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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

4-15-15 AFT-NH Legislative Update: The Budget 

The State budget is now in the hands of the Senate Finance committee. They have set up several meeting with agency heads (see below for the schedule).

There have been many news articles stating that the Senate has several goals when putting together the budget:

  • uphold previous commitments, including using dedicated money for its intended purpose,
  • protecting the state’s most vulnerable citizens,
  • add money to the rainy day fund, and
  • improve the business climate, in part by reducing business taxes.


AFT-NH can agree with the first three goals, but as to the fourth we need to remember that by cutting business taxes there will be less revenue for the State. 

We know that in New Hampshire we have few revenue sources and we have a regressive tax system, meaning that citizens who have the least to spare pay the most. To read more on this click here. AFT-NH supports incremental, common-sense reforms designed to make NH’s existing tax system fairer and to produce the revenue needed to preserve the public services essential to NH’s residents, businesses, and visitors.  All of this is vital to our shared economic success.

AFT-NH believes that the Senate should consider passing or including the following bills when putting their version of the budget together:

HOUSE BILL 634-FN-A;AN ACT
 relative to applying the interest and dividends tax to trusts, increasing exemptions, and extending the tax to capital gains; and relative to homeowners property tax relief.

Dramatic revenue shortfalls are having a devastating effect on funding for public services at the State and local levels. While our economy is now growing, the recent economic downturn, sometimes called the Great Recession, has limited our communities’ ability to provide the healthcare, schools, colleges, public safety and transportation that people take for granted in good years but that they increasingly rely on in bad times.

HB 634 will generate as much as $100 million in revenue each year once fully implemented, while providing approximately $25 million annually to cities and towns with the creation of a dedicated funding source for general revenue sharing. These are revenues which are much needed in New Hampshire. This revenue could also help to offset the increases in local property taxes that communities were forced to impose when the state no longer contributed its share to the NH retirement system for local government workers.

HB 551-FN, relative to preventing diversion of business income to tax havens.

Companies doing business in New Hampshire can still avoid paying tax by shifting income overseas to offshore tax havens–places such as the Cayman Islands that have very low or nonexistent taxes. Companies use a variety of strategies to accomplish this and our State loses millions every year in taxable corporate revenue.

To prevent overseas tax haven abuse, states can close the “water’s edge” loophole and require companies not only to report income in other states but also the income stored in tax havens as part of their combined reporting.

Tax reforms that close corporate tax loopholes are especially popular, commanding overwhelming support. Americans want to see corporations pay their fair share, rather than see cuts in education or major entitlement programs and this remains true across party lines.

Cracking down on tax haven abuse is a step toward fairness. Closing the corporate tax loopholes that simply help the rich get richer, while most Americans are paying more in state and local taxes, will tilt the playing field toward fairness.

The Senate Education Committee will be holding public hearings on:

HB 491:  relative to immunity for school personnel using reasonable force to protect a minor. This bill would permit a teacher or other person entrusted with the care or supervision of a minor or pupil to use reasonable force to end a disturbance, to maintain safety, or to remove the pupil or minor from the premises under certain circumstances.  AFT-NH will continue to support and advocate for this bill to pass.

HB 323: relative to the administration of the statewide assessment program.

AFT-NH believe in assessments that support teaching and learning, and align with curriculum rather than narrow it; that are developed through collaborative efforts, not picked off a shelf; that are focused on measuring growth and continuous development instead of arbitrary targets unconnected to how students learn; that rely on diverse, authentic and multiple indicators of student performance rather than filling in bubbles; and that provide information leading to appropriate interventions that help students, teachers and schools to improve, not just impose sanctions that undermine them.

Further, we believe that assessments designed to support teaching and learning must contribute to school and classroom environments that nurture growth, collaboration, curiosity and invention—essential elements of a 21st-century education that have too often been sacrificed in favor of test prep and testing. Specifically, we call on the consortia currently developing assessments aligned to the standards to do their part in solving this by including the crucial voices of teachers in the development of these assessments. We know that collaboration with educators is necessary to ensure that high-quality instruction and content are given their proper emphasis.

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey
AFT-NH President

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UPCOMING HEARINGS 

Wednesday, April 15

10 am House in Session

Senate FINANCE, Room 103, SH
Sen. Forrester (C), Sen. Little (VC), Sen. Morse, Sen. Reagan, Sen. D’Allesandro, Sen. Hosmer
AGENCY PRESENTATIONS ON THE BUDGET AS PASSED BY THE HOUSE
9:00 a.m. Public Employee Labor Relations Board
9:30 a.m. Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food
10:00 a.m. Liquor Commission
10:30 a.m. Department of Corrections
11:30 a.m. University System
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

Thursday, April 16

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

Friday, April 17

Senate FINANCE, Room 103, SH
Sen. Forrester (C), Sen. Little (VC), Sen. Morse, Sen. Reagan, Sen. D’Allesandro, Sen. Hosmer
AGENCY PRESENTATIONS ON THE BUDGET AS PASSED BY THE HOUSE
11:00 a.m. Department of Justice
12:00 p.m. BREAK
1:00 p.m. Judicial Branch
2:00 p.m. Judicial Council
2:30 p.m. Department of Information Technology
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

Tuesday, April 21

House MUNICIPAL AND COUNTY GOVERNMENT, Room 301, LOB
10:15 a.m. SB 242-L, relative to amending the budget in towns that have adopted official ballot voting.

Thursday, April 23

House MUNICIPAL AND COUNTY GOVERNMENT, Room 301, LOB
10:00 a.m. Executive session on
SB 242-L, relative to amendingthe budget in towns that have adopted official ballot voting.

Tuesday, May 5

House HEALTH, HUMAN SERVICES AND ELDERLY AFFAIRS, Rooms 205-207, LOB
10:00 a.m. Kids Count presentation.

We Need A New Hampshire Senate That Puts People Above Big Business

Cutting Taxes 3-dThis week the Republican controlled State Senate chose to put business profits ahead of working families, by voting to cut taxes for big business.

The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute reported, “SB 1, which would lower the business profits tax (BPT) rate, and SB 2, which would lower the business enterprise tax (BET) rate, together likely would reduce state revenue by nearly $80 million on a biennial basis once fully phased in.”

That’s right boys and girls, the GOP wants to slash $80 million dollars from our budget and give that all to big business. $80 million dollars is a lot of money. That would build a lot of bridges, pave a lot of roads, repair a lot of schools, and employee a lot of people.

“These business tax cuts will not create jobs or boost the economy, but instead will drain millions of dollars out of the state budget each year,” said Jeff McLynch, executive director of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute.

The Union Leader reported, “(Democrats) noted only 1 percent of the businesses in the state pay 76 percent of the business profits tax, meaning large out-of-state corporations produce the bulk of the revenue. ‘This is a giveaway to large, out-of-state corporations,’ said Sen. David Pierce, D-Hanover. ‘It puts the interests of large, out-of-state corporations ahead of the needs of the people of New Hampshire and ahead of the needs of the state’s small businesses.’”

“Senate Republicans are so obsessed with implementing the Koch Brothers agenda of more tax giveaways for big businesses that they’re willing to blow a $78 million hole in the budget and make middle class families and small businesses pay the price,” said Raymond Buckley, Chair of the NH Democratic Party.

Cutting taxes is the mantra of the Republican Party. Cut taxes for businesses and voila` economic prosperity and budgets overflowing with tax revenues. It is the cure all for everything! Cut taxes and more businesses will move here then with the additional revenue we can build whatever we need. We need new bridges, cut taxes. We cannot pay our bills this year, then cut taxes!

This trickle down theory of economics has failed so many times I have lost count. President Reagan, hero to the current Republican Party, drove our nation into debt with tax giveaways like this. The President George W. Bush doubled down on Reagan’s policies and cut taxes during wartime, leading to the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression.

 (Image Gage Skidmore Flikr CC)

(Image Gage Skidmore Flikr CC)

More recently, Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas put this theory into action when he signed “one of the largest tax cut bills in Kansas history.”

“Since the tax cuts took effect at the beginning of 2013, Kansas has added jobs at a pace modestly slower than the country as a whole. The earnings and incomes of Kansans have performed slightly worse than the U.S. as a whole as well.” (Read more here.)

It worked so well that Kansas has had their credit rating downgraded. Standard and Poor’s lowered the state’s credit ratingbecause of theses tax cuts.

“The downgrades reflect our view of a structurally unbalanced budget, following state income tax cuts that have not been matched with offsetting ongoing expenditure cuts in the fiscal 2015 budget,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst David Hitchcock in a release.

Yet even after the downgrade, Gov. Brownback believes that cutting taxes is the way to grow your economy. “We need jobs and we have proven the way to that is through lower taxes,” Brownback told the press.

However others have outright rejected the idea that lowering business taxes and keeping the minimum wage low will attract new business to the state.

Minnesota took a very different approach. They raised taxes on the wealthy and raised their minimum wage.

“Every Minnesotan will pay more under this tax bill, and unfortunately it’s going to harm Minnesota’s economy and hurt job growth in the state,” said House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown.

The thing is that Minority Leader Kurt was absolutely wrong! This week it was reported that due to the progressive agenda of the Governor and the Legislature, Minnesota is expecting to have a $2 billion dollar surplus!

Minnesota’s State Economist Laura Kalambokidis said rising wages and lower gas prices mean more money for consumers and thus more taxes for the state. Meanwhile, the state will save more than $100 million over the next two years because there will be fewer than expected students in poverty and with special needs, as well as fewer students overall.”

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton plans to use the additional money by investing in schools, implementing a fully funded Pre-K program, and to conduct some much needed infrastructure repairs.

I guess we need to ask ourselves, what type of New Hampshire do we want? Do we want a state that gets downgraded, has sluggish job growth, and stagnant wages? If so, then we should definitely cut taxes for these large corporations.

Or, do we want a state that is rebuilding our failing roads and bridges, investing and expanding public education, and building a strong and thriving economy? That’s the New Hampshire I want, and cutting taxes is the wrong approach.

Cutting taxes is not the magic solution to every problem. Someone once said, you can tell me what you value, however, me your budget and I will tell you what you truly value.

If we enact these tax cut for large corporations, who are we really helping? Big Business or real Granite Staters.

State Senator Jeff Woodburn To Tour US Post Offices Celebrating The Anniversary Of Federal Mail Service

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Written by
Janice Kelble, Legislative Director
NH Postal Workers Union

While Tuesday & Wednesday were days spent at the NH Statehouse defending against so called “Right to Work” and other attacks on working folks, we had a bit of good news from the northern part of the State. The APWU and the NALC were pleased to get a call from NH State Senate Minority Leader, Jeff Woodburn. Senator Woodburn called to inform us of his plan to pro-actively recognize the importance of a public Post Office.

Senator Woodburn will be touring U.S. Post Offices throughout Coos and Grafton Counties to celebrate the anniversary of federal mail service being signed into law by President George Washington on February 20, 1792.

The Senator is inviting residents to join him in celebrating this vital public service that American’s depend on. “US Postal Services has proud history and remains a vital link to connect rural New Hampshire to the rest of the state and nation,” Woodburn said. ”

His tentative schedule includes stops at the following post offices:

08:30 – 09:00 am Lincoln Post Office
09:30 – 10:00 am Franconia Post Office
10:15 – 10:45 am Sugar Hill Post Office
11:00 – 11:30 am Littleton Post Office
01:30 – 2:00 pm Berlin Post Office
02:30 – 2:45 pm Milan Post Office
03:15 – 3:30 pm Groveton Post Office
04:30 – 5:00 pm Colebrook Post Office

In 2006 the Postal Accountability Enhancement Act (PAEA) was signed into law, putting a noose around the neck of the Postal Service. Slowly the Service has eroded as the USPS cuts back service, by reducing Post Office hours, closing and consolidating processing facilities, attempting to cut back delivery days and drastically reducing delivery service standards. It is not too late to turn things around. While letter mail volume has declined, package mail is booming and the mail network must be maintained to preserve a thriving robust public Postal Service!

We need more elected officials like Senator Woodburn who go out of their way to recognize important public services and to honor the workers. With all of the threats of privatization of the USPS we hope more legislators will speak out in favor of retaining this trusted public institution. A big “thank you” to Senator Woodburn from the NH Postal Workers Union and from The NH Association of Letter Carriers.

For more information or to get an updated schedule, contact Sen. Woodburn at 603.271.3207 or Jeff.Woodburn@Leg.state.nh.us.

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