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Jeb Bush Essentially Says To Federal Workers, Screw You!

Jeb Bush (Gage Skidmore FLIKR)

Can we all stop pretending that Jeb Bush is a “moderate” rather than the far-right wing extremist he really is?

“He [Jeb Bush] championed tax cuts that chiefly benefited business and the wealthy, trimmed the state’s payroll, stripped job protection from thousands of mid-level civil servants, gained more power over the judiciary, exploited his Washington connections to prevent the closing of military bases and launched the nation’s first statewide private-school voucher program,” wrote Linda Kleindienst of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in 2007.

Jeb Bush has made it perfectly clear that he wants federal workers to give up more to pay for his brother’s tax cuts that should never have happened.

Yesterday the Hill published the article, Jeb Bush: Strip Feds of Automatic Pay Raises and Due Process, which is even worse than the title indicates.

He starts with yet another hiring freeze and reducing the number of dedicated public servants by eliminating positions as people retire. His plan is similar to Congressman Paul Ryan’s plan (replace one worker for every three who retire). So when Joe and Mary retire from OSHA that means will just have to make do with two fewer safety inspectors because the campaign contributors Bush caters to won’t care if OSHA is grossly understaffed and can’t fulfill its responsibilities.

In theory the Bush/Ryan plan would reduce the overall government workforce by 10% in five years. That’s 10% less Air Traffic Controllers, 10% less food safety inspectors in the Department of Agriculture, 10% less agents to help you in the Social Security Administration, 10% fewer scientists at NASA, 10% fewer prosecutors in the Department of Justice, 10% ….you get the idea.

That is only the beginning. Next he wants to go after workers’ paychecks!

Jeb argues that federal workers are overpaid and that the government rewards “longevity instead of performance.” He wants to eliminate annual increases and only give increases “based on performance.”

This is another classic union-busting tactic: pitting workers against each other for pay increases and rewarding those who oppose the union or suck up to their managers. What happens to workers who question their boss about safety violations in their workplace? What happens to workers who see something illegal going on? Do you think they will be getting pay raises next year?

How do you judge the performance of a food safety inspector? Is it the number of violations he caught and wrote up, which resulted in a lower number of facilities inspected, or is the employee who breezed through more facilities but missed more violations?

On top of pitting workers against each other, as Governor Jeb Bush incentivized managers who saved the government money or found ways for their departments to reduce spending. “Sorry no bonuses for you because I am showing Governor Bush that I am saving the government thousands of dollars.”

The political right loves to tell everyone that government workers are overpaid and are underserving of their paycheck. In fact the Washington Post reported the complete opposite.

White-collar federal employees on average earn 35.2 percent less than private-sector workers in comparable jobs.”

I actually agree with Jeb when he says: “Just like in the real world, compensation should depend on the type of work, and the quality of the work.” The Washington Post goes on to say that more educated federal workers are at a “disadvantage” to their private sector counterparts.

I think someone should inform Jeb that federal workers have already given more than their share from their paychecks. Over the last ten years alone federal workers have contributed over $159 billion dollars to debt reduction plans pushed by the Republicans who control Congress.

  • Federal workforce contribution_April 9 copy3-year pay freeze (2011, 2012, 2013) — $98 billion
  • 2012 UI extension which increased retirement contributions for 2013 hires to 3.1% — $15 billion
  • 2013 lost salaries of 750,000 employees furloughed because of sequestration — $1 billion
  • 2013 Murray-Ryan increased retirement contributions for post-2013 hires to 4.4% — $6 billion
  • 2014 pay raise of only 1%; lower than baseline of 1.8% — $18 billion
  • 2015 pay raise of only 1%; lower than baseline of 1.9% — $21 billion

Total Federal Employee Sacrifice Thus Far: $159 billion

In the 2016 budget they want to take even more!

Republicans are proposing another $238 billion in forced concessions by federal workers through higher retirement contributions and creating a voucher system for health benefits that are going to cost employees even more.

The 2016 budget will force federal workers to lose between $2,525 and $5,617 dollars. Each.

So far Jeb Bush wants slash the number of dedicated public servants, force workers to give back thousands of dollars from their own wallets to “reduce the debt,” give bonuses to managers who reduce spending in their departments, and then he wants to make it easier to fire employees for arbitrary reasons.

That’s right, Jeb Bush wants to strip away employees’ union rights, repealing the right to due process and turning federal workers into “at will employees” – all to make it easier to fire people.

Another classic union busting tactic is to “reduce spending” by firing higher-paid employees (before they can collect any retirement) and replacing them with lower-paid new employees.

As Governor, Jeb Bush used this same tactic to fire 16,000 workers from their jobs with the State of Florida. Jeb Bush gave agency heads to use their “sound discretion” to send people packing, and tied it to his “Service First” program that gave incentives to managers who found ways to reduce government spending.

This isn’t a “moderate” agenda.

Bush may not be insulting veterans or giving out people’s cell phone numbers – and he’s not trying to terrify the electorate with talk of apocalypse or an imagined invasion of Texas – but a lack of hard-core lunacy doesn’t make him a moderate candidate.

He’s part of the far-right wing.

His agenda would decimate federal services that we rely on.

And as this “clown car” primary season keeps getting weirder and weirder, we need to not lose sight of that.

Granite State Rumblings: State and Federal Budget Woes

Sad child (Image by AXEL on FLIKR)

Sad child (Image by AXEL on FLIKR)

Last Wednesday the House Labor- Health and Human Services (HHS) – Education Appropriations Subcommittee passed the fiscal year (FY) 2016 appropriations legislation that cut several programs that are important to children. It is the largest of the domestic spending bills that has not been considered by the Subcommittee in three years and almost six years (2009) by the full House Appropriations Committee. The full Committee is expected to review the FY 2016 bill this week.

From our friends at First Focus is this summary of what is in the bill and the bad news for kids.


How children fare in the House spending bill (and it’s bad news)

By: Sarah Kyle

Under the leadership of Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK), the 2016 Labor HHS Education bill would provide about $153 billion for Labor, HHS, and Education programs – $3.7 billion less than the current level of spending and $14.6 billion less than what President Obama proposed in his FY 16 budget. Altogether, 27 programs were eliminated in the bill, including 19 for education. The cuts are symptomatic of the greater issue relating to the discretionary caps in place for FY 2016, widely acknowledged during the mark up by Republicans and Democrats on the Subcommittee. According to OMB, in the absence of congressional action in FY 2016, both defense and non-defense discretionary spending will be at the lowest levels in a decade, adjusted for inflation.

For the U.S. Department of Education, the bill includes $64.4 billion, a $2.8 billion cut that is more significant than sequestration in 2013, and $6.4 billion less than president’s budget request.

The bill eliminates 19 education programs, including:

  • Preschool development grants,
  • Teacher quality partnerships and safe, and
  • Drug-free schools and communities.

Some programs’ funding levels were level funded or frozen, effectively a cut due to inflation and student population growth, and comes after years of cuts, freezes, or small increases. This is of particular concern for important education programs intended to benefit low-income children, such as Title I grants, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, and English Language Acquisition State Grants. The draft bill freezes funding at $14.5 billion for Title I grants, which reach about 20 million American children each year, at a time when child poverty is growing, particularly for young children, and when LEAs are significantly underfunded.

The bill does not include funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers that support before-and after-care and summer activities for students in high-poverty and low performing schools.

Finally, the bill freezes funding for English Language Acquisition State Grants at $737 million towards helping English language learners (ELL) develop high levels of academic achievement. In 2011-2012, about 4.4 million ELL students attended public schools, representing about 9.1 percent of total student enrollment.

The bill also eliminates the Preschool Development Grants, which provide critical funds to states to develop the infrastructure and improve the quality of preschool programs for 4-year-olds living in low-income families. The elimination of this program endangers the ability of states to develop and expand access to high quality preschool for the children who need it the most.

There were some notable increases to education, including investments to support children with special needs, as authorized by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which was funded at $12 billion, roughly about $500 million more than current level funding. Impact Aid basic support payments went up by about $10 million while other Impact Aid programs were frozen. It also provides an additional $20 million for Indian Education to support a comprehensive approach to educational improvement and reform for Indian students.

At the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the draft bill provides $71.3 billion, an almost $300 million increase above FY 2015 and $3.9 billion below the president’s request. There is an increase of approximately $300 million to Head Start, resulting in overall funding of $8.8 billion. Head Start is celebrating its 50th year anniversary of providing comprehensive services to the most disadvantaged children and families to ensure that they are healthy and ready to thrive in school. The increase in funding falls far short of what is needed to serve all children in need of Head Start, which serves less than 50 percent of the children eligible for the program. The president requested roughly $10.1 billion for Head Start, an additional $1.5 billion or 17 percent increase over the current funding level of $8.5 billion, to provide full-day and full-year Head Start services for low-income children and families. The increase would also help mitigate the impact of sequestration on Head Start that resulted in 57,000 slots lost in the program.

This bill also provides level funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which Congress recently reauthorized with important safety and quality requirements. The president proposed a 15 percent increase to the program, funding it $2.8 billion to help low-income families in obtaining child care so that parents can work or attend classes or training. The recently reauthorized CCDBG requires significant funding increases to enable states to implement the safety and quality provisions. Level-funding the CCDBG means that working families will receive fewer childcare subsidies, resulting in the loss of adequate, affordable childcare nationally. This negatively impacts children, who will be forced into potentially unsafe childcare facilities and providers, and for parents, who without childcare, cannot maintain stable employment to support their families.

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services – which is charged with carrying out Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) — were cut by $344 million, and $919 million (almost $1 billion) below the President’s budget request. According to HHS, CHIP and Medicaid provided coverage for more than 45.3 million children in the U.S. in FY 2013. With more than 60 percent of all children relying on CHIP and Medicaid at some point last year, these programs are essential to our nation’s overall health and well-being.

The bill also freezes funding for Community Health Centers (CHCs) that play a critical role in serving over 7 million children across the nation, including more than 350,000 children who are covered under CHIP, and one in three children who live in poverty. Communities served by a CHC have significantly reduced the rates of infant mortality and low birth weight babies. The president’s budget included $4.1 billion for CHCs in FY 2016, including $2.7 billion in Affordable Care Act mandatory funding, to support 1,300 grantees and approximately 28.6 million patients.

The largest increase in the bill went to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with $1.1 billion, bringing the nation’s premier research agency up to $31.2 billion. The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development received $1.305 billion, an increase from last year, and slightly below the president’s request of $1.318 billion. The bill also restores the National Children’s Study (NCS). In December 2014, the NIH made an announcement that it would dissolve the study as a result of recommendations by the Advisory Committee to the Director (of NIH) that the NCS is not feasible.

The Administration for Children and Families also received $27.8 billion, a $50 million bump from FY 2015, yet almost $2 billion less that the president’s request, to carry out activity for federal programs relating to children, including foster care, adoption assistance and the Community Services Block Grant.

For the U.S. Department of Labor, the bill allows for $11.07 billion, which is $206 million less that FY 2015, and $1.4 billion below the president’s budget request that included paid leave initiatives. The bill level funds Job Corp, which provides young people 16 through 24 with educational and vocational training at no cost, as well as youth training activities under Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act that provides workforce preparation. Youth Build, which provides grants to provide education, employment skills and training for disadvantaged youth, received $82 million, a slight increase, but less than the president’s request for $84.5 million. The Connecting for Opportunity initiative for additional summer and year-round job opportunities for disconnected youth was not included in the bill.

While there are a few bright spots in this bill providing additional resources to some programs, there are alarming cuts and program eliminations that could be extremely damaging to federal services for children. Congress needs to consider a broader approach to FY 2016 spending and raise discretionary spending caps in order to make long term investments in our greatest domestic priority: our kids.


Growing Up Granite

On Wednesday the NH Senate and House will vote on the $11.3 billion budget approved by Republican lawmakers on the Committee of Conference last week. Governor Maggie Hassan has expressed her intention to veto the budget should it make its way to her desk.

Below is a piece that was published in Sunday’s Concord Monitor written by Governor Hassan.


My Turn: Why I will veto the Committee of Conference budget proposal
By Gov. MAGGIE HASSAN
For the Monitor
Sunday, June 21, 2015 (Published in print: Sunday, June 21, 2015)

In recent days, Republicans on the budget Committee of Conference finalized a budget proposal that is unbalanced and dishonest about what it funds. It also includes unpaid-for corporate tax cuts, creating a hole in this budget and in future budgets at the expense of critical economic priorities. For these reasons and more, I will veto their budget if it reaches my desk.

What this means is that the Legislature needs to return to work immediately, prepare a continuing resolution that will fund state government in the short term, and get back to the table and negotiate in good faith to develop a bipartisan budget that is fiscally responsible and that supports the priorities needed to keep New Hampshire’s economy moving forward.

To keep our economy moving in the right direction, I proposed a fiscally responsible, balanced budget that was transparent and honest about how we would support critical economic priorities without an income or a sales tax. The plan that I proposed clearly set those economic priorities, including making higher education more affordable, strengthening public safety, ensuring access to affordable health care, and repairing our roads and bridges.

I have been at the table with Republican leadership and have been clear throughout the budget process about how we can achieve a bipartisan budget that addresses our shared priorities. Unfortunately, Republican leadership has refused to compromise on any of the major issues – most critically on a responsible way to pay for their unfunded tax cuts for mostly big corporations.

Instead, their fiscally irresponsible approach undermines our economic future by giving unpaid-for tax cuts to big corporations, mostly headquartered out-of-state, that will create a hole in this budget and a more than $90 million hole in future budgets. It puts big, out-of-state corporate interests ahead of New Hampshire’s families, small businesses and economy, and only 1 percent of businesses – many of which are large multi-state corporations – would receive more than 75 percent of the benefits from the proposed rate reduction.

The Republican budget also fails to reauthorize our bipartisan health care expansion plan, even though leaders from both parties, the business community and the health care industry agree that it has been successful. This leaves more than 40,000 hard-working Granite Staters at risk of losing their coverage and creates uncertainty for all businesses and consumers.

And the Republican budget fails to live up to the fair contract negotiated in good faith with our dedicated public employees.

At the same time, the Republican budget is left unbalanced by relying on misleading budget gimmicks. It uses money from fiscal year 2015 that is already designated to pay this year’s bills, and it does not honestly fund the services we all agree are essential to our people, families and businesses.
Without a plan for how we would pay for Republicans’ corporate tax cuts now and in the future, we cannot sufficiently support the shared priorities that we all agree on. These are the priorities that are critical to our small businesses and families, and they are the priorities that businesses tell me are critical to their ability to grow, to thrive and to create jobs.

While maintaining our low-tax environment – which the Tax Foundation ranked as the seventh-best in the country in its business tax climate index – is critical, low taxes alone will not move our economy forward. We must also continue supporting priorities such as a strong and healthy workforce, a modern transportation infrastructure and safe communities. Nothing in my budget proposal would jeopardize New Hampshire’s status as having one of the lowest tax burdens in the nation, but unlike the Republican budget, it responsibly and transparently supports critical economic priorities.

By failing to pay for their corporate tax cuts, the Republican budget is setting our state on a perilous fiscal path. It will make college tuition more expensive. It will hurt our ability to ensure that workers can access health care without financial ruin. It will lead to unplowed, unsafe roads for commuters and businesses. And it will not adequately address substance misuse, even as we are in the midst of a heroin crisis.

Our families deserve better. Our businesses deserve better. And the hard-working people of the Granite State deserve better.

Republicans need to join me in putting New Hampshire’s families, businesses and economic interests first, and I invite them to join me and follow the example of the people of New Hampshire, who work together to improve their communities every day. That’s what Granite Staters deserve from their elected leaders.


For a clearer understanding of the tax cuts in the proposed budget and what they mean for NH businesses and state revenue, here is the newest Common Cents blog from our friends at the NH Fiscal Policy Institute.

Revenue Loss from Business Tax Cuts Will Benefit Select Set of Companies

The version of the FY 2016-2017 budget that both the House of Representatives and the Senate will consider on Wednesday includes significant reductions in the rates of New Hampshire’s twin business taxes: the business profits tax (BPT) and the business enterprise tax (BET). While policymakers should be concerned about the impact that such changes would have on New Hampshire’s ability to fund vital public services both now and in the future, questions should also be asked about which businesses would stand to gain from lower BPT and BET rates.

As data from the Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) make quite clear, at present, a relatively small number of businesses pay the lion’s share of the BPT and BET. Of the $462 million in combined BPT and BET paid in tax year 2012, 68 percent was paid by businesses with tax liabilities in excess of $50,000. Furthermore, DRA data indicate that just 1,097 businesses – or about 2 percent of businesses filing tax returns that year – fall in this range of liability. Not surprisingly, then, in an analysis issued earlier this month, DRA finds that 76 percent of the proposed BPT rate reduction would accrue to just 718 businesses, while just under 50 percent of the proposed BET rate reduction would accrue to just 440 businesses.

Moreover, given the nature of the modern economy, it seems likely that a sizable share of any business tax cut will not remain here in New Hampshire to spur its economy, but rather would flow out of state. Indeed, information compiled by the New Hampshire Business Review for its 2015 Book of Lists indicates that many of the state’s largest employers are owned by parent companies based out of state. For example, among the 50 largest manufacturing employers in the Granite State, 40 appear to be owned by parent companies situated in another state or another country. Consequently, multistate or multinational companies operating in New Hampshire – and benefitting from a business tax cut – will not be constrained in what they do with those dollars. Rather than invest here, they could use them to bolster operations in another part of the country or to increase dividend payments to shareholders worldwide.

In short, the revenue loss associated with lower BPT and BET rates will result in gains for a relatively select set of companies with little guarantee of a return to the New Hampshire economy.

Is The NH GOP Taking Us Down The Same Road As The Kansas Legislature?

NHGOP Ignores What’s The Matter With Kansas, Unpaid-For Tax Cuts For Big Corporations Will Lead To Years of Red Ink

Look At States Governed By Republicans – Like Kansas – “And It Seems That The GOP Might Need A Collective Refresher Course In Economics, If Not General Math”

Concord, N.H. – As New Hampshire Republicans continue pushing their plan to blow a $90 million hole in future budgets with unpaid-for tax giveaways for big, out-of-state corporations, they’re ignoring one key issue: we’ve already seen how this plays out.

When Kansas Governor Sam Brownback declared his state was a real-world “experiment” in Koch Brothers economics, he was right. The fact is simple: unpaid-for tax cuts will either result in budget deficits, cuts to critical priorities – or as happened in Kansas, both.

A recent report from U.S. News explains, “Look at states governed by Republicans” like Kansas, “and it seems that the GOP might need a collective refresher course in economics, if not general math.”

**See also: “Where Republicans Went Wrong in Kansas” (The Atlantic); “Republicans Have Become the Party of Red Ink” (U.S. News); “Kansas’s Failed Experiment” (The Atlantic); “Kansas Is Totally Screwed” (Mother Jones); “A ‘cautionary tale’ in Brownback’s failed Kansas experiment” (MSNBC); “Charlatans, Cranks and Kansas (New York Times)

“New Hampshire Republicans either need a refresher course in economics, or they could just get on a plane and see what’s the matter with Kansas for themselves,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. “The bottom line is that unpaid-for tax cuts result in budget deficits, cuts to critical economic priorities, or as we’re seeing in Kansas, both. Any Republican who tries to claim otherwise needs to take their head out of the sand.”

ICYMI: Concord Monitor Editorial: “Budgets of Unmet Needs, Raided Funds”

Concord, N.H. – Republicans in the legislature continue to take heat for budget proposals that fail to meet the state’s economic needs, including failing to adequately fund substance misuse treatment and not continuing the state’s successful Medicaid expansion program.

The Concord Monitor editorial board wrote, “A seemingly sensible, but woeful, statement by Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Sen. Jeanie Forrester explains why New Hampshire is falling behind. ‘I would like it to be more,’ Forrester told Monitor State House reporter Allie Morris. ‘But this is what we can afford.’”

The Monitor noted that despite claims from Forrester and Republicans in the Legislature that the state can’t afford to adequately fund critical priorities like substance misuse treatment, “they want to reduce business taxes under the failed theory that it promotes business growth. That will guarantee a continued state inability to keep its promises and meet its obligations.”

The Monitor also points out that Republicans’ dedicated fund raids may be unconstitutional.

In a joint op-ed, House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff and Rep. Mary Jane Wallner wrote, “We were glad to hear that Republican senators agreed that the budget passed by the New Hampshire House was unacceptable. But, in trying to fix the House’s mess, Senate Republicans passed a budget that doesn’t actually do what they say it does… Now it’s time to work together to pass a responsible budget that actually funds the priorities it claims it does.”

See full roundup below:

Concord Monitor Editorial: Budgets of unmet needs, raided funds

… A seemingly sensible, but woeful, statement by Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Sen. Jeanie Forrester explains why New Hampshire is falling behind.

“I would like it to be more,” Forrester told Monitor State House reporter Allie Morris. “But this is what we can afford.”

Forrester was defending the Senate’s decision to once again default on its obligation to dedicate 5 percent of state liquor store profits to substance abuse treatment.

… In fact, funding for the past four years has been roughly the same amount. … The result: more deaths, more crime, more broken families and higher welfare and corrections costs.

But back to Forrester’s statement.

Many of the deaths were in her district, and the senator knows that more needs to be done.

… Forrester’s statement was just another version of the Republican “live within our means” mantra. Mention revenue, in the state with the sixth-highest per capita income in the nation and Republican legislators sit down, put their hands over their ears and begin chanting, “La, la, la, la, la.”

To make matters worse, they want to reduce business taxes under the failed theory that it promotes business growth. That will guarantee a continued state inability to keep its promises and meet its obligations.

Neither budget includes money to continue the expanded Medicaid program that has allowed some 40,000 low-income adults to have health insurance, many for the first time.

… The budget the governor will either veto, sign or let pass without her signature will probably include money from raids on several dedicated funds, a practice former Concord mayor and constitutional savant Martin Gross and others say is clearly unconstitutional.

Recipients of grants from the state’s renewable energy fund, which has been raided in the past and will be to a smaller degree in the new budget, are debating whether to sue to prevent the raid. [Full editorial]

Nashua Telegraph Op-Ed: Time to come together on the budget

By Reps. Steve Shurtleff and Mary Jane Wallner

To pass a budget that truly meets the needs of our state requires both parties to put partisanship aside and work together to get things done.

No one political party has a monopoly on good ideas, and it’s crucial that both parties work together during the budget process to develop a responsible budget that will make progress for our people, businesses, and economy.

Back in February, Gov. Maggie Hassan presented a fiscally responsible, balanced budget that makes strategic investments to lay the foundation for a new generation of economic growth, without a sales or income tax.

Unfortunately, House Republicans took a very different approach, passing a strictly partisan budget that prompted outcry from all corners of our state.

We were glad to hear that Republican senators agreed that the budget passed by the New Hampshire House was unacceptable. But, in trying to fix the House’s mess, Senate Republicans passed a budget that doesn’t actually do what they say it does.

The Senate budget misleads the people of New Hampshire about what priorities are actually being funded, while relying on gimmicks that leave the budget unbalanced.

Senate Republicans claim to have restored critical services for our state’s most vulnerable citizens, including Meals on Wheels and services for individuals who experience developmental disabilities. But the reality is that their budget gimmicks – including things like magical savings estimates and unrealistic projections – place all of these services at risk.

Take for example, funding for mental health services. After claiming to “restore” $6.25 million in mental health funding, senators actually told the department to cut $6.25 million from the landmark mental health settlement the legislature approved last year, threatening critical services.

And when it comes to substance misuse treatment, senators used accounting tricks to try to hide the fact that they actually cut $3 million from the governor’s proposal for substance misuse treatment.

That’s to say nothing of their failure to adequately fund public safety, higher education and their decision not to continue our bipartisan Medicaid expansion program.

While even Senate Republicans agree that our state’s Medicaid expansion is working exactly as intended – if not better – their budget places 40,000 Granite Staters at risk of losing their coverage and creates uncertainty in the insurance market that could lead to higher rates for all of our people and businesses.

Though the Senate claimed we couldn’t afford to invest in priorities like Medicaid expansion and higher education with proven results for economic growth, they expressed no concerns about giving unpaid-for tax giveaways to big businesses, blowing a huge hole in our budget.

We believe the approach laid out in the governor’s fiscally responsible proposal would be the best way forward for our state. That said, we appreciate that passing a budget requires compromise, and as we enter the committee-of-conference process, we stand ready to do just that.

The good news is that Democrats and Republicans agree on many of the critical priorities that must be met for our economy to thrive. Now it’s time to work together to pass a responsible budget that actually funds the priorities it claims it does.

The people of New Hampshire didn’t send us to Concord to point fingers or engage in political gamesmanship. They sent us to Concord to solve problems and get results for our state.

We’ve come a long way together throughout this budget process, and it’s time to get ourselves over the finish line.

New Hampshire’s families and businesses are depending on our ability to work together to pass a budget that keeps our economy moving in the right direction, and we look forward to working with our Republican colleagues to do exactly that.

Rep. Stephen Shurtleff, D–Penacook, is the New Hampshire House Democratic Leader; Rep. Mary Jane Wallner, D–Concord, is the ranking Democratic and former chair of the House Finance Committee.

NH Senate Cuts Taxes For Former Governor Benson’s Company 

CONCORD – Governor Maggie Hassan issued the following statement after the Senate today voted in favor of an amendment to House Bill 550, relative to administration of the tobacco tax and relative to the sale or exchange of an interest in a business organization under the business profits tax:

“Planet Fitness is a valued New Hampshire company, and the Granite State has a great deal to offer as its corporate headquarters, including a low-tax environment without a sales or an income tax, a highly skilled workforce and a small, responsive state government. While we want to do everything that we can to keep the Planet Fitness corporate headquarters and its high-quality jobs here in New Hampshire, we cannot hastily and without full transparency make drastic changes to our tax laws due to a last-minute request from one company without a deeper analysis of the fairness to other tax-paying businesses in the Granite State and the impact to the state’s budget.

“This proposal was brought forward at the very last second of the legislative session without an adequate public process and its costs are not paid for in the Senate budget. At the same time, the Senate budget includes other large business tax cuts that will create a hole in this budget and budgets well into the future. We must analyze the creation of this tax loophole with the same scrutiny as any other tax law changes of this magnitude would be, and have an honest and transparent discussion about the priorities we would choose not to fund in order to pay for each of these tax law changes.”

Senator Dan Feltes Comments on Passage of Special Tax Break

following the passage of HB 550 along a party line 14-10 vote, Sen. Dan Feltes, member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee released the following statement:

“Carving out tax breaks for a single business at the last minute with no transparency is not the way to re-write tax law and can lead to harmful, unintended consequences for the people of New Hampshire,” said Sen. Dan Feltes. “This tax break, which was only brought up at the last minute by former Governor Craig Benson for a business that he serves on the board for, has not had a full vetting and is being rushed through the legislative process. We shouldn’t be opening loopholes for Governor Benson, we should be closing loopholes that disproportionately benefit the wealth and big corporations at the expense of the middle class, small businesses, and property taxpayers.”

NH Senate Republicans Cut Business Taxes At The Expense of Working Families

Image by Marc Nozell (CC Flickr)

NH Senate Chamber Image by Marc Nozell (CC Flickr)

Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee voted today to give big businesses more tax giveaways while making small businesses and middle class families pay the price.

“Our budget is a statement of priorities and with the actions taken by the Senate Finance Committee over the last week have clearly demonstrated they side with large corporations rather than the working people of New Hampshire,” said Senator Woodburn. “The cost of these tax giveaways is clear and the price is dear. Rather than fund Medicaid Expansion, which is helping tens of thousands of Granite Staters and strengthening our economy, Senate Republicans have decided to give tax cuts to large, out-of-state corporations instead.”

The Senate voted to approve an amendment that reduced the Business Profits Tax by 0.2% and the Business Enterprise Tax by 0.025% in Fiscal Year 2017. Based on the fiscal notes in SB 1 and SB 2, the original vehicles for the tax giveaways, these tax cuts would reduce state revenues by $15.6 million in Fiscal Year 2017. Senate Democrats have fought to include the extension of Medicaid Expansion in the budget, which would cost about $12 million in Fiscal Year 2017, far less than the cost of the business tax cuts.

“New Hampshire’s business community has called on us to continue the state’s successful expansion program because it’s reducing heath care cost-shifting onto our families and businesses, strengthening the health of our workforce, and boosting our economy,” said Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, ranking Democratic member of the Senate Finance Committee. “Our businesses need healthy workers and reductions in energy rates before they need a 30th tax reduction in 8 years. New Hampshire is a great place to do business now and these tax cuts do nothing to address the real problems facing our growing economy.”

Senate Republicans’ big business tax giveaways would cost $15 million in the next biennium, which is more than the cost of continuing the state’s successful Medicaid expansion program for 40,000 Granite Staters.

“We’ve heard throughout the budget process that New Hampshire needs to ‘live within its means.’ If we cut business taxes today only to put off their full consequences for later years, this action violates that notion entirely,” said  New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute (NHFPI) Executive Director Jeff McLynch.

“The Finance Committee has approved a cut of $14 million from the FY 2017 budget while the state struggles to find necessary funding for higher education, health care, and other services to support vital human needs,” said McLynch.

“These proposed reductions in business tax rates will reduce revenue by more than $80 million per biennium when fully phased in, with no plan to replace the lost revenue,” said McLynch.

“Phasing business tax reductions in overtime simply puts off – for another day and onto future legislatures — the difficult choices and tough tradeoffs that would have to be made to accommodate the revenue losses certain to result from business tax cuts,” said McLynch.

Not to mention that Senate Republicans have also proposed cutting more than $3 million from the Governor’s proposal for substance misuse treatment and defunding the state’s landmark mental health settlement.

“Senate Republicans are putting their majority at risk as they vote for more big business tax giveaways while cutting critical economic priorities and threatening health coverage for 40,000 Granite Staters,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. “From cutting funding for substance misuse treatment to refusing to continue New Hampshire’s successful Medicaid expansion program, Senate Republicans’ budget proposal would hurt the health and economic wellbeing of our communities and undermine the state’s ability to lay the foundation of a new generation of economic growth.”

Senate Democrats Denounce Cuts to Substance Abuse Prevention

Senate Finance Republicans Cut Funding for Office of Substance Use Disorders and Behavioral Health

 

CONCORD – Today, Senators Lou D’Allesandro andAndrew Hosmer, Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee, condemned the cuts to substance abuse prevention made by Senate Republicans in the budget: 

“We are in the middle of a substance abuse and heroin epidemic and it is completely irresponsible to eliminate this funding,” said Senator D’Allesandro.“All session long, we have seen the outcry from our communities for help dealing with this epidemic and funding in this area should be a priority for all Senators, not one that is open to cuts that go beyond the House’s draconian budget.”

 

Along a party-line vote of 4-2, the Senate Finance Committee voted to remove the Office of Substance Use Disorders and Behavioral Health along with funding for a senior director position that would coordinate the state’s response to the substance abuse crisis. This position was proposed by Governor Hassan and included in the House version of the budget. Funding for this office and position was established by a grant from the NH Charitable Foundation last year and the Charitable Foundation will continue to ease the state’s burden by helping fund the position until the end of this calendar year, at which point state general funds would be required to continue this effort.

 

“This is an economic issue and a public safety issue. It requires a leader to cross-collaborate among all state agencies to find solutions to this crisis,” said Sen. Hosmer. “This office funds a key position that ensures that we are strengthening our treatment and prevention efforts is a common-sense way to ensure that the state is responding effectively to the substance misuse epidemic. The Senate Republicans move to strip this essential position shows they are out of touch with the needs of NH communities and I urge them to reconsider their actions that are putting the health and wellbeing of Granite Staters at risk.”

 

News Outlets Highlight Need for NHGOP Senate to Restore Budget Cuts to Critical Economic Priorities

Reckless Budget Cuts

Concord Monitor Editorial on Importance of Moving Forward with Commuter Rail 

Concord, N.H. – News outlets continue to highlight the need for the NHGOP Senate to address House budget cuts to critical economic priorities including substance misuse treatment, the 10-bed crisis unit at New Hampshire hospital, ServiceLink, and House Republicans’ failure to responsibly fund the Department of Transportation.

A Concord Monitor editorial also called for the legislature to move forward with commuter rail from Boston to Nashua and Manchester, highlighting the “potentially transformative nature of a rail link to the region’s largest city.”

See below for coverage roundup:

NHPR: Drug Epidemic Front And Center In N.H. Politics

Money is tight, and there are plenty of competing priorities. The House trimmed $6 million from what the governor proposed to boost treatment. The House also declined to extend Medicaid expansion, which includes substance abuse coverage for participants. These moves were criticized by plenty from the moment they were made, but the push is really on now. And the statistics are pretty rough. According to the head of the governor’s commission on prevention, treatment and recovery, right now New Hampshire has the country’s highest per-capita rate of addiction and the second-lowest treatment capacity. Only Texas is worse, apparently. [Full story]

Concord Monitor’s Capital Beat: Will there be money for beds, but not for staff?

In July, New Hampshire Hospital administrators expect to complete construction on a new 10-bed crisis unit, meant to help ease pressure at emergency rooms where oftentimes the mentally ill are forced to wait in line until a bed becomes available at the Concord facility.

But, whether the crisis unit will actually open its doors to patients this year is still up in the air.

The unit needs funding to launch, primarily to hire staff. And that comes from the state budget, which at this point doesn’t plan to offer up the cash until 2017, a full year after the unit construction is complete.

… Hundreds of New Hampshire residents took their frustrations with the budget process to the State House last week during a marathon public hearing lasting from 3 p.m. to midnight, where they asked for the state to fully fund services ranging from mental health services to tourism promotion.

… The House-approved budget plan suspends the ServiceLink program altogether, an information referral program that fielded 83,000 calls last year and helps residents find nursing home placements and enroll in Medicare and the Healthcare marketplace, among other things.

… Educators are also carefully watching the budget progress. School district budgets rely on state dollars distributed in the state budget.

The Concord School District would stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars under the House budget plan. To fill a hole in expected state dollars, the district would have to convene this summer and consider cuts in other areas of its budget or potentially raise taxes. [Full story]

Union Leader’s State House Dome: Fish & Game, highway a funding conundrum

Nearly 700 people attended the public hearing on the new $11.2 billion biennial budget last week, urging Senate budget writers to add money to social service programs for the disabled, stay-at-home seniors and substance abusers, for higher education, for tourism promotion, and to reduce retired public workers’ health care premiums.

However, Senate budget writers have two other major issues to address that received little attention at the public hearing: declining revenues in the highway, and Fish and Game Department funds.

The Highway Fund, which receives money from the gas tax and vehicle registrations, pays most of the operating costs of the Department of Transportation, for state police to patrol highways and for state and local road and bridge projects.

… Lawmakers over the years have used some one-time fixes to prop up the fund, but they are exhausted and now there is at least a $100 million shortfall over the next two years.

The House used money from the rainy day fund, the renewable energy fund, state adequacy money and millions earmarked for higher education to pay for the agency.

The Senate is expected to return money to the rainy day fund and at least some of the money to the renewable energy fund, but that means less money for the DOT.

… Like the Highway Fund, lawmakers have known for some time diminishing revenues in the Fish and Game fund would sooner or later have to be addressed. [Full story]

Concord Monitor Editorial: Commuter rail is a gamble worth taking

After nearly two years of study, the consultants have spoken. Train service between cities along the Interstate 93 spine of New Hampshire would lead to new jobs, higher property values and an increase in the percentage of young people who call the state home.

… The potentially transformative nature of a rail link to the region’s largest city led Gov. Hassan to make re-establishing passenger rail service from Concord to Boston the apple of her eye. But now, after brief study, comes the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy to explain how like an orange an apple really is.

… The center, which admitted that its comparisons were less than perfect matches with the capital rail corridor, failed to include any success stories – and they’re out there.

Ridership on commuter rail has increased in almost every major city. Extended systems in northern California, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Connecticut have spurred economic growth, led to higher property values and development in areas near stations, and an increase in jobs. The days of whole towns springing up around stops on the railroad may be long gone, but for many of the millennials who are becoming the heart of the nation’s workforce, so are the days of suburban ranch homes and three or four cars in the driveway. They want to take trains.

… Planners have long known that congestion can’t be widened away. The expansion of I-93 only as far as Manchester cost $800 million. Compared to that, the investment in rail is small money.

… Trains pollute far less, allow people to be as productive or relaxed en route as they choose, avoid parking costs and facilitate commerce. Establish regular rail service and, for a time, even more New Hampshire residents will commute south to work, but also in time, we’re betting that more and more of those Massachusetts employers will decide that a northern move makes economic and lifestyle sense.

Build it and they will come. [Full editorial]

Granite State Rumblings: Making The Case for Expanding Head Start Programs 

Image by U.S. Department of Education

Image by U.S. Department of Education


Over the past few months I have been in at least three different venues across the state where the topic of Head

Start has come up. In each of those conversations at least one person has said that Head Start does not work and Congress should do away with it.  They did not say we should fix what they perceive to be wrong with Head Start, just do away with it.

I have to admit I left those places shaking my head and wondering if the people who feel so strongly about doing away with Head Start have spent time in the classrooms with the children, teachers, and parents. If they had they would have seen that every day Head Start programs help children to catch up cognitively, socially, and emotionally with their peers who are higher up on the economic ladder, encourages and celebrates parents as their child’s first teachers, help pregnant women receive the services they need in order to give birth to healthy babies, and puts smiles on the faces and hope in the hearts of children and their families.

Young children living in poverty are more likely to face challenges that can negatively impact their development and create disparities in their cognitive and social abilities well before they enter Head Start or pre-school programs at age 4. In an effort to ensure that all young children have the same opportunities to succeed in school and life, the federal Early Head Start program was created to support the healthy development of low-income infants, toddlers, and pregnant women.

Research shows that Early Head Start makes a positive difference in areas associated with children’s success in school, family self-sufficiency, and parental support of child development, but federal funds are reaching fewer than 4% of eligible children and families. Children who participated in Early Head Start had significantly larger vocabularies and scored higher on standardized measures of cognitive development than children in a control group who did not participate in Early Head Start. Additionally, Early Head Start children and parents had more positive interactions, and these parents provided more support for learning than did those in a control group. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Making a Difference in the Lives of Infants and Toddlers and Their Families).

In addition to early learning opportunities, Head Start and Early Head Start’s comprehensive early childhood development programs provide children and families with access to a range of services such as health screenings, referrals and follow-up support, parenting resources, and social services. Programs emphasize the importance of parental involvement and staff work to cultivate parents’ abilities as their children’s first teachers.

So you may ask, if Head Start and Early Head Start provides all of this for children and their families, why do some people want to get rid of it? 

The answer to that may come down to this word: fadeout.

Our friends at The First Five Years Fund have this to say about the Head Start Fadeout Myth.

Head Start Fadeout, a common argument against investing in early childhood education, is based on a highly selective read of research findings found in Head Start evaluations and, to a lesser extent, the Perry Preschool project.

Critics argue that gains made through early childhood education disappear by the third grade. They acknowledge that disadvantaged children who received early education arrive at kindergarten ahead of peers who did not, but use third grade evaluations to claim there is no lasting effect to justify the investment.

A measurement of progress in the third grade is not a measurement of life outcomes. It’s simply a snapshot in time—and an incomplete one at that.

Research from many studies—including those cited by fadeout critics—overwhelmingly show that the benefits of early childhood education become more evident throughout schooling and adult life. There is no fadeout; there is constant, steady movement into upward mobility.

Disadvantaged children who receive quality early childhood education are more likely to persist in school, enjoy better career outcomes, higher wages and healthier lifestyles. These findings can be found in analysis of the Perry Preschool Project and Abecedarian in the United States, as well as the British Cohort Study in Great Britain, all of which are randomized control studies with longitudinal data that spans upwards of 35 years.

We’ll take 35 years of evidence over three any time.

The fadeout myth comes from an incomplete read of data and a narrow view of what constitutes success.

For example, the Perry Preschool Project has been criticized for not permanently increasing IQ among the treatment group. IQ gains that are evident at kindergarten among the treatment group tend to equalize with the control group during schooling years.

However, IQ is not the only measure of success in an individual. Nobel Laureate Economist James Heckman found that the social and emotional skills learned through early childhood education were the major drivers of success in school, career and life among the Perry treatment group, who far outperform the control group in adult outcomes.

Similarly, the 2012 National Head Start Impact Study shows achievement among the treatment group equalizing with the control group by third grade. In this case, the Impact Study was flawed because many in the control group were allowed to attend other preschool programs, including Head Start programs in other locations. We may be seeing parity here because we’re comparing children with similar experiences.

Heckman says that using the Head Start Impact Study to claim that early childhood education is ineffective is “a generalized conclusion that is neither thoughtful nor accurate.” (Read more of his analysis here.) Heckman also finds that “Head Start graduates tend to be more persistent in their education, more inclined to healthy behaviors, and less inclined to be involved in criminal activity.”

“Head Start is by no means perfect, but that should not rule out efforts to improve the program’s quality and surround it with other high-quality birth-to-five programs that will deliver better outcomes for children, families and society.” – James Heckman


In May of 1965, President Lyndon Johnson announced Project Head Start. Head Start was part of Johnson’s War on Poverty, which embodied a basic belief that education was the solution to poverty.

It began as an 8 week demonstration project.

In 1977, under the Carter administration, Head Start began bilingual and bicultural programs in about 21 states. Eighteen years later, in1995 under the Clinton administration, the first Early Head Start grants were given to provide high quality child development and family services to income eligible pregnant women and families of very young children.

Head Start was most recently reauthorized again in 2007, under the George W. Bush administration, with several provisions to strengthen Head Start quality.  The statute also included a provision that regulations be promulgated to move programs from an indefinite project period to a five-year grant cycle. In 2009, under the Obama administration, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act added more than 64,000 slots for Early Head Start and Head Start programs.

Sequestration had a major impact on Head Start in 2013. The Office of Head Start reported that approximately 57,000 children were cut from Head Start programs nationwide because of sequestration. In addition to turning away those 57,000 children, Head Start programs were forced to

  • Cut 1.3 million days of service
  • Provide 18,000 fewer hours of service through shortened school days
  • Terminate or reduce salaries of 18,000 employees

In January of 2014 President Obama signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014. This Act included $8,598,095,000 for programs under the Head Start Act, representing an increase of approximately $1.025 billion over the fiscal year (FY) 2013 funding level.

The approximately $1.025 billion increase restored the 5.27 percent reduction from sequestration and provided all grantees with a 1.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). The FY 2014 funding level also included $500 million for expansion through the Early Head Start-Child Care (EHS-CC) Partnership to support communities in expanding high-quality early learning and development opportunities for infants and toddlers.

State funding for Head Start was eliminated by the NH Legislature in the 2010.

In recent years, Head Start has served as a successful, comprehensive model for states in developing high quality pre-kindergarten systems. Additionally, Head Start’s unique shared governance structure provides a model to promote meaningful partnerships with families. Each program has a Policy Council that includes parents of children in the program and makes policy decisions together with staff.

Most children in New Hampshire Head Start programs attend 5 days a week for part of the day. Children and families receive an array of comprehensive supports and services. The top two services families receive are parenting and health education.

Pregnant women also receive a variety of supports and services. Included are coordination of prenatal and postpartum health care, dental and mental health services and follow up (substance abuse prevention and treatment), prenatal education on fetal development, information on the benefits of breastfeeding, emergency/crisis intervention, and others.

In New Hampshire, Head Start grew from 1,267 enrolled children in 1997 to more than 2,000 children (cumulative) enrolled today. New Hampshire is funded to serve 1,618 children and their families at any given time, but actual enrollment can be higher. However, far too many eligible children are not served due to lack of funding:

  • Nationally, it is estimated that Head Start serves less than 43% of eligible children and their families, and Early Head Start serves less than 4% of eligible infants and toddlers. 
  • New Hampshire Head Start serves only about 18% of eligible children aged birth to five years and their families.

Here is some more NH specific information from the 2013-2014 Program Information Report (PIR):

  • Cumulative Enrollment of Children by Age – Total 2,027    
    • Less than 1 Year Old – 139
    • 1 Year Old – 161
    • 2 Years Old – 185
    • 3 Years Old – 693
    • 4 Years Old – 849
  • Total Classes Operated – 87
  • Homeless Children Served – 175
  • Foster Care Children Served – 38
  • Child Welfare Agency Referral Children Served – 52
  • Number of Programs Providing Transportation – 2
  • Children with Health Insurance (at end of enrollment year) – 1,995
  • Children without Health Insurance (at end of enrollment year) – 32
  • Total Number of Families – 1,868
    • Two Parent Families – 795
    • Single Parent Families – 1,073

Recent research has shown what the Head Start community has long observed: Head Start works! Not only does it promote gains in children’s learning and development, Head Start also is associated with improved children’s health, promotes family self-sufficiency, and is cost effective.

Has Head Start had an impact on your life?  We would love to hear your story to share with others.

Rep Kurk’s Double Speak On The Gas Tax And Fixing Our Roads And Bridges

The State Legislature is quickly trying to wrap up the State’s Budget for the next two years.  Rep Neal Kurk is leading the House Finance Committee and has proposed massive cuts to a variety of state agencies and programs, down shifting costs to local cities and towns.

I just wanted to show people how hypocritical Rep Kurk is with his double speak, specifically on the budget and the gas tax.

Rep. Neal Kurk (R-Weare), Ranking Republican on House Finance (4-4-13)

“This budget is balanced on unrealistic revenue estimates that simply put off the eventual day of reckoning. It includes millions in increased taxes on working families and businesses that will hurt the economy and job creation. It spends 10.2% more money than the previous state budget. This budget also increases the state’s exposure to massive future liabilities as a result of expanding Medicaid. It suspends new school building aid imposes a moratorium on charter schools. It shifts costs of nursing home services to county property tax payers. It purposefully underfunds line items that can be paid for later, outside of the more transparent budget process. We have a real concern about where this budget will lead our State. It’s unaffordable and sets us up for failure both in the short and long terms.”

In the 2013-14 Legislature Rep David Campbell proposed a $.12 cent increase in the gas tax.  That was ultimately shaved down to $.04 cents by the Republican controlled Senate. The Republicans in New Hampshire campaigned on the gas tax increase screaming “Democrats only want to raise your taxes.”

This is what Rep Neal Kurk said about the Gas Tax Increase in 2014:

There’s little question more revenue is needed to meet today’s higher costs in maintaining and improving our highway infrastructure.  But the legislature must meet its responsibilities before it can ask citizens to pay higher taxes.

Kurk admits that we need to do something about fixing our failing roads and bridges but is just not willing to pay for any such work.

Now that Kurk is back in charge of the Finance Committee in the NH House, what is his answer to fix the state’s infrastructure problem?  Cut their funding of course.

Rep Kurk just pushed through a budget that would slash the NH Department of Transportation by $88 million dollars!  That is a 42% cut in the departments funding. The NH DOT are the people who fix the roads, build the bridges, and plow are streets.  The head of the NH DOT said these cuts would mean hundreds of jobs lost, and the possibility on losing millions in federal funds to repair our roads and bridges.

After a massive outcry from the public on cutting the DOT budget by $88 million dollars, Rep Kurk is now saying he will be adding an $.08 cent increase to the gas tax to offset the DOT cuts.

Kurk, R-Weare, said the state’s infrastructure will become severely weakened and have a rippling effect on business and everyday commuters in New Hampshire if lawmakers do not pass a 7- or 8-cent hike in the gas tax. His advocacy for the tax bump was sparked by what he described as a decade of reliance on one-time revenue sources and a decline in federal funding that has led to the state’s undesirable scenario.

An $.08 cent increase would bring in about $50-$60 million over the next two years.  That would still leave a $28 million dollar hole in the DOT budget, resulting in job losses, federal funds lost, and projects canceled.

New Hampshire has one of the worst infrastructures in the country. We have hundreds of red lists roads and bridges and Rep Kurk wants to cut $88 million or almost half of the entire DOT budget.

I am tired of the hypocrisy from politicians who say we need to fix our roads by cutting the funding needed to fix them.

(Check out this short video to see what our roads and bridges really look like)

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