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Posts Tagged ‘state budget’

Senate Budget Vote 6-6-13 012

Voting strictly along party lines, the GOP controlled New Hampshire Senate today voted 13 to 11 to reject the expansion of Medicaid under the terms of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  The vote sets up a conflict in a House-Senate Committee of Conference that could start as early as next wSenate Budget Vote 6-6-13 030eek.   

Expanded Medicaid would provide insurance coverage to an estimated 58,000 New Hampshire residents, paid for 100% by federal dollars for the first three years.  

The Senate also approved a budget that makes $50 million in unspecified personnel cuts that could lead to hundreds of layoffs.   This, too, could be altered by the conference committee.  

On their way into today’s session, the Senators had to wade through dozens of pro-worker and pro-Medicaid activists to get into their chamber.  NH Voices for Health, which brings togSenate Budget Vote 6-6-13 001ether health care providers and advocates, has been working hard to rally support for expanded Medicaid.  The State Employees  Association will lead efforts to stop the personnel cuts, which would not only hurt workers and their families but also reduce the quality of services offered to state residents.

The effort will escalate over the next few weeks as Representatives and Senators continue the budget debate, perhaps right up to the June 30 end of the fiscal year.   

 

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no jobs fair 8-10-11 041 The state budget adopted in June eliminated more than 1100 full time state jobs, and that doesn’t even count jobs being shed by local and county governments, hospital layoffs due to cuts in funds for “uncompensated care,” or the positions the will end at service agencies whose state contracts were cut or ended when the new fiscal year began on July 1.  When you add in the elimination of services like testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, the cuts in welfare payments to poor families, and cuts in other programs that poor and disabled people rely upon, the budget is an economic and social disaster.no jobs fair 8-10-11 018

If budgets are in fact “moral documents,” as the Rev. Gail Kinney sugge sted at today’s No Jobs Fair in Concord, then the budget is a moral failure as well.   

“Imagine what would have happened if candidates for office had said they were going to eliminate jobs and services,” Rev. Kinney said.  “Would we have those people in leadership positions now?”  The lunchtime crowd of about 80 people shouted “no.”

no jobs fair 8-10-11 032 Mark MacKenzie, president of the NH AFL-CIO, said it’s time to “draw a line in the sand” against further job and benefit cuts, like the Verizon workers are doing through their recently called strike.   Corporate America is sitting on piles of money with historically low tax rates, he said, and the jobs aren’t any more likely to trickle down now than they were during the Regan years, he said.

“The people of New Hampshire elected their representatives last November with the mandate to strengthen our economy,” MacKenzie said. Instead, he said, they’ve done the bidding of corporate leaders who are willing to sacrifice other people’s middle class jobs to maintain their own privilege.

Speaker of the House William O’Brien came in for the most criticism fno jobs fair 8-10-11 024 rom the speakers, who also included Diana Lacey of the State Employees Association and Doug Linder of the Young Democrats.

“O’Brien resorted to political games, bullying tactics and attacks on the workers of this state,” MacKenzie charged, “leaving behind a shoddy record of job creation that has done nothing to address the real needs of Granite Staters. New Hampshire businesses, workers, and families cannot afford to see the same thing happen again.”

“With ten hospitals laying off hundreds of workers, over thousands of jobs already lost from the state thanks to Speaker O’Brien’s irresponsible budget cuts, and the bleeding of construction jobs from our state at a rate higher than any other state in the Northeast, the focno jobs fair 8-10-11 020 us of the State House should be squarely on giving our residents what they need to recover from the recession. Since Speaker O’Brien isn’t willing to help out our neediest, we’ve had to step up to the plate,” MacKenzie explained.

After the short rally at State House Plaza, dozens of activists troopeno jobs fair 8-10-11 044 d to O’Brien’s office on the State House’s third floor to deliver petitions calling on  state legislators to focus on job creation instead of budget cuts in the upcoming special sessions of the New Hampshire Legislature.

Rev. Kinney reminded those at the rally that Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple, and Moses challenged Pharaoh over working conditions.   “Be the voice of truth,” she said.  

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Early in 2011, when Governor John Lynch released his budget proposal for the two years that begin July 1, he cut the line item for NH Legal Services by 5%.  The agency, which provides crucial assistance in civil legal matters to poor residents of the state, would get just under $1.4 million in state funds. 

Then the House went at the governor’s budget with an axe.  By the time they were done,  the legal services appropriation was gone altogether.  Other programs benefiting poor, disabled, and mentally ill residents were deeply slashed.  Funding for higher education, cultural programs, and public television likewise saw deep cuts.  

Human service advocates, marching under the banner, “New Hampshire Can Do Better,” called on the Senate to throw out the House budget and start over.  The more c11-#1ompassionate Senate, to its credit, did give the budget a close re-examination.  When it came to legal services, they voted to restore $700,000, half the amount the House cut from the already reduced budget. 

That was just one of the differences between the House and Senate budgets that the two chambers appointed a Committee of Conference to resolve.   The five Representatives and three Senators are supposed to complete their work by Thursday, June 16, in order to meet legislative deadlines and get a budget to the Governor in time for him to sign and put into effect by July 1.   They are going through the budget, line by line. 

A friend told me today she will lose her job when the state closes all 14 clinics for people with sexually transmitted diseases on July 1.  Another friend says 1100 families will get kicked off TANF when the Department of Health and Human Services  changes eligibility rules to save money.  More than 250 two-parent families are likely to lose cash assistance for families in which both parents are unemployed or under-employed. 

Today, House members of the conference committee agreed to the Senate’s line item on legal services, i.e. a cut of more than 50% from current levels.  In this legislative session, supporters of New Hampshire’s shredded safety net will probably call that a victory. 

And that’s sad.   Maybe we’re all numbed or stunned, but the outrage at the House budget, expressed by the 5000 people who rallied on the State House lawn March 31, is not much in sight. 

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Chants Disrupt Tea Party Rally at State House

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Speeches equating Medicare with socialism were sporadically interrupted by chanting students at the Tea Party’s Tax Day Rally in Concord today.   The rally, organized by Americans for Prosperity, drew a few hundred people to the State House steps.  Speakers included GOP leaders such as Ovide Lamontagne, whotea party 4-15-11 005 denounced Medicare and socialism, and Speaker Bill O’Brien, who touted the austerity and anti-union measures approved by the House.  Several presidential contenders also addressed the crowd, whose size was not large enough to reach beyond the area near the State House steps. 

A friend noted that Tea Partiers did enter the State House from time to time to use the facilities.  Do you think they ever wonder how public toilets came to be?   How about public water supplies run by public employees?  Some signs in the stalls, over the urinals, and over the sinks at the State House could make the point.   (Post a comment if you have proposed wording.)

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Midway through the Tea Party rally, 18 students from Plymouth State University began circling the State House, chanting about student power.  They were certainly audible and visible.tea party 4-15-11 014

Funds for the university system and scholarship assistance are among the casualties of the House-passed budget.  According to the NH Fiscal Policy Institute, The House proposes to make exceptionally sharp cuts to New Hampshire’s university and community college systems.  More specifically, the recommendations offered by the Finance Committee would slash General Fund appropriations for the University System of New Hampshire from an anticipated level of $197 million for FY10-11 to $83.3 million for FY 12-13, a drop of 58 percent and well beyond the already substantial reductions contained in the Governor’s budget plan.”

New Hampshire spending on higher education was already lowest in the nation.

Yesterday, 500 students from Oyster River High School in Durham walked out of class to protest the School Board’s rejection of a popular candidate to be the school’s new principal.  Maybe it’s just spring.  Or maybe New Hampshire’s youth are waking up and demanding a future built on good schools, fair taxes, good jobs, and healthy communities.  It’s about time.  

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frank mary 4-4-11

Clergy members and other people of faith resumed our State House prayer vigil yesterday and will return at 10 AM tomorrow to the hallway outsiLR outside rm 103 4-4-11de the Senate Finance Committee meeting to pray for a humane budget.

Thirteen religious activists joined yesterday’s vigil outside State House Room  103, where the Senate Finance Committee was listening to presentations from their House colleagues.

The Committee’s deliberations continue tomorrow, beginning at 10 AM.

During their vigils, the interfaith group has alternated between periods of silent reflection, spoken prayer, and readings from devotional literature. 

mark reads MLK 4-4-11 Several members noted that yesterday was the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination in Memphis, where he had gone to support striking sanitation workers.  Mark Baker read a selection from Dr. King’s final speech.  

Yesterday State House Security agreed we could sit on floor mats outside Room 103 as long as we do not block the corridors, but they did say our singing was a problem. We are not trying to disrupt State House proceedings, but we do want the odell 4-4-11legislators to hear our prayers for a change of course and a change of heart.

The vigil will go on vigil during Senate Finance Committee meetings Thursday, Friday, and Monday, when the Senators will hear testimony from staff of the Department of Health and Human Services.  Please get in touch if you’d like to join. 

 group shot 4-4-11

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With debate underway over the state budget as well as measures to reduce pension benefits and cripple union activity, union members are rallying today and tomorrow at the State House in Concord.   A major rally is planned for noon tomorrow.

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Starting this afternoon, I’ll be part of a prayer vigil at the office of the Speaker of the House.  Watch this space for updates.

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Budget Protest March 31 Could be Massive

Hundreds of firefighters, police, and other public sector workers, plus advocates for state-funded services that meet essential community needs, clogged the lobby, stairwells, and halls at the Legislative Office Building while the NH House Finance Committee prepared its final budget proposal this afternoon.

GOP leaders, who control the House’s 3:1 majority, have proposed deep cuts in programs that make a dignified life possible for thousands of disabled, elderly, and otherwise needy residents of the Granite State.  Amendments to the budget include provisions to strip cities and towns from their historic responsibility to provide the means of survival to indigent residents who have exhausted all other means of support. 

And, at the last minute, a proposal that would cancel provisions of public sector collective bargaining agreements upon their expiration has been added to the mix. In other words, workers who are covered by union contracts would become employed “at will” if contracts run out, thereby voiding salary, benefits, grievance procedures, and all other contractual provisions. This last ingredient is what aroused the hundreds of workers who crowded the Legislative Office Building today. 

The House Finance budget will be presented to the House at a hearing next Tuesday and will go to the House membership for a vote on Thursday.

“Welcome to Newconsin”

 hank martineau welcome to newconsin  3-24 006

Growing outrage is supporting publicity for the “Rally for New Hampshire,” to be held at the State House Thursday, March 31, at noon, to protest the House budget and call on the Senate to start over from scratch. 

I followed a spirited group of firefighters to the office of the Speaker of the House, where they demanded the hearing be moved to a larger room, such as Representatives Hall.   Hank Martineau, a Captain on the Manchester Fire Department, carried a sign saying “Welcome to Newconsin.” 

Earlier this week, students from the vocational and technical program at Concord High School waved and cheered at rush hour traffic in a hastily called protest against budget cuts affecting vocational education.  

 

concord students 3-21-11 002 concord students 3-21-11 006

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At a vigil held on State House Plaza in Concord, in the shadow of a giant Christmas tree, thirty-eight people held candles and sang in remembrance of thirteen homeless and formerly homeless people who died in New Hampshire 2010. Other Homeless Memorial Day vigils took place in Keene, Lebanon, Laconia, Conway, Claremont, Manchester, and Nashua.

For more information, go to the AFSC’s New Hampshire Program.

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The Rev. David Keller, of First Congregational Church, with Mary Ellen Foley and Keith Kuenning

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Mark Barker

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Carmelito is a volunteer at the Homeless Resource Center.

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Maureen Ryan read Gov. Lynch’s proclamation of Homeless Memorial Day.

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Ellen Fries and David Keller

 

 

 

 

 

 

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