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NH Politicians Continue Assault On State Retirees’ Health Benefits

Senator Gerald Little and Representative Ken Weyler
Lead Crusade against State Retirees’ Health Benefits

Earlier today, the NH Fiscal Committee voted to increase the monthly cost share (premium) of retirees who are under age 65. The amount is a 5% increase, which, when announced, caused an audible collective gasp from a room packed with State retirees.  These are the people who have served the State for decades and had planned their lives and retirement according to promises that had been made at the time of employment and are being broken today by state politicians.

The increase moves the monthly cost from 12.5% to 17.5% of the premium, which currently means retirees under age 65 will be paying an additional $46 per individual covered each month.

“This vote is a continuation of breaking promises that were made to people who spent their careers serving this state,” said Rich Gulla, president of SEA/SEIU Local 1984. “Today, a handful of politicians decided the fate of over 3,000 devoted, hard-working former employees and their dependents.  The committee kept talking about no other alternatives. There were plenty of alternative ways to fill the deficit in the retirees’ health benefit plan. They just took the easy way out today – on the backs of retirees.”

Committee members repeatedly attempted a blame game. They tried to blame the Governor, they tried to blame increasing medical costs; they tried to blame everything and everyone other than themselves. However, after all the grandstanding, they were the ones who voted for today’s state retiree’s health plan changes. They could have found another way to plug the budget hole including opening up the State budget and finding the dollars someplace else.

It was apparent to attendees that the outcome of the meeting was pre-determined prior to its convening. “They knew full well how they were going to vote, even before today’s meeting began. They had already made up their minds to put the screws to the retirees who are under age 65,” said Gulla.

Last month, the committee voted to increase the co-payment for prescriptions for all retirees. “In combination, these increases are going to present a significant hardship for our retirees. The average pension for a NH State retiree is about $13,000/year.  Our retirees will literally be deciding between paying their heating and grocery bills or paying for medical care. It just sickens me,” said Gulla.

“The only way to stop this assault on our retirees is to vote out those Representatives and Senators who voted for this atrocity today,” said Gulla.  Senator Little made the motion to accept today’s plan and Representative Weyler seconded the motion.

It is also important to know that Senators Lou D’Allesandro and Andy Sanborn and Representatives Daniel Eaton and Cindy Rosenwald voted against the increases and in favor and respect of our state retirees. “For that, we thank them,” said Gulla.  The remaining Fiscal Committee members voted against the retired workers.  “Our members will not forget this; you can be sure they will remember exactly who was with them and against them next fall as they cast their ballots.”

State Workers Praise Bipartisan Cooperation That Ends Continuing Resolution

Concord, NH, September 17, 2015 – Yesterday, after months of political posturing, the Governor, Republican and Democratic legislators arrived at a compromise budget that ended the continuing resolution. The approved budget contains and funds the NH State Employees’ previously negotiated contract.
“On behalf of our Executive Branch members (state employees), I thank the Governor and the Legislators for acknowledging the hard work and commitment of those who serve the state,” said Rich Gulla, President of SEA/SEIU Local 1984. “I also applaud our members and allies who called or emailed their legislators asking for their support,” said Gulla. “and, thank the members of the general public who requested and proudly displayed yard signs in support of the state employees. We know these conversations and signs had an impact, and we are grateful.”

This budget is a compromise that resulted from both sides of the aisle working together and SEA/SEIU Local 1984 is cautiously optimistic that the legislature can continue to work well together and take up additional concerns the organization has. Including:

· NH State Retirees have not had a Cost of Living Increase since 2009 – six years without an increase in income while living expenses rise. The average pension for a state worker is around $13,000 a year.

· NH DHHS is still underfunded to provide the important services to our citizens in need, including caring for and educating children at Sununu Youth Services Center and the additional funding in this budget for addiction treatment for the growing heroin crisis and mental health is a start, but more is needed.

· NH DOT is still underfunded for winter snow removal. This jeopardizes public safety and commerce. If produce trucks, emergency vehicles, and winter sports enthusiasts cannot travel in the state, the NH tourism economy will suffer.

· The high cost of medical care in New England is a concern. SEA/SEIU Local 1984 will work with the Governor and legislature on responsible and humane ways to address this issue.

· Medicaid expansion is not dealt with in this budget but is kicked down the road for another day, as is the revenue hole that will result from the compromise on the business tax.
“Today, we celebrate the funding of the state employees’ contract. Tomorrow, we roll up our sleeves and tackle the other issues,” said Gulla. “In the meantime, the employees who keep the state running smoothly and efficiently now have a contract.”

Governor Hassan Signs Fiscally Responsible, Bipartisan Budget Agreement But Not Everyone Is Happy About It

 CONCORD – After signing Senate Bill 9 – the fiscally responsible, bipartisan budget agreement – Governor Maggie Hassan issued the following statement:

“This fiscally responsible, bipartisan, compromise budget addresses the central concern that I had with the original budget – unpaid-for tax cuts – by including important safeguards that will help ensure long-term fiscal responsibility and protect our ability to support critical economic priorities in the future. It puts in place a trigger contingent upon state revenues meeting certain targets, ensuring that revenues are at levels that would at least sustain the current budget before additional tax cuts go into effect. It also allows the next legislature to determine what spending or revenue offsets should be made to pay for those additional tax cuts if they go into effect.

“In addition to the safeguards on the business tax cuts that will help us maintain fiscal responsibility, our compromise agreement also includes the previously negotiated modest cost-of-living increase for our hard-working state employees. While this agreement is not perfect and fails to include even higher levels of funding for substance misuse and the immediate reauthorization of the bipartisan New Hampshire Health Protection Program as I proposed, it reflects many of the priorities I laid out in February – funding for mental health, to combat substance misuse, for economic development and for public safety.

“I want to thank Senate President Morse, Speaker Jasper and legislators from both parties who worked over the past few months to reach this fiscally responsible, bipartisan compromise. We still have much work to do to combat the heroin crisis, encourage innovation, support job-creating businesses and attract and retain more young people in New Hampshire, and I look forward to continuing to do that work together. But today, I am proud to sign this fiscally responsible, bipartisan budget compromise into law to help keep our state moving forward.”

The legislation is contingent on an override of the Governor’s budget veto, which the Governor asked Democrats to support if Senate Bill 9 passed.

Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn also praised the passage of the fiscally responsible budget compromise:

“The passage of the budget compromise is exactly why our constituents sent us to Concord: to work together across party lines to find bipartisan solutions facing our state. While this agreement isn’t perfect and does not contain everything that Senate Democrats would have liked, it is a fiscally responsible, bipartisan path forward that invests in and safeguards critical economic priorities, such as combating the heroin crisis, higher education, roads and bridges, and health care.” 

“The budget contains most of the priorities that Governor Hassan laid out in her budget proposal in February. I’m grateful that under the Governor’s leadership both sides were able to come together like we did two years ago to develop a responsible budget that meets the needs of our people, businesses, and economy.” 

“We can all be proud of this compromise, there is still much to be done as we move forward. And while I had hoped that reauthorization of the bipartisan New Hampshire Health Protection Program would be included in a final compromise, I appreciate and thank my Senate Republican colleagues for committing to take up reauthorization legislation as soon as we return in session in January. This is a vitally important program, not only because it is working to reduce health care cost-shifting onto our hard working families and businesses, but it is the single most important step we can take to combat the heroin and substance abuse crisis facing our state.”

However not everyone was jumping up and down over this new compromise. Jeff McLynch Executive Director of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute remains “concerned” about these cuts and their long term effects on “New Hampshire’s ability to invest in public services” and the fact that the budget compromise does not include the reauthorization of the New Hampshire Health Protection Program that provides healthcare to 41,000 Granite Staters. 

“Governor Hassan and members of the New Hampshire legislature should be commended for working together to craft a budget that seeks to meet the needs of all New Hampshire’s citizens and, in particular, for ensuring funds are available to support the previously agreed upon contract with state employees. 

“While the agreement ratified today conditions future reductions in the rates of the business profits and business enterprise taxes on attaining a particular revenue threshold, NHFPI remains concerned about the long-term impact of such reductions and the effect they will have on New Hampshire’s ability to invest in public services like education and infrastructure that are critical to the state’s economic future. 

“It should be clear from the past nine months of budget deliberations that New Hampshire already lacks sufficient resources to meet its needs. Reducing revenue still further will only make it harder to maintain our roads, educate our children, and provide health, safety, and other public services essential to a strong economy and shared prosperity for all in the Granite State.

“Hopefully, the bipartisan collaboration that produced today’s agreement lays the foundation for the expeditious reauthorization of the New Hampshire Health Protection Program in early 2016. More than 41,000 Granite Staters now participate in that program. Swift action will be needed to ensure they maintain access to affordable health coverage and that hundreds of millions of federal funds continue to flow into the state’s economy.”

We will see if the Republicans hold true to their word that they will pass a bill to reauthorize the New Hampshire Health Protection Program or are they making more false promises to get tax cuts that we do not need to give.

State Employees Praise Budget Compromise Agreement

“We are pleased not only for the state employees, but for all citizens of NH that the Governor and GOP leaders have reached a compromise budget agreement. 

The compromise budget will include business tax cuts and the state employees’ previously negotiated 2% cost-of-living pay increase.  It will support critical priorities for New Hampshire’s families and businesses. And, it will include a trigger mechanism that ensures revenues are at levels that would at least sustain the current budget before additional tax cuts go into effect. It will also allow the next legislature to determine what spending or revenue offsets should be made to pay for the second round of tax cuts – before they go into effect.”

We applaud the Governor and the legislature for continuing to work together to arrive at this point.  We were confident that, in the end, ideology would take a back seat to this common sense approach that benefits NH citizens by preserving critical public services, while also serving the interests of our economy.

Tomorrow, the legislature will introduce legislation that reflects the compromise – a bill that provides for the 2015 – 2017 employment agreement with the state employees and a bill that provides for the business tax decrease, with the “trigger.”  They will then consider an override of the Governor’s budget veto. If the legislation passes, Governor Hassan will then ask Democrats to support overriding the veto allowing both the compromise and the budget to go into effect.

The state employees’ will receive a 2% wage increase as of January 1, 2016 and a second 2% increase in January 2017. 

While we are happy with this forward movement and support the compromise, we remain concerned about other outstanding issues.  We look forward to continuing to work with our legislators to find reasonable solutions that are fiscally conservative and protect the state’s long-term financial outlook and ability to support critical priorities for New Hampshire’s families and businesses.”

You can read Governor Hassan’s full statement of the compromise here.

You can also read the response from the NH Senate Democrats here.

New Petition To Uphold The Governor’s Veto Of This Reckless Budget

Sign the Petition (1)

Governor Hassan vetoed the Republican budget saying;

“I have vetoed the budget passed by the legislature because it is unbalanced, makes false promises about what it funds, and gives unpaid-for tax giveaways to big corporations, many based out-of-state, at the expense of critical economic priorities, including higher education, health care, public safety and transportation. The long-term impact of these unpaid-for corporate tax cuts will create a more than $90 million hole in future budgets, further eroding our ability to encourage economic growth.”

We must uphold Governor Hassan’s veto and end the unfunded tax giveaways written into this unbalanced budget.

We are calling on all of our elected representatives to vote and uphold Governor Hassan’s veto and force the leadership to work together and find a compromise that will keep New Hampshire moving in the right direction.

The Petition reads:

We believe that New Hampshire is moving in the right direction and this reckless budget will only take us backwards. We must end these unfunded tax giveaways to big business that will blow a $90 million dollar hole in our state budget.

We call on you, our elected representatives, to uphold Governor Hassan’s veto and work together to properly fund the needs and priorities of our great state. Priorities like rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, investing in our public schools, and providing the needed funds to combat the growing heroin epidemic.

Please sign the petition below or click here to sign.


  When you are done signing the petition, please send a letter to you state reps asking them not to fall victim to the “Kansas Tax Cut Trap” that will blow a $90 million dollar hole in our state budget. Click here to send your letter or fill out the form below.



NH Worker To Legislature: Current Revenue And Spending Levels Fail The People Of NH

An open letter to the NH Legislature 

Hello my name is Paula.  I want to thank you for the work you all do for New Hampshire but it is not enough.  State employees and the citizens of New Hampshire need you to develop new revenue!  

I work for you and the citizens of New Hampshire.  I earn approximately $20.00 an hour.  I perform the regular duties of two positions, one of which was taken away when someone retired.  I process applications, which means I certify applicants to our program based on a child’s chronic health care needs and I also pay bills on behalf of many families for the program.  Presently, besides my regular duties, I am also covering for another program within the department – helping with invoicing and everything that goes along with it.  I also help coordinate other things in my office and covering a portion of another job due to someone’s vacation.  

I worked in the private sector while my children were growing up and when they became older I decided to apply for state service so that I could give something back to a state I loved so much.  I have loved to work for this state and our citizens for the past 12 years (prior to that I worked as a temporary employee for the state).  I know how important my job is to get things “done” for the people we serve.  Because, if I can’t or don’t perform my duties then the children and their families will not receive the services they need. 

I am writing to not just ask for a 2% raise but to “beg” for it and I have never “begged” for anything in my life.  My husband can no longer work.  He worked for 45 years as a surveyor and the job has taken a toll on his body due to debilitating arthritis.  He can no longer work.  We also help family members through their hard times.  I worked a part time job for about eight months last year and I was too exhausted to continue.  I also earn extra money at some of the fairs around the state in the fall.

We, state employees, worked without raises for many years, gave up benefits, paid more for our insurance, etc.  We haven’t caught up to what we have given back to our beloved state and the people we serve.  I need the money for food, to help pay my monthly bills, which includes a mortgage, to pay taxes, and to pay for gas.  I would really appreciate my 2% raise and invite any of you to walk a day in my shoes beside me and tell me I don’t deserve it because you can’t find the revenue!

ICYMI: NH1 Reports on Former Kansas Budget Director Warning of Perils of Unpaid-For Corporate Tax Cuts

Concord, N.H. – As Chris Sununu and Republicans in the legislature continue to push their plan to blow a $90 million hole in the budget for unpaid-for tax cuts for big corporations, NH1 News reported on comments from former Kansas State Budget Director Duane Goossen warning of the negative impact of unpaid-for tax cuts.

Goossen warned that after Kansas implemented massive, unpaid-for tax cuts, the state is now “falling behind its neighbors in economic growth” and “has moved into a cycle of perpetual budget crisis.”


Click here for video of Goosen’s comments or see transcript below:

GOOSSEN: “Kansas is falling behind its neighbors in economic growth. The economic benefits that were touted at the beginning have not proved to be true and Kansas has moved into a cycle of perpetual budget crisis.”

NH Fiscal Policy Institute Highlights Failures Of Kansas’s Tax Cuts

Kansas Tax Cuts: Lessons for New Hampshire
Offers Legislators Context for Considering Impact of Proposed Business Tax Cuts 

Concord NH – In advance of next week’s vote on the state budget, more than 50 legislators gathered in Concord today to hear a first-hand account of the wide-reaching impacts of Kansas tax cuts and to consider the consequences of similar efforts to reduce taxes here in New Hampshire. Hosted by the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute, “Kansas Tax Cuts: Lessons for New Hampshire” sought to help policymakers develop a deeper understanding of the effect tax cuts are having on families and communities in Kansas and to demonstrate the failure of tax cuts to produce promised economic growth, the main argument offered in favor of lower business tax rates in New Hampshire. 

“Throughout the debate over business taxes, we’ve been told tax cuts are necessary to make New Hampshire more competitive and to boost its economy. Yet, as Kansas’ experience makes clear, tax cuts are no guarantee of job growth. Choosing tax cuts over investments in education and infrastructure will lead the state into a downward spiral,” said Jeff McLynch, executive director of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute. 

The event featured a panel discussion and presentation by Kansas Center for Economic Growth Executive Director Annie McKay and Senior Fellow Duane Goossen. Mr. Goossen was the Kansas state budget director from 1998 to 2010 and served seven terms in the Kansas House of Representatives.

“A misguided plan to cut taxes for Kansas businesses in the name of job growth resulted in a tax shift, which increased taxes on hardworking Kansas families. Lawmakers promised Kansans ‘pro-growth’ tax policy, but all this plan delivered was an increase in the number of families struggling to make ends meet,” said Annie McKay. 

Proponents of business tax cuts suggest that business taxes in New Hampshire are out of line with other states and that tax cuts are needed to make the Granite State more competitive. The budget plan approved by the legislature in June included multiple changes to New Hampshire’s business tax structure, changes that would drain more than $20 million out of the FY 2016-2017 budget and more than $100 million out of each future budget, once fully implemented. Governor Hassan vetoed the budget in part due to the impact this revenue loss would have on future budgets.

“Kansas went from annual budget surpluses to massive deficits as a result of these tax cuts, which were promoted as necessary to support businesses and to increase economic growth,” said Duane Goossen. “These tax cuts left the state unable to balance its budget, led to a credit downgrade for the state, and forced increases in other taxes and fees for average citizens. What’s more, Kansas’ job growth rate continues to lag the region, and businesses and families have left the state due to its lack of investment in important public services.” 

The first full year of tax cuts in Kansas resulted in greater revenue loss than the three years of the Great Recession combined, a revenue shortfall that is jeopardizing funding for education, roads and bridges, and other components essential to a strong economy. Efforts to close the Kansas budget gap also put added pressure on local governments and forced many areas to raise property taxes in order to maintain basic levels of service. In fact, 67 counties enacted property tax increases to offset the added cost of downshifted responsibilities. Property taxes increased by as much as 20 percent in some counties, and 17 of the 20 counties with the highest increases were rural. 

“As the Kansas experiment demonstrates, tax cuts that drain state resources have far reaching impacts for families, communities, and state economies. New Hampshire cannot afford to follow Kansas’ perilous path,” said NHFPI Executive Director Jeff McLynch.

“New Hampshire already lacks sufficient resources to meet its needs,” added McLynch. “Reducing revenue still further will only make it harder to maintain our roads, educate our children, and provide health, safety, and other public services essential to ensuring a strong economy and shared prosperity for all in the Granite State.”

Governor Hassan And Senator Shaheen Call For Full Funding Of Meals On Wheels

Meals on Wheels dinner (image by Roger W, Flickr)

Meals on Wheels dinner (image by Roger W, Flickr)

(SALEM, NH) –  New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today called for bipartisan support for full funding of the state’s Meals on Wheels Program, which faces inadequate funding at the federal level and is threatened by unpaid-for corporate tax cuts at the state level. The two participated in a roundtable discussion about the effects of inadequate funding with staff, volunteers and clients of the Rockingham County Meals on Wheels Program at the Ingram Senior Center in Salem this afternoon.           

“Our older citizens have made significant contributions to our communities, our economy, and our high quality of life, and we must maintain our commitment to providing the support that they deserve in order to maximize their ability to continue engagement in our society and economy,” Governor Hassan said. “I have presented a fiscally responsible, compromise budget proposal that protects our ability to support critical priorities like Meals on Wheels now and into the future, and I continue to urge Republicans in the legislature to negotiate in good faith and offer a true counter-proposal that addresses the central issue of our disagreement – unpaid-for corporate tax cuts that create a $90 million hole in future budgets – so that we can reach a fiscally responsible, bipartisan budget agreement as soon as possible.” 

“In New Hampshire, Meals on Wheels delivers food to more than 30,000 seniors, and the demand is only growing, with our state’s over-65 population expected to nearly double by the end of the decade,” said Shaheen. “Meals on Wheels can deliver nutritious meals to a senior for an entire year for less than it would cost for that senior to spend one day in the hospital, potentially saving us billions in Medicare and Medicaid costs. We need bipartisan cooperation in Washington and Concord to keep this program funded and benefiting our seniors. I’m asking my Republican colleagues in the Senate to work with Democrats to adequately fund Meals on Wheels moving forward.”   

In June, Governor Hassan vetoed the Republican budget because it was unbalanced and fiscally irresponsible, including unpaid-for business tax cuts that would create a $90 million hole in future budgets at the expense of critical priorities like Meals on Wheels. The Governor has since presented a fiscally responsible compromise budget proposal that provides Republican legislators with what they have indicated is their highest priority – cutting corporate taxes – in a faster timeframe while addressing concerns about long-term fiscal responsibility and protecting our ability to support critical economic priorities.

In the United States Senate, nearly every Republican Senator voted for a budget that is going to result in drastic cuts to funding for Meals on Wheels over the next decade. In the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Labor-Health-Education Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2016 fails to provide enough funding to Meals on Wheels’ growing needs in New Hampshire and across the country. Shaheen strongly opposed the Republican budget as well as the Appropriations bill.

NHDP Chair Buckley: Sen. Forrester Crossed A Line With Her Toxic Political Rhetoric

Raymond Buckley, Chair of the NH Democratic Party 

Whether Sen. Jeanie Forrester’s recent opinion piece (Monitor Forum, Aug. 26) was motivated by her continuing desire to do Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s political dirty work or by Sen. Forrester’s own political ambitions, the fact remains that her piece was as false as it was offensive.

It is entirely expected that over the course of developing a budget for our state there will be disagreements over priorities. But Sen. Forrester crossed a line with her toxic political rhetoric that has no place in any civilized budget discussion. 

While Sen. Forrester is correct that there have been regular budget meetings with the governor and legislative leadership of both parties, I understand that Sen. Forrester has been conspicuously absent, despite her role as Senate Finance Committee chairwoman.

Not only has Sen. Forrester made it perfectly clear that she has no interest in good-faith budget negotiations, but she’s now launching outrageous political attacks to distract from the shortcomings of the fiscally irresponsible Republican budget.

The Republican budget would set up our state’s economy for failure by creating a $90 million budget hole in order to enact unpaid-for corporate tax cuts at the expense of critical priorities for our people and businesses, such as higher education, transportation and addressing the heroin crisis.

Gov. Hassan and Democrats in the Legislature have made clear that they are particularly concerned that the Republican budget falls short on combating our state’s heroin epidemic, and the governor’s compromise proposal includes an additional $5.7 million to help address this critical public health and safety challenge.

Linda Saunders Paquette, a leading advocate in the fight against substance abuse, recently wrote “When it comes to combating New Hampshire’s growing substance abuse epidemic, Gov. Hassan’s proposed budget compromise is clearly better for both sides than the alternative, or in this case, alternatives.” Meanwhile, Sen. Forrester had the audacity to question the commitment of the governor and Democrats in the Legislature as they fight for additional funding to address this pressing public health and safety challenge.

Public health and safety officials have made clear that the single most important action we could take today to combat the heroin epidemic is to reauthorize our state’s successful Medicaid expansion program, and treatment providers have indicated they are waiting to expand programs and facilities until they have certainty that Medicaid expansion will be reauthorized.

Yet Sen. Forrester refuses to reauthorize Medicaid expansion today for no reason other than partisan politics.

Instead, Sen. Forrester continues to push for a plan that would create a $90 million hole in the state’s budget for years to come, undermining critical economic priorities like holding down college tuition, combating substance abuse, maintaining our roads and bridges, and protecting access to quality, affordable health care.

Sen. Forrester and Republican leadership openly acknowledge that they don’t even know if their irresponsible plan would create economic growth.

But it’s hardly a mystery what unpaid-for corporate tax cuts would do to our state. All we need to do is look at what’s happened in states like Kansas, where these Koch Brothers policies have already played out.

Experience shows that unpaid-for corporate tax cuts don’t produce economic growth, just rivers of red ink and deep cuts to critical economic priorities.

Not to mention that the irresponsible budget Sen. Forrester is pushing even raids dedicated funds, a clear and undeniable violation of Forrester’s own campaign promises to her constituents.

And while Sen. Forrester even tries to attack Gov. Hassan on funding for mental health services, it was Forrester and her Republican colleagues who suggested that the Department of Health and Human Services should simply violate the state’s landmark mental health settlement.

Sen. Forrester’s overheated political rhetoric serves only to harm efforts to pass a responsible budget.

I urge Sen. Forrester to stop trying to score political points, and instead negotiate in good faith so we can pass a budget that truly meets the needs of New Hampshire’s people, businesses, and economy.

Courtesy of the NHDP
Also published in the Concord Monitor

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