation. $8 million of this is a cut to block grants that municipalities would have received and $11.4 to municipalities to help with construction and repaired of state highways. A total of $19.4 million less for municipalities (more downshifting).
  • $5.7 million downshift to counties for nursing homes.

The House allocated $119 million less than what the Governor recommended for Health and Social Services.  Among the list of items reduced or eliminated, we have

  • $30.4 million less for the Bureau of Developmental Services,
  • $10.5 million less for Social Services for the elderly,
  • Elimination of Servicelink
  • $2 million less for community Health Centers,
  • $4 million less for emergency homeless shelters,
  • They did not reauthorize the New Hampshire Health Protection Program ,
  • Mandates that DHHS consolidate its district offices,
  • The House budget assumes that Medicaid caseloads will decline by 2.5 percent over the course of the biennium

As for Education Funding the House at the last minute amended the budget to restore some Education funding, maintaining for 2016 the Adequate Education Funding formula and the stabilization grants.

However, for 2017 the cap of 108% of what is allocated would be removed and there would be no cap. This means that if enrollments in districts go up they will receive full funding to cover the costs, while other Districts will suffer as stabilization grants will be reduced.  For example,

  • Barnstead would receive $88,841 less in 2017
  • Campton would receive $66,921 less in 2017
  • Farmington would receive $291,459 less n 2017
  • Fremont would neither receive less or more in 2017
  • Henniker would receive $83,919 less in 2017
  • Hillsboro would receive $233,791 less in 2017
  • Hudson would neither receive less or more in 2017
  • Nashua would receive $479,394 less in 2017
  • Rochester would receive $871,681 less in 2017
  • Weare would receive $312,590 less in 2017
  • Atkinson would receive $16,839 less in 2017
  • Plaistow would neither receive less or more in 2017
  • Sandown would receive $139,772 less in 2017
  • Danville would receive $108,213 less in 2017
  • Durham would receive $24,678 more in 2017
  • Lee would receive $67,264 less in 2017
  • Marbury would receive $77,132 more in 2017


A footnote to the source of these numbers does remind us that these are only preliminary estimates and therefore, could be higher or lower.

This increase of $35 million in 2016 to the stabilization grants might seem like good news but it comes at a price in other areas of the budget.  To provide for the $35 million in 2016, the House budget does the following:

  • $2.5 million less over the biennium for the Community College System of NH.
  • Keeps Special Education Catastrophic aid at the current level of around 70%, $7.5 million was needed to make this whole.
  • $4 million is cut from the Department of Corrections.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services will need to eliminate seven nursing positions at the NH Hospital.
  • Took $1.3 million from the Renewable Energy Fund on top of the $50.8 that was already taken.
  • Found another $2 million in General Funds.
  • And lastly, emptied out the State’s ‘Rainy Day fund,’ taking all $9.9 million and leaving a balance of  $0.00.

From what I understand, the House Ways and Means and Finance Committees, when setting revenue projections, only looked at numbers from July-December 2014 and refused to consider updated (and more robust numbers) from 2015.  Therefore, the House projection for General Fund and Education funding were well below what the Governor projected, a $160 million difference.

AFT-NH has advocated for incremental, common-sense reforms designed to make NH’s existing tax system fairer and to produce the revenue needed to preserve the public services essential to NH’s residents, businesses, and visitors, and vital to our shared economic success.

The budget still has several steps and AFT-NH hopes that the Senate will work to approve a budget that does not downshifts costs onto municipalities, school districts and counties and does no harm to our State’s most vulnerable citizens.

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey
AFT-NH President

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Upcoming hearings

Monday, April 6

Senate FINANCE, Room 103, SH
Sen. Forrester (C), Sen. Little (VC), Sen. Morse, Sen. Reagan, Sen. D’Allesandro, Sen. Hosmer
10:00 a.m. House Finance Committee Chair and Division Chairs’ Presentation on Budget to Senate Finance Committee.

1:00 p.m. Office of Legislative Budget Assistant Presentation on Budget passed by the House to Senate Finance Committee.

TASK FORCE ON WORK AND FAMILY (RSA 276-B:1), Room 207, LOB
1:15 p.m. Regular meeting.

Tuesday, April 7

House WAYS AND MEANS, Rooms 202-204, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 113-FN-A-L, relative to video lottery and table gaming.
Executive session on pending legislation may follow.

Senate EDUCATION, Room 103, LOB
Sen. Reagan (C), Sen. Stiles (VC), Sen. Avard, Sen. Kelly, Sen. Watters
9:00 a.m. HB 124, relative to the implementation of new college and career readiness standards.

9:20 a.m. HB 519, establishing a committee to study Department of Education policies affecting dyslexic students.

9:40 a.m. HB 578-FN, relative to State Board of Education compliance with unfunded Federal education mandates.

10:00 a.m. HB 563-FN, relative to funding for chartered public school pupils.
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

House EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
9:30 a.m. SB 157-FN, relative to encouraging high school students to take and pass a United States citizenship test.

10:15 a.m. SB 190-FN, relative to payment of costs for career and technical education center programs and administration by the Department of Education.

11:00 a.m. SB 227, relative to calculating the cost of an adequate education.

1:00 p.m. Continued executive session on
SB 151-FN, requiring inclusion of home educated pupils in the definition of average daily membership in attendance, and
SB 265-FN, establishing the achieving a better life experience (ABLE) savings account program.

House ELECTION LAW, Room 308, LOB
10:15 a.m. SB 92, establishing a committee to study public access to political campaign information.

House JUDICIARY, Room 208, LOB
10:00 a.m. Executive session on
SB 44, relative to nonpublic sessions of public bodies under the right-to-know law,

SB 149, relative to nonpublic sessions under the right-to-know law.
1:00 p.m. SB 167, relative to filing of small claims.

2:00 p.m. SB 243, relative to nonpublic sessions under the right-to-know law.

House LABOR, INDUSTRIAL AND REHABILITATIVE SERVICES, Room 307, LOB
10:15 a.m. SB 255, establishing a low-wage service worker task force.

10:30 a.m. SB 186, reestablishing the commission to study soft tissue injuries under workers’ compensation and to study the feasibility of developing a first responder’s critical injury fund.

House LEGISLATIVE ADMINISTRATION, Room 104, LOB
10:15 a.m. SB 136, establishing a committee to review constitutional amendments pending in Congress regarding the Citizens United decision and related cases that have been introduced in the United States Supreme Court.

Wednesday, April 8

Senate FINANCE, Room 103, SH
Sen. Forrester (C), Sen. Little (VC), Sen. Morse, Sen. Reagan, Sen. D’Allesandro, Sen. Hosmer
AGENCY PRESENTATIONS ON THE BUDGET AS PASSED BY THE HOUSE
9:00 a.m. Department of Safety
Highway Safety Agency
10:00 a.m. Police Standards & Training Council
10:30 a.m. Lottery Commission
Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

House FINANCE, Rooms 210-211, LOB
9:30 a.m. SB 5, relative to transfers into the revenue stabilization reserve account.

10:15 a.m. SB 8-FN-L, relative to appropriations for nursing homes.

House WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
10:00 a.m. Full committee work session on revenue projections.

Thursday, April 9

10 am Senate in Session

House EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
10:00 a.m. Executive session on SB 157-FN, relative to encouraging high school students to take and pass a United States citizenship test,

SB 190-FN, relative to payment of costs for career and technical education center programs and administration by the department of education, and

SB 227, relative to calculating the cost of an adequate education.

House FINANCE, Rooms 210-211, LOB
10:00 a.m. Full committee work session on SB 5, relative to transfers into the revenue stabilization reserve account.

11:00 a.m. Full committee work session on SB 13, relative to the disposition of dedicated funds.

Friday, April 10

Senate FINANCE, Room 103, SH
Sen. Forrester (C), Sen. Little (VC), Sen. Morse, Sen. Reagan, Sen. D’Allesandro, Sen. Hosmer
AGENCY PRESENTATIONS ON THE BUDGET AS PASSED BY THE HOUSE
11:00 a.m. Executive Office
Governor’s Office
Office of Substance Use Disorders and Behavioral Health
Governor’s Commission on Disability
Office of Energy and Planning
11:45 a.m. Developmental Disabilities Council
12:00 p.m. BREAK
1:00 p.m. Executive Council
1:15 p.m. Secretary of State
1:45 p.m. Boxing & Wrestling Commission
2:00 p.m. Board of Tax and Land Appeals
2:30 p.m. Cultural Resources
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

NH House Republicans Push Through Their Immoral Reckless Budget

 

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Today hundreds of Granite Staters filled the State Capitol building holding signs and asking legislators to oppose these reckless cuts to the New Hampshire budget.  Labor leaders, community activists and concerned citizens delivered over 800 signed petitions opposing these reckless budget cuts.

“A budget is a statement of our priorities as a community and in that sense it is an expression of our values,” explained the Rev. Jonathan Hopkins, President of the NH Council of Churches and pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church. “Our faith leads us to pay attention to the common good, not just to the interests of individuals. Our faith calls for a budget that is fair and just.”

One area of the proposed budget cuts that drew outrage today were the cuts to social programs to help people overcome their additions to drugs and alcohol. Hundred gathered and participated in a “die in” on the State House steps. (Images above of the ‘die in’ courtesy of Steve Kloppenburg)

Their voices and concerns were ignored as the House Republicans pushed through their budget with devastating cuts to a variety of state programs.

“In amending the House Finance Committee-recommended budget that already hurt families, undermined business growth and took our economy backward, Republicans in the House of Representatives managed today to make a reckless budget even worse,” stated Governor Maggie Hassan. (Full Statement Here)

“To gain the support of Bill O’Brien and the Koch Brothers, House Republicans passed a budget today that is so extreme that even the Republican House Finance Chair admitted that our state would suffer if it were actually enacted,” said Ray Buckley, Chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

“The House did a fantastic job of making New Hampshire more free market and more competitive, and forth and for most it takes out all the tax increases,” said AFP State Director Greg Moore in an press conference last week.

During the debate on the House floor Representative William O’Brien, who pushed a similar budget cuts through the House in 2011 when he was Speaker, offered an amendment to raid the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” to find extra money to make their budget work.

“From raiding dedicated funds to downshifting costs onto local communities, the O’Brien-Jasper budget proves once again that New Hampshire Republicans can’t be taken seriously on fiscal responsibility,” said Buckley. “Possibly the most fiscally irresponsible action in the O’Brien-Jasper budget deal — and that’s saying something — is O’Brien’s floor amendment to empty the state’s rainy day fund.”

“As lawmakers entered the State House, today they were greeted by hundreds of protesters decrying the O’Brien-Jasper budget’s drastic cuts. But instead of listening to the outcry from every corner of the state, O’Brien and Jasper decided to wipe out the state’s rainy day fund and threaten a credit downgrade to make even deeper cuts, including cutting funding for community colleges, further cutting our already strained corrections system, and laying off nurses at New Hampshire hospital,” continued Buckley.

“Voters will not stand for the fiscally irresponsible Jasper-O’Brien budget that empties the state’s rainy day fund, raids dedicated funds, slashes critical economic priorities for small businesses and middle class families, and downshifts costs onto local property taxpayers,” concluded Buckley.

One of the budget tactics used by Republicans to fund their disastrous budget would reverse the pay increased negotiated by the State Employees Association. These are the same workers who are now facing the potential of massive layoffs.

“When I was a child growing up in NH, the state leaders were fiscally conservative and responsible,” said Richard Gulla, President of SEA/SEIU Local 1984. “The legislature was primarily Republican and when need be, they would find ways to raise revenue for items our state’s citizens needed and there was a good balance between revenue and spending. That is no longer the case.”

The Tea Party extremists have taken over the House and refuse to raise revenues even though the state desperately needs it.

“The members of SEA/SEIU 1984 want our state to be a safe place for everyone to live, work, and prosper. The NH House budget does not promote these priorities – it disrupts them,” wrote the State Employees Association. “Even though they did not prevail, we salute the legislators who voted in favor of funding the state employees’ contract.”

“While today’s vote was gravely disappointing, we now look to the NH Senate to prepare a budget that is frugal yet reasonable and responsible,” concluded the SEA.

Community groups and fiscal watchdogs were quick to blast Republicans in the House for passing this budget that is guaranteed to harm our state and our economy.

“The House version of the budget is foolhardy and shortsighted. It unnecessarily pits important state priorities against one another rather than making real investments in our community, our infrastructure, and our people,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. “It kicks the can down the road on identifying reasonable revenue sources that ensure the wealthy and corporations are paying their fair share, and it turns its back on programs that, if funded today, will save our state money in the long run.”

“The House budget pits vital public services against one another in an attempt to achieve a misguided sense of balance. This budget puts many of our state’s most vulnerable residents at risk, forcing cities and towns — and local taxpayers – to take on greater responsibilities and to face higher costs in the long run,” said New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute Executive Director Jeff McLynch. (Full Statement Here)

Now we look to the New Hampshire Senate to see how they blend their two proposals together and craft the budget for the next two years. We already know that the Senate passed a business tax reduction that gives away millions to businesses while force deeper cuts to state agencies.

Will the Senate find a way to fix the cuts proposed by the House, or will they bend to the Tea Party extremists and force New Hampshire backwards?

 

Related article and recommended reading:

Republican Budget Cuts In New Hampshire Provoke Backlash From Clergy

 

Senate Democrats Blast House Budget

Democrats Stand Ready to Work Across Party Lines to Pass a Fiscally Responsible Budget that Expands Opportunity for All

Concord, NH – Following the passage of the House Budget, Senate Democrats released the following comments:

“The budget passed the House passed today is not a budget at all—its just a naked appeal to the Koch Brothers and the extremist Bill O’Brien wing of the Republican Party,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn. “The way forward is for the Senate to reject the House’s irresponsible approach and work across party lines, with the Governor’s fiscally responsible plan as a guide, to build on our bipartisan progress over the past two years and seize our state’s full economic potential. Senate Democrats stand ready to work across party lines in order to pass an honest budget, without back-of-the-budget cuts or other budgetary gimmicks, that expands opportunity for all, supports businesses throughout our state, and lays the foundation for a new generation of economic growth.”

“The House budget is unacceptable and now the Senate has to work together to fix it,” said Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, ranking Democratic member of the Senate Finance Committee. “It slashes decades-old programs, long supported by practical leaders of both parties. Not to mention that it would threaten our bond rating by emptying the state’s rainy day fund. Between cutting funding for substance misuse during an opioid crisis, reducing services that allow seniors to stay in their communities, and downshifting costs onto local property taxpayers, its no wonder we’ve heard from people all over the state that the House budget is wrong for New Hampshire.”

“The fact that the Koch Brothers endorsed the O’Brien-Jasper budget proves just how bad the House budget is for New Hampshire’s people, businesses, and economy,” said Sen. Andrew Hosmer, member of the Senate Finance Committee. “We know that it’s possible to make strategic investments in the critical priorities that must be met for our people, businesses and economy to thrive while living within our means. I hope that the Senate Republican majority will join with us to again invest in our shared priorities as we did in the last bipartisan budget.”

Governor Hassan’s Statement on House Budget Vote

CONCORD – Governor Maggie Hassan today issued the following statement on the budget vote by the New Hampshire House of Representatives:

“In amending the House Finance Committee-recommended budget that already hurt families, undermined business growth and took our economy backward, Republicans in the House of Representatives managed today to make a reckless budget even worse. Their wildly irresponsible budget includes drastic reductions to services that are critical to our people and businesses, further downshifting on local property taxpayers, the raiding of the dedicated Renewable Energy Fund, continued budget gimmicks that mislead people about what we actually are funding, and the depletion of our Rainy Day Fund, which threatens our state’s financial outlook and bond rating.

“We know that our people and businesses support strategic investments in critical priorities that help ensure a strong and healthy workforce pipeline, a modern transportation infrastructure, and safe communities, but this harmful plan makes significant reductions to higher education, aid to local communities, road and bridge projects across the state, and critical services for seniors, substance misuse, mental health, and people who experience developmental disabilities. And by ending our bipartisan health care expansion program, the House Republican budget would eliminate health coverage for more than 37,000 hard-working Granite Staters.

“Not only would these reductions downshift responsibility to local property taxpayers, but they have a significant impact on our people, businesses and economic future, affecting areas that are critical to the health and well-being of our people and our economic competitiveness. They would make higher education more expensive, threaten to shut down local road and bridge projects, place an additional strain on our corrections officers, and harm the health and well-being of our families and workforce.

“It is still early in the process of finalizing a fiscally responsible, balanced budget, and I urge the Senate to take a different approach and recognize that we must work across party lines to pass a responsible budget that supports the priorities that matter to our people, businesses and economy. Senate Republicans cannot follow the path of their House counterparts and simply cater to the most extreme members of their party at the expense of common-sense and fiscal responsibility. The families, businesses and hard-working people of the Granite State deserve better than that.

“Two years ago, we worked together to pass the most bipartisan budget in more than a decade, and we must build on that progress by doing the responsible thing and making a bipartisan investment in the success of our people, our businesses and our economy.”

House Approved Budget Puts Vulnerable Citizens, State’s Future at Risk

 CONCORD, NH – The New Hampshire House of Representatives today approved its version of the FY 2016-2017 budget, which would provide nearly $150 million less in General and Education Funds than the Governor’s proposed budget for funding state needs over the biennium.

The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute issued the following statement:

“The House budget pits vital public services against one another in an attempt to achieve a misguided sense of balance. This budget puts many of our state’s most vulnerable residents at risk, forcing cities and towns — and local taxpayers – to take on greater responsibilities and to face higher costs in the long run,” said New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute Executive Director Jeff McLynch.

“The fact remains that New Hampshire’s revenue system has not fully recovered since the start of the recession. Rather than exploring modest, sensible options to increase available revenue, the House has once again resorted to short-term fixes that threaten the state’s long-term success. Raiding the Renewable Energy Fund and draining the Rainy Day Fund is neither sound fiscal policy nor an effective way to win the trust of citizens and businesses.”

“Leaving hundreds of millions in federal dollars on the table, including more than $200 million for the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, will put citizens at risk and push the state further behind,” added McLynch. “Failure to reauthorize the New Hampshire Health Protection Program will deny 37,000 citizens access to affordable health coverage, coverage that improves health outcomes, reduces costs in other areas of the budget, and lowers uncompensated care costs.”

“This budget forces false choices. We do not have to choose among a safe transportation system, affordable higher education, and vital human services. If the state is to attract new residents and new businesses and do right by those that are already here, then we need to invest in a strong, healthy New Hampshire that offers a high quality of life for everyone.”

The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to exploring, developing, and promoting public policies that foster economic opportunity and prosperity for all New Hampshire residents, with an emphasis on low- and moderate-income families and individuals. Learn more at www.nhfpi.org.

“Decisions that Cause Voters to Question the Loyalty of our Elected Officials”

Statement of Paul Brochu, Stamp Stampede.org Lead Organizer – NH regarding today’s passage of the House Budget:

Greed KillsAs expected, the Budget passed by the House today includes cuts in programs for the most-needy, service delays, cost-shifting and a patchwork of other maneuvers to reduce the bottom line rather than investing in New Hampshire’s future.

These are the types of decisions that cause voters to question the loyalty of our elected officials. “Who, exactly, are our politicians serving?”  At the Stamp Stampede, we work with the growing number of people who have realized that government is being driven by Big Money political donors, and who are trying to fix that problem.

People are angry.  They’re taking to the streets in protest marches.  They’re testifying in legislative hearings.  They’re pushing resolutions through their Town Meetings.  Through the Stamp Stampede, tens of thousands of people are rubber-stamping anticorruption messages on US currency, which then circulates through the local economy and helps bring people together around the issue.

Even though corporate influence over politics is a global problem, most Americans think about it in terms of Big Money control of presidential and congressional elections. That’s what gets the headlines: a candidate asking donors to limit their donations to a million dollars; a couple of businessmen pledging to spend almost a billion dollars before the 2016 presidential elections.

But the same dynamics are at work on the state level, too – and this House budget is a microcosm of the struggle for the loyalty of our government officials.

House GalleryThis budget does not include tens of millions of dollars in revenue that could have come from a tobacco tax increase.  Why not? New Hampshire would still have the lowest cigarette tax rate among neighboring states.  We would still lead the nation in cigarette smuggling, with almost one-quarter of cigarette purchases headed out-of-state.  Revenue from a tobacco tax increase could be used to avoid cuts to community health centers.  It could fund continuation of the expanded Medicaid program that provides health insurance to 34,000 Granite Staters.  It could patch a lot of the holes in this Budget.  But it’s not even being considered.

Why not?

The National Institute on Money in State Politics shows that former House Speaker Bill O’Brien received a $5,000 political contribution from tobacco giant Altria Client Services last October.

And now, the House refuses to even consider raising the tobacco tax.

crowd (2)Political donations can be an extremely cost-effective way for corporations to do business.  A Sunlight Foundation study of the 200 most politically active corporations found that for every dollar invested in political donations and lobbying, the corporations received $760 back in tax breaks, contracts and other types of government support.

Which should give all of us pause, as this state Budget heads over to the Senate.

According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, “non-individual” political donors including business associations, corporations and PACs donated more than $700,000 to New Hampshire State Senate candidates in the 2014 elections.

more crowd (2)The Senate has already given preliminary approval to cuts in the business profits tax and the business enterprise tax.

Those tax cuts, if finalized, would undoubtedly trigger even more cuts to state services.

Do we really need those business tax cuts? New Hampshire already has the seventh-best business tax climate in the nation.

Budgets are, above all else, choices about priorities.  Spend tens of millions of dollars on tax cuts for corporations?  Or invest it in higher education for the next generation of workers?  Turn down tobacco tax revenues?  Or take the money and use it to improve the health of lower-income residents?

In a more-perfect world, our elected officials would make these sort of decisions based on the best interests of their constituents.  But we live in a world where political donations speak louder than votes.

Lobby (2)It doesn’t matter what party people belong to – Republicans and Democrats are outraged about this in almost-equal numbers.  Ask about federal campaign donations: 80% of New Hampshire Republicans and 77% of our Democrats say that Congress is more interested in special interests than its constituents.  Ask about the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens Unitedmore than two-thirds of New Hampshire voters think the US Constitution should be amended to limit money in politics.

People are feeling disenfranchised.  At StampStampede.org, we hear voters’ anger at having their government stolen by Big Money donors.  We work with small business owners who echo their customers’ disillusionment.  People are sick and tired of elected officials choosing to take care of political donors, rather than the people who elected them.

That anger is growing.  Every time that the New Hampshire Rebellion organizes a protest walk, they have hundreds more people participating than the year before.  More and more Town Meetings are voting to endorse a constitutional amendment to limit money in politics; so far, 67 Granite State municipalities have voted to defend democracy.

Billboard (2)In the past few months, several hundred New Hampshire residents have joined the Stamp Stampede. We’re seeing more and more currency with messages like “Not to Be Used for Buying Elections” and “Stamp Money Out of Politics.”  Each stamped dollar bill is seen by an estimated 875 people as it circulates through the local economy – literally making money into the message, and getting the message out to millions of people.

We’re recruiting 6,500 New Hampshire Stampers help us make this into an issue in the presidential primary.  We already have 60 small business partners who are hosting “Stamping Stations” where customers can stamp their money and learn more about how high-dollar donations have hijacked our elections.

It’s a grassroots movement to reclaim our government from the special interests, because we’re tired of being forgotten in the race to please special-interest political donors.

The decisions being made in this State Budget process – business tax cuts? or services for people? – show the problem in a nutshell.

Who does our government belong to?  Who do our elected officials take care of?

And what, exactly, is it going to take to get our government back?

————————

The Stamp Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.

3-31-15 AFT – NH legislative Update: The New Hampshire House Budget

The full House will be voting on their version of the State budget HB 1 and HB 2 this Wednesday. To review all the amendments and spread sheets click here.

I think Rep. Mary Jane Wallner (Democrat) has written a great summary for the minority report as to what this budget does:

  • The proposed budget fails the citizens of New Hampshire in several important ways. It ignores the warnings of major economists that we must invest in our future to attract a well-educated workforce that will help move our economy forward.
  • The budget reduces K-12 education aid by $27 million, risking the readiness of our students to be college- and career-ready. To read more on this click here.
  • Both community colleges and the University system receive less than the recommended funding in the governor’s budget, by a combined total of more than $32 million.
  • The University system will receive less money in 2016 than it did in 2015, despite our students facing some of the highest college costs and one of the highest debt burdens in the nation.
  • The budget cuts investment in our livesinfrastructure and, at the same time, downshifts the costs of maintaining crumbling roads and bridges to our communities.
  • By sweeping $50 million from the Renewable Energy Fund, the budget breaks the promise made by Republicans in January not to raid dedicated funds; at the same time it eliminates virtually all funding to develop new energy infrastructure projects that offer good jobs and lower municipal energy costs.
  • By diverting $14 million from last session’s gas tax increase to the General fund, this budget breaks the legislature’s promise to spend all of the added revenue fixing our eroding transportation infrastructure.
  • The proposed budget also downshifts nearly $6 million to our counties for long term care by raiding the “bed tax” funds.
  • Broken promises and downshifting are magnified as revenue sharing to cities and towns is frozen, restricting state funding at the same time some communities will see the loss of up to $750,000 in education stabilization grants and all communities will see the fiscal impact of cuts to vital safety net programs that help vulnerable seniors and individuals with mental illness or disabilities.
  • Programs that enable the elderly to remain in the community with dignity and stay off the more expensive Medicaid program are reduced.
  • Funding for developmental disabilities programs is reduced below the current biennium’s level, decreasing the availability of community services that prevent institutionalization, and increasing the risk both of personal harm to individuals and litigation for the State.
  • Cuts to mental health services will add to the number of people experiencing a mental health crisis, held in emergency rooms across the state while they wait for a psychiatric hospital bed.
  • This budget cuts access to emergency shelter for homeless veterans, families, and victims of domestic violence.
  • This budget refuses to address the epidemic of drug abuse that affects employers along with families, increases the strain on law enforcement and corrections budgets, and puts public safety at risk.
  • The Sununu Center, which provides services to our most troubled youth, is cut by nearly a third with no feasible plan to maintain operations.
  • In addition, the budget eliminates funding at the end of 2016 for the New Hampshire Health Protection Program. Ending this program, currently helping almost 40,000 Granite Staters, may lead to destabilization of both the health care provider system and our insurance markets along with greater burden on local welfare offices.
  • All of these cuts to safety net programs can be expected to be downshifted to local communities as the needs will certainly not disappear.
  • In addition to all other broken promises, the budget effectively increases the tax burden on business as energy costs continue to rise without investment in new energy projects and private nursing home payments are cut by $26 million in bed tax payments.
  • The State Employees collective bargaining agreements are not funded in this budget, undermining our state employees and breaking our promise to them.
  • The minority believes these short-sighted cuts will make it harder for vulnerable individuals to live decently and with human dignity, and the lack of investment in our economy will hurt New Hampshire long into the future.


There is a petition “Protect NH Communities: Stop the Reckless Budget Cuts” that has been circulating. If you have not signed it please take the few seconds. Copies will be given to Speaker Jasper and Senate President Morse.  

There is also a “Protect NH Communities from Reckless Budget Cuts, State House Visibility to STOP reckless budget Cuts” on April 1st starting at 9:30amFor more information click here.

Keep in mind that this is just one step in the budget process. The next step is that it moves to the Senate Finance committee next week. There are many moving parts and things change quickly. For the quickest updates please go to AFT New Hampshire Facebook page and like us.

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey
AFT-NH President

Have you visited the AFT-NH Facebook pageand clicked “Like Us”? Please do so today!

You can also follow us on Twitter at @8027aftnh.

Late breaking news appears on Facebook!



Upcoming Hearings

Monday, March 30

10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Reps Hall., budget briefings on HB 1-A, making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017and HB 2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures in Representatives

Tuesday, March 31

Senate EDUCATION, Room 103, LOB
9:00 a.m. HB 662-FN-L, relative to property taxes paid by chartered public schools leasing property.

9:20 a.m. HB 520, establishing privacy protections for student online personal information.

9:40 a.m. HB 276, providing that school districts shall not be required to adopt the common core standards.

10:20 a.m. HB 322, relative to protection of personally identifiable data by the department of education.
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

Senate FINANCE, Room 103, SH
Sen. Forrester (C), Sen. Little (VC), Sen. Morse, Sen. Reagan, Sen. D’Allesandro, Sen. Hosmer
2:00 p.m. HB 658-FN, prohibiting collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join a labor union.
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
9:30 a.m. SB 195-FN, encouraging instruction in cursive handwriting and memorization of multiplication tables.

10:00 a.m. SB 151-FN, requiring inclusion of home educated pupils in the definition of average daily membership in attendance.

10:30 a.m. SB 265-FN, establishing the achieving a better life experience (ABLE) savings account program.

11:15 a.m. Executive session on
SB 71, relative to the administration of glucagon injections for children in schools,

SB 166, relative to facilitated individualized education program meetings and

SB 194-FN, relative to epinephrine administration policies in postsecondary educational institutions.

1:00 p.m. Executive session on
SB 69, establishing a commission to study social impact bond funding for early childhood education for at-risk students,

SB 101, prohibiting the state from requiring implementation of common core standards,

SB 151-FN, requiring inclusion of home educated pupils in the definition of average daily membership in attendance,

SB 195-FN, encouraging instruction in cursive handwriting and memorization of multiplication tables, and

SB 265-FN, establishing the achieving a better life experience (ABLE) savings account program.

Wednesday, April 1

10 am House in Session

Senate EDUCATION, Room 103, LOB
Sen. Reagan (C), Sen. Stiles (VC), Sen. Avard, Sen. Kelly, Sen. Watters
2:00 p.m. HB 332, relative to school district policy regarding objectionable course material.

2:20 p.m. HB 346, relative to criminal history records checks for school employees and
volunteers.

2:40 p.m. HB 424, relative to the accessibility of assessment materials.

3:00 p.m. HB 507, relative to teacher personally identifiable data.
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

Senate PUBLIC AND MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS, Room 102, LOB
Sen. Birdsell (C), Sen. Boutin (VC), Sen. Stiles, Sen. Lasky, Sen. Kelly
9:15 a.m. HB 155, relative to municipal contracts for police chief.

Thursday, April 2

10 am House in Session if needed

Monday, April 6

TASK FORCE ON WORK AND FAMILY (RSA 276-B:1), Room 207, LOB
1:15 p.m. Regular meeting.

Tuesday, April 7

LABOR, INDUSTRIAL AND REHABILITATIVE SERVICES, Room 307, LOB
10:15 a.m. SB 255, establishing a low-wage service worker task force.

10:30 a.m. SB 186, reestablishing the commission to study soft tissue injuries under workers’ compensation and to study the feasibility of developing a first responder’s critical injury fund.

11:00 a.m. SB 45, relative to opioid treatment agreements under workers’ compensation law.

WAYS AND MEANS, Rooms 202-204, LOB
9:00 a.m. SB 113-FN-A-L, relative to video lottery and table gaming.
Executive session in pending legislation may follow.

 

Arnie Alpert: Will NH Privatize Youth Corrections?

Sununu Youth Services-Manchester (image by Prime Roofing Corp)

Sununu Youth Services-Manchester (image by Prime Roofing Corp)

Devil is in the Details of Budget Proposal

Another version of this was published in the Concord Monitor.

The budget proposal now under consideration in the House Finance Committee calls for a $7 million cut in the budget of the Sununu Youth Services Center, the state’s residential detention center for juvenile offenders. It also mandates “the option for the Department to enter into contracts to operate the facility.” The outsourcing provision would be included in HB 2, the budget “trailer bill.”

We’ve been around this block before.

In 2011, the budget trailer bill, HB 2, mandated creation of “a committee to develop a plan for privatizing the department of corrections,” and specified that “on or before September 1, 2011, the commissioner of administrative services shall issue a request for proposals by vendors for provision of correctional services or any other services provided by the department of corrections.”

That line, buried in what became Chaptered Law 0224 when it passed on June 22, 2011 and became law without the signature of Governor John Lynch eight days later, set in motion a costly two-year investigation into the possibility of outsourcing the state’s prisons to a for-profit firm.

First, staff at the Departments of Corrections and Administrative Services spent five months preparing three lengthy “Requests for Proposals” to solicit interest from private firms.

The responses from four companies, which arrived between late January and early March. There was so much paper in the bid documents — said to be so bulky they filled a room at the State House Annex – that the State needed an outside consultant. It took four more months, and an appropriation of $177,000, for the state to hire MGT of America to analyze the proposals.

It took nine months for MGT to compete its report. 

Among its findings were that the “annual compensation for security staff” in the bidders’ business plans “was one-half the current compensation currently paid to similar positions in the state.”

High Turnover, Low Safety

“The state should be concerned that this significantly lower wage may make it difficult to maintain a trained and experience staff,” MGT said. “This could result in high turnover and ultimately impact and safety and security of the correctional facilities.” In other words, the way to make a correctional facility profitable is to lower the wages and benefits paid to workers. That dooms the facilities to dependence on workers who hope to leave and find a better job, not the kind of people we want to manage adult or juvenile corrections.

Based on the consultant’s report, the State “determined that it was in the best interest of the State to cancel the solicitation process,” according to a report released in April 2013, nearly two years after the process started.

“The decision to cancel, after having invested so much time and consideration, was not made lightly,” the Departments of Corrections and Administration said.

With that in mind, we should not go lightly into a new privatization process, this time for youth corrections.

Evidence from around the country has shown that for-profit companies are ill equipped to handle the responsibility of incarceration, whether the prisoners are juveniles or adults. Their facilities tend to be under-staffed, less secure, and don’t even save money for taxpayers.

Riots and Abuse in Florida

Just last week a riot broke out at the Les Peters Academy, a juvenile correctional facility near Tampa, Florida. It’s the third time violence has broken out at one of G4S Corporation’s juvenile facilities, and that’s just in the Tampa area. The State of Florida is investigating “whether all policies and procedures were followed.”

Last summer Florida cancelled a contract with another for-profit operator of youth detention facilities, Youth Services International, after evidence of excessive or unnecessary use of force. The company is barred for a year from bidding on new contracts, but it still runs nine other Florida facilities.

A lengthy report by Chris Kirkham for Huffington Post says “those held at YSI facilities across the country have frequently faced beatings, neglect, sexual abuse and unsanitary food over the past two decades.” Not only that, according to Kirkham, Florida’s “sweeping privatization of its juvenile incarceration system has produced some of the worst re-offending rates in the nation.”

Caroline Isaacs of the American Friends Service Committee, who has documented abuses at for-profit facilities in Arizona and nationwide, says “the track record in juvenile facilities is even more horrifying than the usual for adult prisons.”

We’ve been around this block before. Let’s not go there again.

NH Senate Unanimously Calls for Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United

2015-03-26 Senate Passes SB136 3The New Hampshire Senate just passed a bill supporting the amendment of the US Constitution to overturn Citizens United. The voice vote was apparently unanimous. The bill, SB 136, establishes a study committee to review the various proposed constitutional amendments, and issue a report by November 1st regarding which approach should be supported by the New Hampshire congressional delegation.

“Fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy and the consequences of the Citizens United ruling on our elections must be addressed,” said Senator Martha Fuller Clark.​ “The issue of such large amounts of money influencing our elections is not a partisan one; it affects all of us. That’s why 67 of our municipalities have passed warrant articles calling for action on this very serious issue which threatens our democracy.”

“In 2014 alone, over $49 million was spent on NH Congressional races from outside groups, drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens,” she said. “I’m pleased that my Senate colleagues have finally agreed that it is time to do something about the corrupting influence of such large amounts of out-of-state money on our elections. I urge the House to agree as well.”

2015-03-26 Senate Passes SB136“The Senate’s action today is a huge step forward in the grassroots effort to make New Hampshire the 17th state to call for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United,” said Paul Brochu, the Stamp Stampede’s Lead Organizer in New Hampshire.

“We’re very hopeful that the House will also pass this bill.  The House called for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United in 2013 and 2014; and earlier this year the House passed a resolution seeking an Article V Constitutional Convention to overturn Citizens United,” he said. “I think we’re all tired of out-of-state special interests trying to buy our elections.  It’s time for some common-sense limits – and that common sense starts by telling the Supreme Court that no, corporations are not ‘people.’ ”

“Today, thanks to the bipartisan leadership of Senators Russell Prescott (R-23) and Martha Fuller Clark (D-21), the Senate at last voted to pass a version of SB 136 that includes language specifically calling for a constitutional amendment,” said Jonah Minkoff-Zern, Co-Director of Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign.  “This reflects what the people of New Hampshire have been urging their elected officials to do in response to the surge of outside money being spent on state and federal elections.”

2015-03-26 Senate Passes SB136 2 (2)“The pressing question before the nation today is whether it is ‘we the people’ or ‘we the corporations and big money interests.’ This not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. This is a deeply American issue. Whatever our political differences may be, we all share the common vision of government of, by, and for the people,” said John Bonifaz, President of Free Speech for People.

“This victory also demonstrates that a sustained people-powered movement can win,” he added. “New Hampshire citizens from throughout the state have repeatedly called on their legislators to take this action. They have rallied. They have marched. They have traveled to their state capitol to stand up and be heard. And, today, the people were heard. When the history of the 28th Amendment is written, it will include the story of New Hampshire citizens demanding their democracy back.”

“All across New Hampshire, people from both parties are saying they’ve had enough of Big Money in politics,” Brochu said.  “In town after town, Town Meeting after Town Meeting, Granite State voters have said ‘no more!’  It’s been amazing to watch all these people – many of whom have never been politically active before in their lives – suddenly step forward and lead their hometowns to take a stand and say the Constitution should be amended.”

“Many of the people who have stepped forward on this issue had never before called or written to or met with their elected officials.  They’re acting as ‘citizen lobbyists’ for the very first time, trying to take back their government from the special interests and Big Money donors,” Brochu added.  “This is what democracy is supposed to be about – and it is beautiful to see.”

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Stamp_StampedeThe Stamp Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.

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