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AFGE Calls For 5.3% Pay Raise For All Federal Workers

vcsPRAsset_525404_86490_95a0a69c-3c0e-4be8-8c5e-83f07471049e_0Largest Federal Employee Union Issues Budget Day Call for Higher Wages, Improved Benefits

Key lawmakers signal support for AFGE’s proposed 5.3% pay raise at government worker rally

WASHINGTON – As President Obama issued the final budget of his administration Tuesday, the American Federation of Government Employees called on Congress to raise wages for federal workers, extend paid parental leave to employees, and reject proposals that would undermine basic worker rights and protections.

“Federal employees have been given the short end of the stick for far too long. It’s time to start giving back to the workers who give so much to our country,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

AFGE’s call for a 5.3% pay raise in 2017 has already won the backing of prominent lawmakers including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, and Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland – all of whom endorsed the proposal during a legislative rally AFGE held Tuesday outside the U.S. Capitol.

“We are sick and tired of pay freezes and pathetic penny ante raises. We are sick and tired of falling behind inflation and further behind private-sector pay,” Cox said. “We’re not asking for any special treatment, just the pay increases we are owed after six years of low to no pay increases.”

AFGE supports several proposals in the president’s budget to invest in the federal workforce, including:

  • Providing federal employees with six weeks of paid parental leave for the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child, and ensuring that employees can use sick days to bond with a healthy new child;
  • Hiring additional staff at the Office of Personnel Management to answer phone calls and emails from employees regarding retirement claims, which would improve customer service and reduce the average processing time for claims.
  • Increasing federal cyber security spending by 35% to modernize outdated federal IT systems, which could help prevent further attacks such as last year’s massive OPM data breach of federal employees’ personal information.

However, we are opposed to a provision included in the president’s budget that would allow the government to charge federal employees and retirees more for their health insurance if they are deemed unwell. We also oppose a plan to create regional Preferred Provider Organizations to compete against popular national plans, since this could segment the market and cause more harm than good.

“The federal government should serve as a model employer for the rest of the country to follow. Thanks to sequestration and budget cuts, federal employees have fallen further behind the private sector and are making less today than they did five years ago,” Cox said.

“We need to invest in our workers through higher wages and better benefits, and by fighting proposals that would undermine the government’s merit-based employment system.”

Bernie Sanders: Stop the Wall Street to Washington Revolving Door

"Wall Street - New York Stock Exchange" by Carlos Delgado

“Wall Street – New York Stock Exchange” by Carlos Delgado

“Under my administration, top executives of Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street CEOs will no longer go through the revolving door from Wall Street to government”

BURLINGTON, Vt. – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday said he would stop the revolving door between Wall Street and the federal government.

He cited Goldman Sachs’ deal this week to pay a $5 billion fine for bogus marketing schemes on home mortgages during the financial crisis seven years ago as the latest example of the need for independent regulators and prosecutors.

“The $5 billion settlement with Goldman Sachs should make it clear to everyone that the business model on Wall Street is fraud. In my view, the time has come to shut the revolving door between Wall Street and the federal government. Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street banks will not be represented in my administration,” Sanders said.

“Instead, we need federal prosecutors and regulators with a clear track record of standing up to the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street,” added Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic Party nomination for president.

Wall Street’s undue influence in both Republican and Democratic administrations is exemplified by two recent Treasury secretaries who have held posts in and out of Washington and Wall Street. In 1995, Robert Rubin, the former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, became the Treasury secretary. In 1999, Rubin left to become a director and senior counsel of Citigroup. In 2006, Henry Paulson left his job as chairman of Goldman Sachs to become Treasury secretary. In 2008, Paulson asked Congress to pass legislation giving him a blank check of $700 billion to bailout Wall Street.

“Under my administration, top executives of Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street CEOs will no longer go through the revolving door from Wall Street to government,” Sanders said.

Sanders pledge to fill financial posts with regulators who are not beholden to Wall Street came as he made the case for his sweeping plan to rein in the greed of the nation’s biggest financial institutions. In laying out the proposal during a major speech last week in New York, Sanders pledged to break up the biggest banks. He also advocated restoring the post-Depression Glass-Steagall Act to prevent Wall Street speculators from crashing the economy. He also said his administration will cap credit card interest rates and ATM fees, allow post offices to offer basic banking services and reform the Federal Reserve to focus on its mandate to promote full employment.

Sanders plan is backed by some 170 economists and other experts, including former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, University of Texas Professor James K. Galbraith and Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC.

Governor Hassan Announces Job Training Grants for Eight New Hampshire Companies in December

Matching Grants Will Help Train 235 Workers in New Skills 

CONCORD – Continuing her efforts to help New Hampshire workers develop the skills and innovative thinking needed for good jobs in the 21st century economy, Governor Maggie Hassan announced today that eight New Hampshire companies have been awarded job training grants to help them train 235 workers in new skills.

The job training grants total $77,865 and the companies matched the training funds to bring the total amount for training workers to $155,730. 

“I am proud to announce the most recent round of important grants to help prepare workers for success at growing businesses,” Governor Hassan said. “New Hampshire’s Job Training Fund is a valuable and critical resource that has helped thousands of workers develop skills needed for success in the innovation economy. By maintaining our commitment to higher education and job training, we can attract innovative businesses, help existing companies grow, and support the creation of good jobs that will expand middle class opportunity and help keep our economy moving in the right direction.” 

  • Symmetry Medical Manufacturing Inc. of Manchester received a grant of up to $41,204 to train 185 employees in lean fundamentals from the NH Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NHMEP) and in leadership, blue print reading, GD&T and Excel from Manchester Community College (MCC).
  • A grant of $10,958 was awarded to Wire Belt Company of America, Londonderry to train 18 employees in leadership at MCC.
  • Knott’s Land Care LLC of Amherst received a grant of $4,000 for two employees to be trained at Nashua Community College (NCC) in customer service, business and management.
  • Neoscope LLC of Portsmouth will use a grant of $1,848 to send one employee to the RSA Conference for internet security, analytics and privacy training.
  • High Liner Foods of Portsmouth received a grant of $6,125 to train 15 employees in 5S Kaizen and leadership at NHMEP.
  • TestVonics Inc. of Peterborough received a training grant of $5,500 for three employees to join the ISO 9001 Collaborative Program at NHMEP.
  • Extrusion Alternatives, Inc. of Portsmouth received a grant of $5,500 for four employees to participate in the ISO 9001 Collaborative Program at NHMEP.
  • Bigelow and Ashton, PA of Wolfeboro will use a $2,730 grant to train seven employees in the cyber security program development course at Neoscope Inc.

The Job Training Fund has awarded $8,478,760 in grants since October 2007, with employers contributing $11,165,588 for a total of $19,644,348 in new training for 24,900 New Hampshire workers. Companies interested in applying to the Job Training Fund should visit the fund’s web site at www.nhjobtrainingfund.org.

Open Democracy Report Show How Much Kinder Morgan Has Spent Lobbying To Build NED Pipeline

As NED Pipeline Fight Heats Up, Report Finds Kinder Morgan Spent Millions of Dollars on Lobbying and Political Donations Since 2014

MANCHESTER, NH – Texas-based energy giant Kinder Morgan has spent over $2.5 million in lobbying and campaign donations since 2014, even as it is seeking approval for a controversial new natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania to New Hampshire and Massachusetts, according to a new analysis of lobbying and campaign finance records by the nonpartisan organization Open Democracy. 

The analysis finds that Kinder Morgan Inc. and Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP began lobbying in New Hampshire and Massachusetts concurrent with the introduction of its Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline proposal in each state. The company spent $53,500 to lobby New Hampshire state government officials in 2014 and an estimated $70,780 in 2015, more than any single public interest, non-profit, or labor organization. 

Fig. 1: Kinder Morgan Lobbying Expenditures in NH and MA since 2011 (2015 data incomplete)  Figure 1

The company also spent $148,500 to lobby Massachusetts officials in 2014 and $301,334 in 2015, prior to year-end disclosures. No lobbying expenditures were reported in New Hampshire prior to 2014 when the proposed pipeline route was changed to include seventeen southern NH towns. Kinder Morgan reported $20,000 and $60,000 in Massachusetts state lobbying in 2012 and 2013, respectively. 

Analysis of federal lobbying expenditures finds several Kinder Morgan companies including Kinder Morgan, Inc., Kinder Morgan Co2, Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP, and Kinder Morgan Bulk Terminals have engaged in extensive lobbying activities over the last twelve years. Kinder Morgan reported spending $170,000 to-date in 2015, including $110,000 specifically targeted at the NED pipeline proposal which is pending before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The five-member commission of presidential appointees is expected to approve or reject the proposal next year.

In addition to its reported federal and state lobbying activities in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and other states, Kinder Morgan executives have made significant campaign contributions in recent years, according to the Open Democracy analysis. At least ten Kinder Morgan employees made state and federal campaign contributions totaling more than $3 million in 2014-16. Company Chairman Richard Kinder and his wife Nancy accounted for the bulk of the contributions, giving $2 million to the Right to Rise Super PAC supporting presidential candidate Jeb Bush. 

Texas Senator Ted Cruz received $11,400 in campaign contributions from Kinder Morgan employees to his 2012 Senate campaign and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received a $1,000 contribution in 2015. Former House Speaker John Boehner received $90,200 in campaign contributions. 

Fig. 2: Kinder Morgan Contributions to 2016 Presidential Candidates 

Candidate

Amount

Year

Jeb Bush

$2,205,829

2015

Hillary Clinton

$1,000

2015

Ted Cruz*

$11,400

2012

TOTAL

$2,218,229

 

At the state level, NH Governor Maggie Hassan and MA Governor Charlie Baker received $2,000 and $1,000 in campaign contributions, respectively, from Richard and Nancy Kinder in 2014. 

All told, the analysis found $397,950 in federal and $557,000 in state campaign contributions from Kinder Morgan executives in 2014, and at least $2,211,269 in contributions to 2016 federal campaigns to-date. Analysis of campaign contributions over time finds a total of estimated $5.3 million since 2000, 87 percent of which was given to Republicans (2014-16 partisan contributions breakdown is estimated).

Fig. 3: Kinder Morgan Contributions to State and Federal Candidates and Super PACs, 2000-2015

Year

Total Amount

Republican

Democrat

2000

$329,388

97%

3%

2002

$315,996

99%

1%

2004

$375,562

96%

1%

2006

$126,061

82%

18%

2008

$152,555

63%

36%

2010

$433,849

61%

38%

2012

$389,110

97%

1%

2014

$982,689

92%

3%

2016

$2,211,269

99%

1%

TOTAL

$5,316,479

87%

11%


 

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Open Democracy is a Concord, NH-based nonpartisan organization that works for transparent and accountable governance in the Granite State. Learn more at www.OpenDemocracy.me

Head of Largest Federal Employee Union Blames Congressional Policies for Low Morale at Government Agencies

Federal employees feel “devalued, dispirited and discouraged” due to budget cutbacks, AFGE leader says 

WASHINGTON – Federal employee morale is at an all-time low according to a new governmentwide survey, and the leader of the nation’s largest federal employee union faulted Congress for pushing policies that favor spending cuts over economic growth.

“Pay freezes, furloughs and budget cutbacks are the reasons why federal employee morale is in the dumps, and lawmakers who have been leading the charge to slash government spending with abandon have no one to blame but themselves,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

A report released today by the Partnership for Public Service, “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government,” says 57.8 percent of federal employees are satisfied in their jobs, which is the lowest it’s been since the survey began in 2003. The Partnership report is based on the Office of Personnel Management’s annual survey of the government’s more than 2 million workers.

Federal employees have had their pay frozen for an unprecedented three consecutive years, and many lost a week of wages this summer due to sequestration-related furloughs. New federal employees are being required to pay substantially more toward their retirement to help pay down the U.S. deficit. Meanwhile, budget cuts due to sequestration have resulted in hiring freezes, cutbacks in employee training and other reductions that have impaired service delivery to the public at many agencies.

“Politicians have been telling federal employees for years that they’re not worth receiving a fair wage, that their jobs aren’t worth funding, that the services they deliver to the American people aren’t as important as continuing to subsidize Wall Street corporations with lucrative tax breaks,” Cox said.

“Should it come as any surprise that federal employees feel devalued, dispirited and discouraged? Federal employees join the government to serve their country and give back to the community, but some politicians have turned them into the enemy and made them the scapegoat for all of the country’s problems.”

Rather than targeting federal employees and services for harmful cuts, Congress should focus on reforming our broken tax system and investing in programs and projects that will create good-paying jobs and restore the U.S. as an economic leader in the 21st century, Cox said.

“Slashing government spending for vital programs that benefit millions of Americans won’t create a single new job, and going after the pay and benefits of federal employees won’t make the government more efficient,” Cox said. “Hopefully this report will serve as a wake-up call to members of Congress.”

Is The Congressional Budget Committee Really Out To Destroy The Post Office?

United States Postal Service fleet; U.S.A.Some on the Congressional Budget Committee seem to be misguided on what their task is by seriously considering a proposal to eliminate Saturday mail delivery. The Postal Service has reported an operating profit of $600 Million for Fiscal Year 2013. Its first profit since 2008. Parcel revenue soared to an all time record high of $12.5 Billion. Increasing 8% over last year. So you would think that this is a time to increase service not to decrease it. The USPS is growing to the point that some parts of the country have instituted a limited 7 day’s a week parcel service. Its time to grow the service not shrink it.

This week the Congressional Budget Committee is considering sneaking in a poison pill that would in all probability kill the Postal Service over time and eliminate thousands of jobs immediately. This Budget Committee was set up to mitigate the harmful effects of the Federal Shutdown and sequestration on jobs and public services.   Instead  incredibly they are  exacerbating the problem on both fronts by reducing arguably the most popular and effective part of the Federal Government.

Letter Carrier US Postal Service Though the Postal Service makes an operating profit it is under constant attack by some members of Congress because it provides a popular government service delivered by unionized workers. Government Services and unions are the top targets of the privation zeal of the right-wing. Ideology trumps common sense with these politicians. Somehow they never mention that the worlds best Postal Service does not use ONE CENT of tax payer money

This committee is also attacking the entire Federal workforce by taking $20 billion out of government workers paychecks by increasing workers share of retirement costs.

These same members of this budget committee seem to have no issues with spending billions of dollars every year on a F-35 fighter jet program that literally can’t get off the ground. Yet seem hell-bent on reducing a cost neutral public service that unites our entire country.

The Postal Service financial report is only made gloomy due to an unprecedented retiree health care mandate. The mandate requires the Postal Service to fully fund retiree health care benefits decades in advance, was responsible of 100% of FY 2013 losses and 80% of losses implemented in 2007. This mandate has manufactured a postal crisis that is being used by some politicians to dismantle it.

Apparently the elimination of Saturday delivery will be tied to a trigger that can easily be manipulated by congress and result in disaster for millions of Americans who rely on the Postal Service. These same phony triggers were included in Michigan’s notorious anti union legislation Public Act 4. That destructive law was fortunately repealed by voters last month. We must prevent this Budget Committee from making a similar mistake.

Congress expects to unveil its 2014 budget plan on Friday so the time is short to let members of congress know that eliminating Saturday mail delivery is not an option that makes economic sense. It’s a false choice that the Postal Service must shrink to survive.

 

Congress Adds Insult To Injury! Pay Freeze Continues As Sequester Sets In

Smashed Piggy Bank RetirementLet me start by saying the last thing I want to see is a full government shutdown.  However once again Congress as a whole takes more from the piggy bank they call federal workers’ pay.

“Congress on Thursday agreed on a measure to keep the government running through the end of the fiscal year. The bill, which also extends the pay freeze on federal employees, now heads to President Obama.”  (GovExec.com)

What is becoming a normal situation for Congress, they are continuing to take more from the federal workers.  The first pay raise they would have seen in three years was killed by Congress.  This is on top of the fact that almost every government employee is facing a mandatory furlough of 11-22 days.

Furloughs are not vacation days as some people are saying.  These are days when workers are forced off from work and are not paid.  For those people who are being forced to take a 22 day furlough, that is a 12% reduction in pay, or in more simple terms, a loss of one month of pay (over the next six months).

This continuing resolution does absolutely nothing to stop the sequester cuts.

“I remain deeply dissatisfied that sequestration is not addressed and will slash the very priorities I believe all of us came here to fulfill,” said House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. (GovExec.com)

As I said before, a full government shutdown is the worst possible thing for federal employees and the entire United States.  The fact that we almost shut down in 2011, cost us in our national credit rating.

The sequester cuts have already started to have an impact on business.  According to the Huffington Post and the AP, workers are being laid off already.

  • On Monday, 250 workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state received pink slips, while another 2,500 others found out they’re facing furloughs. Approximately 9,000 people work at the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site, and the Associated Press reports that “cleanup is likely to be slowed” because of the budget cuts.
  • Continental Maritime, a contractor that repairs U.S. Navy ships, expects to lay off 185 employeeseffective April 12. Other contractors have issued conditional layoff notices — meaning that jobs are safe if Congress restores some funding to the Defense Department — to thousands of employees.
  • Four-hundred eighteen contract workers tied to the Tobyhanna Army Depot in Pennsylvania are losing their jobs due to sequestration. Two-hundred sixteen people will be dismissed on April 15 and 107 on April 30, the Morning Call of Allentown, Pa., reports. The paper noted that the Tobyhanna Army Depot is losing 35 percent — $309 million — of its government funding through the end of the fiscal year, and that more than 5,100 of the people who work there are being forced to take 22 furlough days.
  • At least eight municipal employees in Monterey County, Calif., are losing their jobs as a result of a decrease in the number of military contracts.
  • In early March, 23 people who work with the parks and recreation and maintenance departments in Tooele County, Utah, were laid off in order to grapple with the federal budget cuts. “I have four kids. This is my livelihood,” said Scott Chance, a 12-year employee. “It pays my health insurance. It gives me my house.”
  • Engineering Services Network is an engineering and technology company and one of the top Latino-owned companies in Virginia. President and CEO Raymond Lopez Jr. told NBC Latino that he has “lost about 20 employees through sequestration.”
  • The Red River Army Depot in Texarkana, Texas, announced in February that it was cutting 414 jobs — about 10 percent of its workforce. “I don’t know how we’re going to make it,” Raymond Wyrick, whose last day was scheduled to be March 9, told CNN Money.

Someone please tell me: how is preserving these sequester cuts in the continuing resolution going to help our economy?  How is cutting services, cutting personnel, and cutting families’ income helping our economy? Federal workers are already at the mercy of Congress. On top of sequestration, this continuing resolution that keeps the 0.5% raise off the table is just another slap in the face to federal workers.

Federal workers are not a piggy bank that Congress can turn to, every time it wants help balancing the federal budget.

There are other options.  Ending special corporate tax breaks would pay for the sequester cuts twice over.   Ending tax breaks on unearned income would pay for the sequester cutsplus everything the House GOP wants to cut from next year’s federal budget.

Hungry like a (baby) wolfRemember, too, that maintaining the sequester cuts means that 600,000 young children from low-income families are losing the free food they had been receiving through a U.S. government nutrition program.

Smack down federal employees (again) and take food away from hungry children.  Is this the best six-month budget that our Congress can come up with?   

Outrageous; Congress Leaves Town While Budget Cuts Are Loom Over Americans

Absolutely Outrageous!

With the entire economy hanging in the balance from yet another manufactured crisis from Washington, Congress goes on vacation.  This is just hours after Senate Democrats introduced a bill that would be 50-50 spending cuts and revenue increases.  $60 Billion dollars in new revenue would be gained just by closing tax loopholes.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., slammed for GOP leadership for putting the House in recess for a week before voting on the plan.

“We don’t think there’s any time to waste,” she said yesterday. “Every minute counts, and it’s really hard to explain to the American people [that] tomorrow we’ll be leaving for more than a week when a deadline is looming. Sequester is out of the question.”

Millions of jobs hang in the balance as the dreaded sequestration cuts are set to take effect on March 1st.   An Air Traffic Controller from New Hampshire fears that sequestration would mean 14-30 days off.

“The (FAA) administrator said furloughs would be applied to all employees, a minimum of one per pay period and not to exceed two through the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30. By my calculation, that is 14 or 15 pay periods for a potential of being furloughed 14-30 days.”

In a recent press release from the Association of Government Employees explained how these budget cuts would effect seniors and have a direct impact on their Social Security.

“If sequestration is allowed to go into effect”, said AFGE Council President Witold Skwiercznski, “applicants and beneficiaries will have more difficulty getting answers to their questions and confidence in the Social Security system’s ability to function effectively will erode.  Lawmakers need to wake up and know that further cuts at SSA cannot be sustained”.

SSA expects to lose an additional 2,000 employees in FY 2013, which means the agency will lose a total of more than 9,000 federal and state employees from FY 2011 through FY 2013.  SSA will have approximately the same number of employees in FY 2013 as it did in FY 2007, even though workloads have increased dramatically with retirement and survivor claims up 30 percent, and disability claims up 25 percent.

President Obama issued a warning of what these cuts would mean for working families in his weekly address.

“If the sequester is allowed to go forward, thousands of Americans who work in fields like national security, education or clean energy are likely to be laid off.  Firefighters and food inspectors could also find themselves out of work – leaving our communities vulnerable.  Programs like Head Start would be cut, and lifesaving research into diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s could be scaled back.  Small businesses could be prevented from getting the resources and support they need to keep their doors open.  People with disabilities who are waiting for their benefits could be forced to wait even longer.  All our economic progress could be put at risk.”
(see all the areas that would be effected by sequestration cuts in the White House fact sheet)

In an obvious statement of disgust, Rep Annie Kuster sent out this tweet.

If sequestration is so damaging then why is Congress not spending every second to stop it? Why would they go into a recess with less than 15 days to resolve their differences.

An Education Update from Bill Duncan and ANHPE

Education Funding Under Discussion
12-10-12

First, it’s worth scanning down the list of education bills we’re now following.  So far, these are just Legislative Services Requests and will not become bills with the details filled in for awhile. Many of the anti-education bills brought forward from in last year’s session are presumably DOA.  But still, there are a lot of bills.

Another education funding amendment is on the way

The headline is that Rep. Gary Richardson and Sen. Nancy Stiles will propose another education funding amendment.

Last year, Rep. Richardson made the case that a desirable amendment would be one that enabled targeting but did not change the responsibility of the Legislature to fund education or the power of the Court to enforce the Constitution.  Sen.Stiles says she is authoring an amendment that goes back to language that has received support in the past.  She might be referring to something like this, CACR 18 in the 2007 legislative session.  CACR 18 was focused more on targeting and less on the court as well, so might be similar to Rep. Richardson’s proposal.  Then-Sen. Hassan seemed supportive of the concept at that time.

Anything that Sen. Stiles and Rep. Richardson propose is automatically credible.  However, many attorneys, advocates and legislators knowledgeable about education funding make the case that targeting to communities in need is possible already – without a constitutional amendment.

ANHPE agrees and will flesh out the targeting-can-be-done-now case in the coming days.

 

Lots of early childhood development in New Hampshire

The Gap perpetuates poverty and poor educational performance.  But Spark NH, the hub of early child development energy in New Hampshire, is out to do something about it.  Look at the number and breadth of the council members.  They have a big agenda and will continue to grow.

Tom Raffio, chair of the New Hampshire Board of Education and CEO of Northeast Delta Dental, has been talking about the importance of early childhood development and getting business leaders interested.  He and Fred Kocher are forming a business and educator round table to promote improved student readiness for the workforce, including early childhood education.

That will be an important step because New Hampshire is one of only a few states in the country with no publicly supported Pre-K education program.  All the other New England states have good programs.  Vermont’s is most impressive, reaching 67% of the 4 year olds.  Vermont has built a highly productive public/private partnership – a model for us?

Rough sledding for private school vouchers
There’s been a lot of objection in other states to voucher programs funding secular schools that teach a creationist curriculum (and here).  The Louisiana voucher program has been declared unconstitutional in lower courts for that reason and others.  We have schools in New Hampshire that teach at same curriculum – this one, for instance.
In Wisconsin and other states, there are new calls for accountability in voucher schools.  There is no accountability required of voucher schools in New Hampshire.
Governor-Elect Hassan and many legislators continue to discuss repeal of the voucher plan or at least putting the plan on hold right away while options are discussed.  It’s a bad plan paid for by our property tax payers.  And it, in effect, shifts money from poorer to richer communities.  One way or another, it needs to be gone.

Bill

Repost From InZane Times: McCain-Ayotte Town Meeting – is this what democracy looks like?

When is a “Town Hall Meeting” not a “Town Hall Meeting?”

When attendance is limited to employees of a self-interested foreign corporation that is playing host to a reverse lobbying event.

The event in question is the “Preserving America’s Strength” show being staged by U.S. Senators Kelly Ayotte, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham on Tuesday morning, July 31 at BAE Systems in Merrimack. The Senators say they are trying to “sound the alarm” about the economic impact of cuts in military spending if the Pentagon is forced to cut $500 Billion from its budget over the next ten years.

The budget cuts, taken from a ten-year budget of about $5.5 Trillion, would be matched by an equal amount of cuts in non-military spending under a process known on Capitol Hill as “sequestration.” This would come after a decade in which Pentagon spending has risen by more than 35 per cent, even after accounting for inflation and excluding the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Members of the public are not invited to the “Town Hall Meeting.”

That means the Senators are not likely to get questions about the job or economic impact of cuts in areas such as housing, nutrition assistance, health care, education, and environmental protection.

Nor are they likely to hear that canceling the Pentagon budget cuts will either mean deeper cuts in human needs programs, higher taxes, continued deficit spending, or some combination of the three.

It’s possible that no one present will point out the United States military spending is already almost as much as that of all the other nations of the world combined and that many of the big-spenders among them are our allies.

While cuts in weapons production — not to be confused with cuts in pay or benefits for active duty and retired members of the armed services — would lead to job losses in those industries, a recent report from Senator Tom Harkin says “the economic effects of cuts to nondefense programs could be worse than cuts to Pentagon spending.” According to Sen. Harkin’s analysis, sequestration would cut $3.5 million from special education funding in New Hampshire, costing the state 44 jobs and reducing services to infants and children. $1.2 million in Head Start cuts would cost 41 jobs and eliminate services for 194 more children. Cancer screening for women, low income heating assistance, family violence prevention, assistance for unemployed workers, and dozens of other programs assisting people in New Hampshire would suffer.

Even the Aerospace Industry Association says cuts in non-defense programs would have a more harmful effect on the nation’s economy than would cuts in defense spending.

“$1 billion spent on each of the domestic spending priorities will create substantially more jobs within the U.S. economy than would the same $1 billion spent on the military,” according to a recent report from the UMASS Political Economy Research Institute.

“Dollar for dollar, clean energy and health care support 50% more jobs than defense spending, and education supports more than twice as many,” says Heidi Garrett-Peltier, co-author of the UMASS study. “Cutting the budget for education, then, results in twice as many jobs lost as cutting the budget for defense.”

Surely “America’s strength” is built on more than just weapons. A strong country requires a strong domestic economy, educated youth, a healthy population, and clean air and water. And a vibrant democracy needs actual public dialogue on pressing issues, not staged roadshows by elected officials who are supposed to be working for the people.

Originally posted at InZane Times

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