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NH Senate Passes Medicaid Expansion, Heads To Governor For Signature

In a truly bipartisan vote of 16-8, (10 Democrats and 6 Republicans) the New Hampshire Senate approved HB 1696, which would reauthorize the New Hampshire Health Protection Program (NHHPP) through December 2018.

Governor Maggie Hassan applauded legislators from both parties and said she will sign the bill.

“Two years ago, we worked across party lines to pass the bipartisan New Hampshire Health Protection Program, which has made a real difference for our people, for our businesses and in our efforts to combat the heroin and opioid crisis,” said Governor Maggie Hassan. “With its bipartisan vote today, the New Hampshire State Senate has taken another important step forward to build on that progress, joining the House of Representatives in its recognition of the importance of this critical program.”

“Thanks to our bipartisan healthcare expansion plan, nearly 50,000 hard-working Granite Staters have access to quality, affordable health insurance, reducing healthcare cost-shifting onto all of our people and businesses. I applaud legislators from both parties, the medical community, advocates and other stakeholders for their efforts to reauthorize our bipartisan New Hampshire Health Protection Program, and I look forward to signing this legislation into law so that we can continue this critical program that is strengthening the health and financial security of our people and boosting our economy,” concluded Hassan

“We applaud the Senate reauthorization of the NH Health Protection Program, which will ensure that the nearly 48,000 Granite Staters currently on the program can continue to have affordable access to preventative and primary care in New Hampshire,” said Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Granite State Progress Education Fund Executive Director. “Families struggling in low wage jobs or caught between tough times don’t need health concerns to further hold them back. Being able to see a doctor when you are sick or access preventative care means less time away from work and better health in the long run. We are pleased that the Senate vote had strong bi-partisan support, despite a handful of politicians who chose to stand in the way of New Hampshire families.”

“The next step is to address the underlying reasons why so many Granite Staters are in need of this program. Raising wages, tackling outdated workplace policies that discriminate against women and minorities, and empowering families to be able to take control of their reproductive health are all important pieces of the overall puzzle.,” added Rice-Hawkins.

NH Citizens Alliance Executive Director Kary Jencks added, “The biggest issue for reauthorization was the percentage of the total cost the State of New Hampshire was required to cover. Let’s pay our workers the worth of their jobs so that New Hampshire women and families don’t need these safety nets; saving our tax payer dollars and in turn allowing hardworking families greater financial security.”

Along with many other organizations, the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute has been very vocal in support of reauthorizing the NHHPP.

“New Hampshire has many fine traditions, but few can rival the bipartisanship and common-sense pragmatism that the Senate displayed today in reauthorizing the New Hampshire Health Protection Program,” said the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute Executive Director Jeff McLynch. “Its vote today – in combination with earlier efforts by the House of Representatives — will ensure that more than 48,000 Granite Staters continue to have access to affordable health insurance for another two years.”

The NHHPP is specifically designed to provide healthcare to those who fall between the cracks in coverage. These are people who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but make too little to qualify for healthcare subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.

“Health Protection Program enrollees include many individuals who work in low wage jobs that keep the state economy moving, but that don’t pay enough to make ends meet. The program provides thousands of hard-working Granite Staters with access to the care they need to stay healthy and able to provide for their families,” added McLynch.

“NHFPI looks forward to working with the members of the upcoming study commission to identify ways to enhance the effectiveness of the Health Protection Program still further and to ensure that it remains a vital element of New Hampshire’s efforts to promote health and economic security for years to come,” concluded McLynch.

State Senators who stood with New Hampshire women and their families include the entire Democratic caucus and six Republicans: Senate President Chuck Morse (R), Majority Leader Jeb Bradley (R), Sen. Jerry Little (R), Sen. Nancy Stiles (R), Sen. David Boutin (R), Sen. Sam Cataldo (R), Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn (D), Sen. Lou D’Allesandro (D), Sen. Andrew Hosmer (D), Sen. Molly Kelly (D), Sen. Martha Fuller Clark (D), Sen. David Pierce (D), Sen. Dan Feltes (D), Sen. Bette Lasky (D), Sen. Donna Soucy (D), and Sen David Watters (D).

State Senators who stood in the way of access to health care coverage for Granite State families are: Sen. Jeanie Forrester (R), Sen. Andy Sanborn (R), Sen. Gary Daniels (R), Sen. Kevin Avard (R), Sen. Sharon Carson (R), Sen. John Reagan (R), Sen. Regina Birdsell (R), and Sen. Russell Prescott (R).

“Jeanie Forrester’s vote to take away healthcare from nearly 50,000 Granite Staters is the latest example of her putting far-right ideology ahead of the lives of everyday people,” said NHDP Chair Ray Buckley. “Just as shameful, in a time when our state is facing an opioid crisis, she voted to take away substance abuse services from 6,000 people receiving treatment. This disgraceful vote is a perfect example of the right-wing extremism spewing from the Republican candidates for governor.”

Forrester isn’t the first Republican candidate for governor to try to kill Medicaid expansion. In October 2013, Chris Sununu was the only member of the Executive Council to vote against endorsing Gov. Hassan’s call for a special session to consider the recommendations of a commission that endorsed Medicaid expansion. Then, in July 2014, Sununu was one of two councilors to vote against a $292 million contract that would allow Medicaid expansion to begin September 1, 2014. He touted these efforts as recently as last month.

 

Read also the statement from NH Senate Democrats. 

NH Senate Passes SB 427 To Provide Funding For Police Standards And Training Council

police motorcycles manchester

Yesterday the NH Senate passed SB 427, which provides critical funding to ensure that the Police Standards and Training Council could continue training law enforcement officers across the state. 

“The Police Standards and Training Council does an exceptional job training our police officers and preparing them for the public safety challenges our state faces,” said Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, the prime sponsor of SB 427. “In recent years, the council has had to do more with less funding due to declining revenue and we have reached the point of no return. To cut back on law enforcement, especially now with the opiate crisis, would be a huge mistake and I thank the Senate for their support of this vital funding.” 

“We must assure that New Hampshire has strong and well-trained police officers. This is one of our most important responsibilities. SB 527 ensures that we live up to that responsibility. I look forward to working with the House to get this important legislation to the Governor’s desk as soon as possible,” added D’Allesandro. 

“Public safety is our most important responsibility as a state, and it has never been more important than it is now for New Hampshire to continue our strong practice of unified training and community policing,” said Governor Maggie Hassan. “The Police Standards and Training Council helps prepare our dedicated officers for the challenges and dangers that they face every day, and this important measure will help address the funding challenge that the council faces.” 

“I thank the Senate for passing this critical legislation to support the Police Standards and Training Council’s work to help prepare our law enforcement community for the challenges that they face every day, and I urge the House to join their colleagues in support of this bill so that we can keep New Hampshire’s law enforcement officers among the most effective in the country,” added Hassan

Senator David Watters Applauds Senate Passage of Legislation to Help Finance Pre-Kindergarten Education

CONCORD- Today, the NH Senate approved an innovative “pay for success” financing program for pre-kindergarten education. After the Senate passage of SB 503, Senator David Watters (D- Dover) released the following comments:

“I applaud my Senate colleagues for supporting this innovative approach to financing pre-kindergarten education,” said Senator Watters. “New Hampshire is one of a few states in the country that does not provide early childhood education, but SB 503 gives our communities an alternative way to finance this education without putting the burden on the local school districts.” 

Through SB 503’s “pay for success” model, funding for pre-kindergarten education would come from private investors who would then be reimbursed by the state if the program results in improved third grade reading levels or reduces the cost of special education remedial services. The payments will only be made if savings exceed the costs of the program. The first “pay for success” program was established in Utah in 2013 and has proven effective at reducing the cost of special education services and saving the school districts money. The total savings in the first year of the Utah program was $281,550.

“SB 503 is a ‘New Hampshire’ solution to improving education for our children by creating a partnership between our educators and private investors. I thank my Senate colleagues for their support, as this legislation is critical to expanding access to quality education to our children.”

NH Senate Republicans Threaten To Shut Down The Government Over Budget

Ranking Democratic Finance Committee Members Respond to Republican Threats to Shut Down Government Unless They Get Their Way

Concord, N.H. – Ranking Democratic Finance Committee members Representative Mary Jane Wallner and Senator Lou D’Allesandro issued the following statement in response to New Hampshire Republicans’ threats to shut down government unless they get their way on the budget:

“It’s extremely disappointing that New Hampshire Republicans are sending such a clear signal that they are not willing to compromise during the Committee of Conference process and are threatening to shut down the government if they don’t get their way. Enacting a balanced, fiscally responsible budget will require Republicans to compromise with Democrats – not just with Bill O’Brien and the Tea Party.”

“While Governor Hassan has made clear that she’s ready to roll up her sleeves and work across party lines to reach a bipartisan compromise that will move New Hampshire’s economy forward, New Hampshire Republicans are already planning to shut down state government.”

“We urge our Republican colleagues to reconsider this uncompromising stance and work with us to pass a fiscally responsible budget that continues our bipartisan progress for New Hampshire’s people, businesses, and economy.”

NH Senate Republicans Are Once Again Blocking Rail Funding

(Image by Loco Steve FLIKR CC)

(Image by Loco Steve FLIKR CC)

Concord, NH – Sen. Bette Lasky (D-Nashua) and Ray Buckley the NH Democratic Party Chair offered the following comments after Senate Republicans blocked the restoration of funding for commuter rail in the 2016-17 Capital Budget:

“The business community and our citizens have been calling on us for years to take action on commuter rail and I’m disappointed that Senate Republicans have again blocked this funding,” said Sen. Lasky. “Commuter rail is not a partisan or ideological issue – it is something that is supported by both Republicans and Democrats; business leaders, and working families. The people of New Hampshire continue to be frustrated by the lack of effort by the Republicans in the legislature to find a consensus way forward on commuter rail when the economic benefits have been shown to be undeniable.”

Governor Hassan had originally included funding for a $4 million environmental and engineering assessment in her proposed budget that would have advanced the Capital Corridor Rail project forward, but it was removed during the House phase of the budget. Senate Democrats attempted to add the funding back in the Senate Capital Budget Committee phase, but was defeated along a party-line vote. Today, Sen. Lasky offered a floor amendment to the Capital Budget on the Senate floor to restore the $4 million, but it was again defeated along party lines.

“We talk a lot in the Senate about what our workers and businesses need to thrive and grow here in New Hampshire. And while our businesses have many needs, commuter rail addresses 2 of their most basic problems: a modern, safe, transportation infrastructure and the retention and getting of a highly educated workforce,” continued Sen. Lasky. “Today, Senate Democrats stood with the businesses and more than 68% of New Hampshire citizens who support investing in commuter rail as an economic engine. Unfortunately, our Republican colleagues continue their short-sighted opposition and once again decided to stand in the way of bringing this economic boost to New Hampshire.”

“The business community, including the Manchester and Nashua Chambers of Commerce, is calling on the legislature to act now on commuter rail in order to seize on our state’s economic potential and lay the foundation for a new generation of economic growth,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. “Kevin Avard and David Boutin will find out in November 2016 that the people and businesses of Nashua and Manchester aren’t going to forget this vote against the economic interests of their communities.”

Governor Hassan And Senate Democrats Expresses Serious Concerns About Senate Finance Budget

Senate Finance Plan Would Hurt NH Businesses and Middle Class Families, Relies on Gimmicks That Will Leave Budget Unbalanced

Hassan: “Any budget that relies exclusively on the votes of one political party will fail to meet the expectations of our citizens and the needs of our economy.”

BudgetCONCORD – Governor Maggie Hassan said today that she has serious concerns that the Senate Finance Committee budget is unbalanced, contains misleading budget gimmicks and includes budget-busting tax cuts for big businesses that will hurt New Hampshire’s middle-class families, small businesses and economy.

“There are still several steps remaining in the budget process before a final bill makes its way to my desk, and I remain willing to roll up my sleeves and work toward a compromise, bipartisan budget that moves New Hampshire forward,” Governor Hassan said. “But I have serious concerns that the Senate Finance Committee’s partisan plan will hurt families, undermine business growth and take our economy backward while relying on gimmicks that will ultimately leave the budget unbalanced.”

“Senate Republican leadership says that New Hampshire can’t afford to lower tuition at the community colleges, provide a modest cost-of-living increase to employees, fix our roads, fund mental health or even adequately staff our correctional institutions or our juvenile justice system. They even say that in the midst of a heroin epidemic, New Hampshire can’t afford to adequately fund substance misuse prevention and treatment.

“But instead of funding those priorities, Senate Republican leadership included large tax cuts that will create a hole in this budget and budgets well into the future,” Governor Hassan continued.

“All session long, Senate Democrats have urged our Republican colleagues to put partisan politics aside and have a serious budget conversation about how we can work together under the Governor’s leadership to expand middle class opportunity, support small businesses, and keep our state’s economy moving in the right direction,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn. “Unfortunately, the budget approved by the Senate Republicans prioritizes special interests and tax giveaways for big, out-of-state businesses over the people of New Hampshire.”

“Instead of joining with us to invest in our shared priorities as we did in the last bipartisan budget, the Senate Republican budget undermines our economic future, sets the state on precarious financial footing, and is neither compassionate nor responsible. It uses fiscally irresponsible budget gimmicks that have been decried by members of both parties—which means that the Senate Republicans are once again promising more services than their budget can actually deliver,” Woodburn continued.

Governor Hassan also said she had serious concerns that the Senate Finance Committee did not reauthorize the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, leaving the 40,158 New Hampshire citizens who had enrolled in the bipartisan program through May 26 in jeopardy of losing their health insurance in the second year of this budget. The program will receive a 95 percent federal match in 2017, but the legislature also did not include the money necessary to continue it.

“It is wrong to leave 40,000 people on the edge of losing their health insurance. The uncertainty is also bad for our health insurance market and our economy, and it could lead to rising rates for all consumers or insurers deciding not to offer coverage in New Hampshire in 2017 – something that will hurt all of our citizens,” Governor Hassan said.

“The Senate Republican budget includes cuts to mental health, substance abuse treatment, public safety and higher education—all of which undermines our efforts to build a stronger economic future,” Sen. Woodburn continued. “Their budget also ends the state’s business-backed, bipartisan Medicaid expansion program, which means that 40,000 people will lose coverage and businesses will be forced to pay the ‘hidden tax’ that results from cost-shifting of uncompensated care. And instead of fixing these devastating cuts, Senate Republicans decided to give tax cuts to large, out-of-state corporations.”

Governor Hassan also raised concerns about the Senate Finance Committee’s use of budget gimmicks and back-of-the budget cuts, misleading people about what is actually funded.

“The Senate Finance Committee claims to have ‘restored’ $6.5 million in mental health funding, but then they turned around and told the Department of Health and Human Services to cut $6.5 million from mental health services,” Governor Hassan said. “The committee’s continued reliance on irresponsible budget gimmicks will put our state on perilous financial footing and undermine the legislature’s constitutional duty to balance the budget.”

Some of the budget gimmicks and the back of the budget cuts in the Senate Finance Budget include:

  • Assuming $34 million from Fiscal Year 2015 will be left over to carry forward into Fiscal Year 2016.  In making that calculation, the Senate Finance Committee is double counting $15 million in lapses; not counting $3 million in additional appropriations for Fiscal Year 2015 authorized by the Fiscal Committee or by state law; and counting the $7 million in savings from Health and Human Services 2015 back-of-the-budget cut even as they directed Health and Human Services to spend that $7 million.
  • Not accounting for the impact their business tax cuts will have on estimated payments and business tax revenues in Fiscal Year 2016.
  • Saying they are restoring $6.25 million in mental health funding, while at the same time directing the Department of Health and Human Services to cut $6.25 million in mental health funding.
  • Assuming $3.5 million reduction at the Sununu Youth Services Center in 2015 with no plan for how to achieve the savings.
  • Assuming unrealistic savings estimates in Health and Human Services, include a caseload drop of 2 percent; and $12.5 million in “savings” from additional managed care programs.
  • Increasing lapse estimates by $9 million.
  • Diverting funds from last year’s bipartisan transportation funding plan from road work to operations and assuming the Department of Transportation can balance its budget through a federal financing vehicle that has not yet been approved by the federal Department of Transportation.
  • Failing to fully fund winter maintenance for the Department of Transportation.
  • Directing the Department of Transportation to pay for the widening of Route 106 with operational funds, without identifying where they should cut to make those payments.

“Any budget that relies exclusively on the votes of one political party will fail to meet the expectations of our citizens and the needs of our economy. I urge the legislature to work across party lines to pass a bipartisan budget that is honest about what it chooses to fund and invests in the priorities that are critical to the success of our people, our businesses and our economy,” Governor Hassan said.

“This budget proposal is unacceptable and Senate Democrats will continue to fight for an honest and balanced budget that expands opportunity for all, supports businesses throughout our state, and lays the foundation for a new generation of economic growth. Senate Republicans must put aside their partisan ambitions and work across party lines with Senate Democrats and the Governor to finalize a budget that’s truly responsible for New Hampshire’s people, businesses, and economy,” Woodburn concluded.

NH Senate Votes To End Medicaid Expansion And Leave 40,000 Stranded Without Insurance

Today, the New Hampshire Senate voted straight down party lines against continuing the state’s partisan Medicaid expansion.

New Hampshire Senate Republicans including Jeb Bradley have praised the state’s bipartisan Medicaid expansion program, saying “the indications are that it’s working exactly as we intended. It’s reducing emergency room visits, and reducing what I call the ‘hidden tax’ of uncompensated care.”

Yet despite touting the program’s benefits for New Hampshire’s people, businesses and economy, the Senate Finance Committee voted yesterday along party lines against continuing the bipartisan plan.

“Just yesterday, Republican Senators on the Finance Committee touted the success of our bipartisan Medicaid expansion plan,” said Senator Woodburn. “This isn’t a partisan issue. New Hampshire’s business community, including the Business and Industry Association, 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.”

Experts have pointed out that the uncertainty caused by the legislature’s inaction will affect insurance companies’ decisions and could lead to increased rates for all Granite Staters in the private market. The New Hampshire Hospital Association today released a new report showing a 22% drop in emergency room visits by uninsured patients during the first nine months of expansion and reinforcing once again that the state’s bipartisan expansion plan is working.

“Senate Republicans including Jeb Bradley have made clear that the state’s bipartisan Medicaid expansion plan is working and should be continued,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. “There’s simply no excuse for why members of both parties can’t come together now to maintain our commitment to New Hampshire’s people, businesses, and economy by continuing the state’s successful expansion plan.”

The legislature’s failure to act now to protect Medicaid expansion could lead to increased rates for all Granite Staters on the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Jennifer Patterson of the state’s Insurance Department recently told the AP, “The decisions that (insurance companies) make and any uncertainties that result from what’s going on in the legislative process, all of that gets played out in the rate development, and that is reflected across the entire private market.”

Lisa Guertin, president of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Hampshire, told the AP, “It has huge implications on the prices people pay.”

“Today’s vote against continuing the successful Medicaid expansion we enacted just last summer is short-sighted, partisan, and disappointing,” said Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern. “This expanded coverage was the result of widespread support in the business and healthcare communities, a bipartisan law, and several 3-2 votes on the Executive Council.  By all accounts it has been tremendously successful, with a big drop in uninsured patient visits in New Hampshire’s Emergency Rooms.”

Van Ostern continued, “This past Sunday, I spoke with a woman whose sister now has coverage through the NH Medicaid expansion we enacted. Her voice broke when she said thank you, and she said policy makers in Concord need to know that their votes affect real people’s lives. She deserves better than today’s vote.”

“Playing chicken with the healthcare coverage of 40,000 New Hampshire citizens — and the families and employers who rely on them — is bad public policy. Our people and our economy can’t afford this uncertainty,” added Van Ostern.

“Not only do Senate Republicans lack any plan to protect coverage for the tens of thousands of Granite Staters who have gotten covered thanks to the state’s successful expansion plan, but their failure to act now could lead to increased rates for all Granite Staters in the private market,” added Buckley.

With Time Running Out, Pressure Mounts on Senate Republicans to Restore Budget Cuts to Critical Economic Priorities

Concord, N.H. – With time running out for the New Hampshire Senate to develop its budget, pressure continues to mount on Senate Republicans to restore budget cuts to critical economic priorities including transportation, investing in higher education and supporting the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

See coverage roundup below:

Foster’s Editorial: The road ahead may get rougher

… common sense tells us that if our highways and byways are as bad as our readers believe they are, we could be in real trouble down the road.

That’s because road maintenance and repair expenditures have been cut significantly in the two-year state budget recently passed by the N.H. House.

Specifically, the budget proposes spending $4.8 million less on snow removal, $12.4 million less on equipment upgrades and $14.7 million less on paving over the next two years, according to state transportation officials.

State Sen. David Watters, D-Dover, is concerned about the cuts. He believes that if they are carried through to the final state budget, it will mean the elimination of some of the approximately 80 maintenance sheds around the state.

… We won’t argue that the DOT needs stable funding, but we don’t think it should come at the expense of making the state’s roads worse than readers already believe they area. [Full editorial]

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript: Parents worry as HHS budget unfolds

… Renee, 38, was born with Coffin-Siris syndrome, a rare genetic disease that causes significant developmental disabilities. Now, Renee’s parents, Kathy and Mike Washburn of Greenville, anxiously watch state budget proceedings and hope that, at the end of the day, their daughter will be able to continue her independent life.

This year, the House proposed a budget that increases the Health and Human Services budget by $141 million. The additional monies, however, include the settlement of two lawsuits, one involving the state’s mental health resources — $27.3 million — and another involving an increase in the amount the state reimburses hospitals for uncompensated care.

These costs meant other areas had to give, and the developmental disabilities budget was reduced by $26 million. The agencies that use those funds lose much more, according to Alan Greene, executive director of Monadnock Developmental Services. Greene said the funds would have been matched by federal dollars, meaning that while the state saves $26 million, the agencies lose $52 million in support.

… It’s a familiar song-and-dance for the Washburns. When Renee was 16, they placed her on the wait list to receive state services, despite knowing that she would be in the public school system until she was 21. But even after she graduated, it would be another 11 years before the Washburns had access to state funding that allowed care providers to help Renee throughout the day, provide respite care for her parents, and eventually allow her to move into an apartment with a caregiver who helps guide her days.

Kathy said that her greatest fear during each budget season is the loss of that funding, and, she fears, all the progress her daughter has made.

On Tuesday, Kathy testified at the budget hearings, asking that the Senate restore funding proposed by the governor and cut by the House for developmental disabilities, early intervention services and to fully fund the wait list of people awaiting services from the state. It’s not the first time she’s testified in front of the Legislature, and it likely won’t be the last, she noted — Health and Human Services are often eyed for savings during the budget crafting process. [Full story]

Nashua Telegraph Op-Ed: Restore money for rail

J. Christopher Williams is president and CEO of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce. Michael Skelton is president of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.

The Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce recently joined together to advocate for the New Hampshire Senate to restore funding in the governor’s budget that would allow the State to continue pursuing passenger rail in southern NH along the Capitol Corridor. Our joint letter of support that was recently sent to the Senate Finance Committee was cosigned by 30 companies based in Nashua and Manchester.

Nineteen of those companies that signed onto this letter are from the Nashua area and include companies like Integra Biosciences, C&M Machining Products, Parallel Wireless, J. Lawrence Hall, and W.H. Bagshaw.

Together with the Manchester Chamber, our two organizations represent more than 1,500 businesses across Southern New Hampshire that employ tens of thousands of our state’s residents and generate millions in economic activity. The Nashua-Manchester corridor also serves as the economic backbone of our entire state; as goes the economic output of our region, so goes the rest of New Hampshire.

Therefore, economic growth along the Nashua-Manchester corridor is important to the overall growth of our entire state’s economy.

The New Hampshire Capitol Corridor rail project could have a transformative impact on New Hampshire’s economy by positively impacting the Nashua-Manchester corridor. We urge the Senate to restore the $4 million in capital funding previously earmarked for the Capitol Corridor’s project development phase. This next phase would allow the state to appropriately vet the feasibility of rail expansion by completing the necessary engineering and environmental analysis of the Capitol Corridor project. If full funding is unavailable, we ask the Senate to consider a phased-funding approach for the project development process.

… At the top of this piece, we specifically referenced companies like Integra Biosciences, Parallel Wireless and C&M Machining Products – just a few of the many companies who cosigned this letter to the Senate, and just a few of the many other companies across our region that understand they need those benefits described above – the ability to attract more young workers in the coming years, along with housing and other mixed-use developments that would sprout around the rail stops and therefore provide appealing places for those workers to live, work and play.

Companies like Integra Biosciences and Parallel Wireless do business around the world, and their work itself is cutting-edge within their respective industries. The 30 companies that signed onto this letter are real-world examples of business entities currently based in southern and who understand our state’s future economic livelihood relies upon connecting New Hampshire’s infrastructure into the rest of New England. Our Manchester-Nashua- Lowell corridor represents the single densest area of population in the entire country that is not currently served by rail. This is not a fact of which our state should be proud, nor is it a fact that speaks well for the ability of our area to attract in the future more companies like those referenced in this editorial and which signed onto our letter of support.

We implore our state senators to consider restoring the $4 million in funding to allow the project development phase of the Capitol Corridor rail expansion project to move forward. Completing this phase will allow for a complete understanding of the costs and benefits of rail expansion and allow policymakers and the public to have the facts needed to consider this important economic opportunity for New Hampshire. [Full op-ed]

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]

AFT-NH Red Alert: Right To Work Is Back!

YES, THAT IS CORRECT; THE SO CALL RIGHT TO WORK IS BACK! 

The full Senate will be voting on a version of the bill this coming Thursday, April 30th. The Senate Finance Committee recommended ‘Ought to Pass” on HB 658-FN, prohibiting collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join a labor union. This bill comes from Wisconsin and Scott Walker’s play book.  It excludes Police Officers and Firefighters.   I think the statement by Representative Doug Ley sums it all up: “…Furthermore, the decision to carve out exceptions for police officers and firefighters was justified on grounds of the need for unit cohesion. That same logic can apply to any workplace including those where employers and labor organizations agree to allow the union to recover the costs of negotiating for and defending non-union employees. Such interference in the freedom to contract is unacceptable to the minority [Democrats on House Labor Committee].

Over the past two years hundreds of NH citizens voiced opposition to this bill with only a handful of people speaking in support. This attack on working people like you is led by out-of-state interests such as the National Right to Work Committee and ALEC. Don’t let the voice of NH residents to be silenced.

Pass the word to friends and family members. Your Senator needs to hear from you. Simply put, this is a union-busting bill and an attack on our public employees and middle class families.

Please share this with colleagues so they know the seriousness of these attacks. So let’s GET ACTIVE and let these state Senators hear our voices.

Your immediate action will send a strong message to your Senator.

Thank you.

In Solidarity,

Laura Hainey

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