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SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Response to Governor’s Compromise Budget Proposal

On Thursday morning, Gov. Maggie Hassan presented a compromise budget proposal and urged lawmakers to get to work quickly to reach an agreement.

The compromise proposal includes more funding for numerous key priorities, including winter road maintenance, fighting the addiction epidemic, overtime at the Department of Corrections, and the Community College System of New Hampshire. The proposal also includes funding for the new state employee contract negotiated by SEA/SEIU Local 1984 members; the Legislature cut funding for that agreement during budget negotiations.

Following the press conference, SEA/SEIU Local 1984 President Richard Gulla issued the following statement:

“We applaud the governor for proactively putting forward a budget compromise that incorporates priorities from both Republicans and Democrats, and including the funding necessary to fulfill the fairly negotiated contract for the hard working state employees who deliver quality public services to our state every day,” Gulla said.

“Throughout this budget process, our members have continued to do their jobs to make sure our roads are safe, our veterans and most needy are cared for, and that Granite Staters have the tools they need to compete for good jobs in today’s economy,” Gulla said. “Now it’s time for the Legislature to do its job, by coming back to the table quickly and reaching a bipartisan compromise by the target date of Sept. 16 so that we have a state budget that meets the needs of our state.”

Richard Gulla: New Hampshire Budget Reveals An ‘Ideological Assault’

By RICHARD GULLA
President of the State Employees’ Association (SEIU 1984)

Rich Gulla (SEA/ SEIU 1984 President) It’s been written that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. This adage fits well with the New Hampshire Senate budget that was pushed through along party lines – the Legislature continues to cut revenue and then tell us we cannot afford to invest in our state.

Over the next few weeks, legislators from the New Hampshire House and Senate will work to iron out the differences in their respective budgets. Unfortunately for the state’s citizens, neither budget meets the basic needs of the state; and the finished product is likely to reflect that.

The Senate budget severely underfunds the state’s community colleges and universities; underfunds substance abuse programs; does not provide enough support for those living with mental health issues; does not provide for snow removal; and downshifts even more costs to towns and municipalities. Their budget also includes the closure of Health and Human Services district offices in four communities – Conway, Claremont, Rochester and Laconia. Some of the communities that are in greatest need.

The Senate also failed to honor the collective bargaining agreement that was negotiated in good faith between the state of New Hampshire and the State Employees’ Association of New Hampshire (SEA/SEIU 1984).

SEIU 1984 LogoIn fact, the Senate Finance Committee did not even discuss the contract in committee, even after Sen. Lou D’Allesandro requested that it be discussed more than once.

Despite several meetings between Senate leadership and SEA/SEIU 1984 representatives and assurances made by the senators, the collective bargaining agreement for thousands of hard-working state employees was not given the opportunity it deserved – to be heard and discussed. This disrespectful treatment of workers is disappointing, frustrating and disheartening.

The proposed budget provides a solid look at what today’s GOP supports: lower taxes for big out-of-state businesses. As a bonus, they are adding language in another bill for a special tax break for former governor Craig Benson and his wealthy friends at Planet Fitness. If you are keeping score at home: It is tens of millions of dollars for the wealthy and corporations, and zip for working families and people in need.

Ordinarily, our organization is bipartisan. We do not care if an elected leader is a Republican, Democrat or independent – if he or she supports public sector workers and the services they deliver to New Hampshire citizens, we are friends.

At this time, though, it must be clear to even the most casual political observers that we are facing an ideological assault that is unprecedented in its agenda and harmful to our citizens.

Every cut to expenditures and every cut in revenue is designed to hack away at our infrastructure; infrastructure that in many cases was built by the Republican party of yesterday – a party that believed in investing in our children, families and communities. They are bulldozing our future and then congratulating themselves because they cut needed services.

We cannot afford to continue doing the same things over and over again, expecting different results. We call upon our legislators to take this opportunity in committee of conference to build a budget that both parties can support, by funding these critical services and the hardworking people who deliver them every day.

Otherwise, the budget next year will look much like the budget this year, and all the budgets before it.

SEA/SEIU 1984 Encourages Committee of Conference to Produce a Better Budget

A statement by Richard Gulla, President, SEA/SEIU Local 1984

It’s been written that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  This adage fits well with the NH Senate budget that was pushed through along party lines – the legislature continues to cut revenue and then tell us we cannot afford to invest in our state.

Over the next few weeks, legislators from the NH House and Senate will work to iron out the differences in their respective budgets. Unfortunately for NH citizens, neither budget meets the basic needs of the state; and the finished product is likely to reflect that.

The Senate budget severely underfunds the state’s community college and state universities; underfunds substance abuse programs; does not provide enough support for those living with mental health issues; does not provide for snow removal; and downshifts even more costs to towns and municipalities.  Their budget also includes the closure of Health and Human Services district offices in four communities – Conway, Claremont, Rochester, and Laconia; some of the communities in greatest need.

The Senate also failed to honor the collective bargaining agreement that was negotiated in good faith between the State of NH and the State Employees’ Association of NH (SEA/SEIU1984).  In fact, the Senate Finance Committee did not even discuss the contract in committee, even after Sen. Lou D’Allesandro requested that it be discussed more than once.  Despite several meetings between Senate leadership and SEA/SEIU 1984 representatives and assurances made by the Senators, the collective bargaining agreement for thousands of hard working state employees was not given the opportunity it deserved – to be heard and discussed. This disrespectful treatment of workers is disappointing, frustrating and disheartening.

The proposed budget provides a solid look at what today’s GOP supports: lower taxes for big out of state businesses and as a bonus they are adding language in another bill for a special tax break for former Governor Benson and his wealthy friends at Planet Fitness. If you are keeping score at home, it is tens of millions of dollars for the wealthy and corporations and zip for working families and people in need.

Ordinarily, our organization is bipartisan. We do not care if an elected leader is a Republican, Democrat, or Independent – if he or she supports public sector workers and the services they deliver to NH citizens, we are friends. At this time, though, it must be clear to even the most casual political observers that we are facing an ideological assault that is unprecedented in its agenda and harmful to our citizens.  Every cut to expenditures and every cut in revenue is designed to hack away at our infrastructure; infrastructure that in many cases was built by the Republican party of yesterday – a party that believed in investing in our children, families and communities. They are bulldozing our future and then congratulating themselves because they cut needed services.

We cannot afford to continue doing the same things over and over again, expecting different results. We call upon our legislators to take this opportunity in committee of conference to build a budget that both parties can support, by funding these critical services and the hardworking people who deliver them every day.  Otherwise, the budget next year will look much like the budget this year, and all the budgets before it.

Full Senate Rejects Amendment to Include Employees’ Contract in Budget

Rich Gulla (SEA/ SEIU 1984 President) A statement from Richard Gulla, President
of the State Employees’ Association (SEIU 1984) 

On behalf of the thousands of state employees throughout New Hampshire, I wish to extend my gratitude to Senator Lou D’Allesandro for opening a dialogue about the employment contract between the state and its employees at today’s Senate Session.  He not only broke the silence about this obviously missing budget item, but advocated for the hard-working employees who keep the state running.

We also thank the other Senators who spoke in favor of and voted in support of funding the modest cost of living raise that is contained in the new contract.  With the exception of one Republican Senator, the vote was according to party line and regrettably the amendment was not accepted.

To be clear, state employees don’t come to work each day or shift with political party loyalties on their minds – they come to work to serve every NH citizen and visitor 365 days a year regardless of political party affiliation. State employees work diligently and deserve to be compensated accordingly. There has been a constant bombardment of efforts to decrease their benefits including their health insurance and certainly their pensions. This is yet another reminder that certain legislators do not value their efforts.

Senate Budget Writers Ignore State Employees Contract

An open letter from Richard Gulla,
President SEA/SEIU Local 1984

Rich Gulla (SEA/ SEIU 1984 President) On behalf of the thousands of state employees who daily give their best efforts to providing necessary services for the citizens and visitors of our state, I register our disappointment with the NH Senate Finance Committee for not including funds to provide a contracted cost of living adjustment for the employees in their budget.  Although included in Governor Hassan’s budget, the NH House of Representatives and the Senate did not include these funds in their respective versions of the state budget.

Several months ago, the state’s bargaining team and the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 team reached a mutual agreement that provides for a modest salary increase over the next two years.  This contract was negotiated in good faith by both parties.  In not including the funds necessary to meet this contract obligation in their budget, the NH House of Representatives and the Senate have revealed their disdain and lack of appreciation for the services these committed public servants provide.

Two years ago we heard loud and clear from Senator Morse that he was displeased with the state workers’ contract not being settled in time for consideration prior to the end of the budget process.  This time, we worked diligently to begin negotiations early so that the contract could be included sooner  in the budget timeline.  The state’s and the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 bargaining teams put in long hours of research, discussion, and negotiations to arrive at this mutually agreeable and  reasonable contract. And what is the result of that effort – first,  the funding is stripped from the Governor’s budget by the House of Representatives.  And, now the Senate has completely ignored the contract.  They did not even discuss the contract with the employees who help deliver many of the  services they restored funding to, such as Service Link, Meals on Wheels to name a few.

In not even discussing the merits or concerns they may have with the small cost of living raise for thousands of workers across the state, the Senate Finance Committee acted irresponsibly and state workers lose out. This is quite a message the Senate Finance Committee is sending to thousands of dedicated workers who have long been “doing more with less,” handling impossible caseloads, doing the jobs of two or three people, fueling the state’s economy, going the extra mile to serve the state’s citizens and visitors.

We call upon the full Senate to act responsibly when they meet next week to discuss and vote on the budget.  We are hopeful they will do the right thing – recognize the contract, talk about it and approve it.

Sincerely,

Richard Gulla
President, SEA/SEIU Local 1984

 UPDATE 2:45pm

Senator Lou D’Allesandro Comments on Failure to Include State Employee Contract in Budget

Concord, NH – As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Lou D’Allesandro made the following comments today following the completion of the committee’s work on the state operating budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017:

“I’m disappointed that in formulating the Senate budget, one item that was completely left out was the already negotiated pay raise for state employees,” said Sen. D’Allesandro. “The state’s collective bargaining team had come to an agreement with the State Employees Association on a modest 2% cost-of-living increase.  The House removed funding for the increase from its budget and the Senate failed to address the issue. This creates unfinished business.  What kind of a message does it send to our workforce that we take the time to develop tax cuts for big corporations but don’t fund a modest wage increase for our hard working NH employees?”

Stop Short-Changing NH’s Community Colleges

Nashua Community College (Cropped) (Wiki Commons)Ongoing Layoffs Contradictory to CCSNH’s Mission

The Community College System of New Hampshire (CCSNH) has adopted a mission of educating 65 percent of NH’s workforce by 2025; however, ongoing job cuts are contradictory to that mission.

Over the last week, more than two dozen faculty and staff members have been laid off across three of the CCSNH colleges, with more cuts expected. While the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 — the union representing CCSNH’s faculty, staff and adjunct faculty members — supports the system’s mission, we believe that cutting full-time faculty and staff and replacing them with low-paid, unbenefited, part-time faculty and staff, while also creating highly paid administrator positions, does little to support a strong community college system.

At a time when the state is focused on getting Granite Staters the skills they need to compete in today’s workforce, these layoffs will be particularly destructive.

“If we want skilled workers that meet the needs of New Hampshire’s businesses, we need to invest in higher education, not lay off long-term, dedicated employees with proven records of success,” said Annette Cohen, a faculty member at Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth, one of the campuses affected by layoffs in the last week. The others affected are Lakes Region Community College in Laconia and White Mountains Community College in Berlin.

New data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities show that funding for public colleges and universities in New Hampshire is 26 percent below pre-recession levels.

“We agree that CCSNH needs better funding, but layoffs of faculty and staff will only make it more difficult for the colleges to deliver on their mission of providing an accessible, affordable,  high quality education,” said SEA/SEIU Local 1984 President Rich Gulla.

All of CCSNH’s community colleges have suffered from severe cuts and layoffs. Approximately 65 employees have been affected over the last three years, with slightly less than half notified within the last few days.

The SEA/SEIU Local 1984 represents full-time faculty, full-time and part-time staff, and adjunct faculty at all seven CCSNH campuses.

NH House Republicans Push Through Their Immoral Reckless Budget

 

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Today hundreds of Granite Staters filled the State Capitol building holding signs and asking legislators to oppose these reckless cuts to the New Hampshire budget.  Labor leaders, community activists and concerned citizens delivered over 800 signed petitions opposing these reckless budget cuts.

“A budget is a statement of our priorities as a community and in that sense it is an expression of our values,” explained the Rev. Jonathan Hopkins, President of the NH Council of Churches and pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church. “Our faith leads us to pay attention to the common good, not just to the interests of individuals. Our faith calls for a budget that is fair and just.”

One area of the proposed budget cuts that drew outrage today were the cuts to social programs to help people overcome their additions to drugs and alcohol. Hundred gathered and participated in a “die in” on the State House steps. (Images above of the ‘die in’ courtesy of Steve Kloppenburg)

Their voices and concerns were ignored as the House Republicans pushed through their budget with devastating cuts to a variety of state programs.

“In amending the House Finance Committee-recommended budget that already hurt families, undermined business growth and took our economy backward, Republicans in the House of Representatives managed today to make a reckless budget even worse,” stated Governor Maggie Hassan. (Full Statement Here)

“To gain the support of Bill O’Brien and the Koch Brothers, House Republicans passed a budget today that is so extreme that even the Republican House Finance Chair admitted that our state would suffer if it were actually enacted,” said Ray Buckley, Chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

“The House did a fantastic job of making New Hampshire more free market and more competitive, and forth and for most it takes out all the tax increases,” said AFP State Director Greg Moore in an press conference last week.

During the debate on the House floor Representative William O’Brien, who pushed a similar budget cuts through the House in 2011 when he was Speaker, offered an amendment to raid the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” to find extra money to make their budget work.

“From raiding dedicated funds to downshifting costs onto local communities, the O’Brien-Jasper budget proves once again that New Hampshire Republicans can’t be taken seriously on fiscal responsibility,” said Buckley. “Possibly the most fiscally irresponsible action in the O’Brien-Jasper budget deal — and that’s saying something — is O’Brien’s floor amendment to empty the state’s rainy day fund.”

“As lawmakers entered the State House, today they were greeted by hundreds of protesters decrying the O’Brien-Jasper budget’s drastic cuts. But instead of listening to the outcry from every corner of the state, O’Brien and Jasper decided to wipe out the state’s rainy day fund and threaten a credit downgrade to make even deeper cuts, including cutting funding for community colleges, further cutting our already strained corrections system, and laying off nurses at New Hampshire hospital,” continued Buckley.

“Voters will not stand for the fiscally irresponsible Jasper-O’Brien budget that empties the state’s rainy day fund, raids dedicated funds, slashes critical economic priorities for small businesses and middle class families, and downshifts costs onto local property taxpayers,” concluded Buckley.

One of the budget tactics used by Republicans to fund their disastrous budget would reverse the pay increased negotiated by the State Employees Association. These are the same workers who are now facing the potential of massive layoffs.

“When I was a child growing up in NH, the state leaders were fiscally conservative and responsible,” said Richard Gulla, President of SEA/SEIU Local 1984. “The legislature was primarily Republican and when need be, they would find ways to raise revenue for items our state’s citizens needed and there was a good balance between revenue and spending. That is no longer the case.”

The Tea Party extremists have taken over the House and refuse to raise revenues even though the state desperately needs it.

“The members of SEA/SEIU 1984 want our state to be a safe place for everyone to live, work, and prosper. The NH House budget does not promote these priorities – it disrupts them,” wrote the State Employees Association. “Even though they did not prevail, we salute the legislators who voted in favor of funding the state employees’ contract.”

“While today’s vote was gravely disappointing, we now look to the NH Senate to prepare a budget that is frugal yet reasonable and responsible,” concluded the SEA.

Community groups and fiscal watchdogs were quick to blast Republicans in the House for passing this budget that is guaranteed to harm our state and our economy.

“The House version of the budget is foolhardy and shortsighted. It unnecessarily pits important state priorities against one another rather than making real investments in our community, our infrastructure, and our people,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. “It kicks the can down the road on identifying reasonable revenue sources that ensure the wealthy and corporations are paying their fair share, and it turns its back on programs that, if funded today, will save our state money in the long run.”

“The House budget pits vital public services against one another in an attempt to achieve a misguided sense of balance. This budget puts many of our state’s most vulnerable residents at risk, forcing cities and towns — and local taxpayers – to take on greater responsibilities and to face higher costs in the long run,” said New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute Executive Director Jeff McLynch. (Full Statement Here)

Now we look to the New Hampshire Senate to see how they blend their two proposals together and craft the budget for the next two years. We already know that the Senate passed a business tax reduction that gives away millions to businesses while force deeper cuts to state agencies.

Will the Senate find a way to fix the cuts proposed by the House, or will they bend to the Tea Party extremists and force New Hampshire backwards?

 

Related article and recommended reading:

Republican Budget Cuts In New Hampshire Provoke Backlash From Clergy

 

Maureen Mann: Cuts To The Department Of Transportation

potholesBy Maureen Mann,
Former NH State Rep

Originally posted at http://bit.ly/1xmjt1S

In the past week, the Republican majority of the Finance Committee of the NH House voted to approve two major changes to the DOT. First, they have taken an innocuous bill about changing a name or address on a drivers license, and replaced the original content with removal of the DOT from the state budget. Second, members of the committee have approved a cut of $88 million from that budget. This is a projected 42 percent cut in funding which includes a $4.8 million cut in winter maintenance.

Cuts to the DOT budget mean a massive lose in federal funds coming to NH.  Most major DOT projects–Route 93, the Sarah Long Bridge in Portsmouth which carries nuclear waste from the Navy Yard, etc–are based on 80/20 funds [80% federal and 20% state]. This is money NH residents have paid in federal taxes which we get back in federal grants. Currently NH sees a return of about 77 cents on each dollar paid by NH residents. Without our part of the match we will see less return and there is a serious threat that projects in progress will stop.

Route 93 is a prime example. The federal and environmental permits for Route 93 expire in 2020. If the work is not completed by that date the project stops dead.  It will take years to acquire new permits and meanwhile our neighbors in VT, ME and MA have all budgeted for increased infrastructure spending.  When heavy duty contractors such as Pike and Continental leave NH we will not get them back until projects elsewhere are done. Meanwhile, residents, tourists and business drives will sit in construction for hours.

This is a state which claims to support business. Yet poor roads and construction on Route 93 are already creating a problem in attracting new business to NH. One of the first questions asked of those recruiting businesses to NH is when Route 93 will be completed. Studies show that what really attracts business is an educated workforce, dependable and adequate transportation infrastructure, and universal high speed internet access.

According to an article in the March 19 Union Leader, $68 million of the cuts is mostly in personnel; half of DOT regular employees will be laid off. What the article does not explain is that over 60 percent of DOT employees are private contractors.  The people who build and reconstruct our highways, plow our roads, clear our ditches and cut brush along highways will be unemployed.  Some are small independents and some are huge contractor. Is this how we treat those who have worked long hours to ensure public safety during the enormous and frequent storms of this winter?”

Downshifting to our towns is another affect of the cuts.  The 4.2 cent increase in the road toll last July, combined with the current DOT budget, insured not only the completion of Route 93 but included increased funding for the six state highway betterment districts and additional funding to cities and towns. Those local costs will be downshifted to our communities which will result in more pot holes and less repair and reconstruction. We will also see closure of welcome centers and rest areas, limits and reductions in paving, closing of red-lined bridges or offers to communities to take some over. Good thing the repeal of the road toll, sponsored by our local reps, failed by such an overwhelming vote.

This is just one example of the “cut spending” mantra not being the solution, but the problem.

(Consider supporting Maureen Mann for NH State Rep via Act Blue)

Fox Business News: http://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/2015/03/16/new-hampshire-transportation-officials-protest-41m-cut-proposed-by-house-budget/

Concord Monitor: http://mobile.concordmonitor.com/home/16134371-108/dot-warns-lawmakers-budget-cut-would-mean-loss-of-321-employees

WMUR: http://www.wmur.com/politics/dot-41-million-cut-would-make-roads-dangerous-result-in-layoffs/31836146?absolute=true&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=wmur9_politics

Concord Monitor: http://mobile.concordmonitor.com/home/16134371-108/dot-warns-lawmakers-budget-cut-would-mean-loss-of-321-employees

NH Labor News: http://nhlabornews.com/2015/03/nhdp-bill-obrien-budget-part-2-who-will-plow-our-roads/

Union Leader: http://www.unionleader.com/article/20150318/NEWS0621/150318983/1010/news06

State Employees Association President Richard Gulla’s Testimony Opposing Proposed Amendment to Gut DOT Funding

 Concord, NH – At a public hearing earlier this morning, Richard Gulla, President of SEA/SEIU Local 194 testified in opposition to a non-germane amendment to HB357.

Rich Gulla (SEA/ SEIU 1984 President) The seemingly innocuous bill was originally drafted for consumer protection – to extend the grace period for making name changes  (through marriage or divorce) to your driver’s license. A proposed amendment to the law now calls for placing the NH Department of Transportation’s budget into this bill and cutting its budget by over $40 million, which will result in limited services, a serious threat to public safety, and the loss of employment for at least 321 DOT workers. The bill’s original sponsor, Rep. Myler, Merrimack District 10, registered such distress with the changes made to his bill that he asked the Finance Committee if there was any way to have his name disassociated from it saying that the proposed amendment goes against his integrity and the legacy of his many years in the legislature.

Gulla was one of a dozen individuals providing testimony in opposition to the amendment.  No one spoke in support of it.

President Gulla’s testimony in opposition to the amendment follows:

Good morning Madame Chairwoman, members of the committee, my name is Richard Gulla, and I am president of the State Employees’ Association, SEIU Local 1984. We represent the majority of state employees across the state and for today’s purpose, that includes the hardworking women and men at the NH Department of Transportation.

Joining me today is Brian Hawkins, government relations coordinator for the SEA.

This morning I am here to testify in opposition to proposed Amendment 0855h to House Bill 357. In addition to cutting $22 million from the Governor’s proposed budget for an agency already operating as lean as possible, this bill would cut specifically from personnel an additional $41 million over the biennium. We believe these cuts would have a devastating effect on the Department and for our state.

People are at the heart of this department; they are what make the New

Hampshire DOT work. Without them, this department cannot deliver the critical services we saw over this winter, nor can they keep our roads and bridges safe and maintained throughout the year. DOT workers quite literally keep New Hampshire moving.

Our New Hampshire economy and our overall success thrive on our roads being safe and maintained. Business depends on moving their goods in a timely manner and our tourism industry needs customers to be able to get to their establishments: the restaurant and outlets in Conway, the skiers at Waterville Valley, the hikers headed to Monadnock, and the weekend getaway seekers at the Mount Washington just to name a few. And let’s not forget the workers who, each and every day, need to be able to get to work or they don’t get paid and the business owners who suffer as well when employees can’t make it in.

Over the years, DOT workers have shown this state what they can do despite the dwindling numbers they have seen over the past decade. Two years ago when the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge malfunctioned, ships were lining up in the water on either side of the bridge waiting for the repairs to be finished so they could reach their destinations. Several of the ships contained fuel oil, much needed due to

the frigid temperatures. Companies including Sprague Oil and Irving Oil were faced with the challenge of deciding whether to continue to await the repairs or to send the ships to Boston and then drive the oil up to NH.

It was DOT Bridge crews that came to the rescue. Facing brutally cold conditions with bitter wind chills, an extremely confined work space, a rusty bridge and having to wear life preservers and safety straps while suspended over frigid water with strong currents; sunup to sundown they were doing this work for several days with no backup crew yet got the bridge working and passable.

I am also reminded of the brutal winter we have faced this year and the story my friend Dennis Ford, a highway maintenance supervisor from District 2, told us and which the Governor referenced in her budget address. A gentleman stopped to thank Dennis and his crew for doing such an exemplary job of keeping the roads clear this winter so that he and his wife could make the trek from Meredith to Dartmouth-Hitchock Medical center and back for her cancer treatment. For his family and so many others, being able to count on a strong and well-maintained department of transportation means the world.

This, I would submit to you, is public service at its best ladies and gentlemen.

These are vital services that we must preserve. For too long we have sought one time funding sources and cut staff to patch up the issues we face with the highway fund. We can do that no longer. We must raise the revenue we need now.

I strongly urge this committee to oppose this amendment and fund the NH DOT and the Department of Safety so that we keep our state moving. Thank you.

Time to Close the State’s Tax Loopholes (Op-Ed By Rich Gulla Pres. NH SEA-SEIU1984)

HB 634First of Several Bills Aimed at Closing Tax Loopholes to Be Heard Monday

Rich Gulla President SEA-SEIU1984

Rich Gulla President SEA-SEIU1984

A recent study revealed that the wealthiest earners in our state are not paying their fair share of taxes. The top 1% income earners in the state paid an effective tax rate of 2.4%, while the lowest 20% of income earners in the state paid an effective tax rate of 8.6%. It is not hard to recognize that not everyone is paying their fair share in this equation. At the same time we continue to fall short of effectively funding critical needs like affordable higher education and maintaining our state’s infrastructure, things that help strengthen our economy and encourage economic growth.

While some New Hampshire residents are struggling to afford high property taxes, the wealthiest among us are enjoying the benefits of tax loopholes. In order to reduce property taxes, and fund the critical services of the State, State policy makers should consider closing the State’s tax loopholes.   By far the largest loophole concerns individual sales of investments and stocks. Currently, the sale of investments (called “capital gains”) by businesses is already taxed under the State business profits tax, and corporate dividends paid to individuals are taxed under the State interest and dividends tax. However, the sale of investments by individuals is not taxed at all, including stock sales and day trades on Wall Street by persons in New Hampshire.

It may come as no surprise that about two-thirds of the revenue that would come from closing this loophole would come from the top 1% income earners in the State. If this loophole were closed, and property tax relief was actually provided, we could fund critical services of the State and our system of taxation would treat the average Granite Stater much more fairly.

Some other tax loopholes should be closed as well.   In 2012, the Legislature passed – over Governor John Lynch’s veto – a loophole that allows individuals to form trusts to avoid paying the State’s interests and dividends tax.

Essentially, everyone who receives interest and dividend income pays a 5% interest and dividends tax, unless they are able to hire a lawyer that specializes in creating certain trusts, then they pay 0%. This loophole should be closed.

Lastly, some businesses don’t always pay the State’s business profits tax because their assets are located off-shore. This too should be closed.

The State is facing very difficult financial times. The average Granite Stater isn’t exploiting tax loopholes, they are meeting their responsibilities and in doing so are often struggling to pay their property taxes. It is time for State policy makers to close these loopholes, fund critical State services, and help move New Hampshire forward — for everyone, not just the wealthy.

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