While several thousand people outside chanted “New Hampshire Can Do Better,” and a dozen religious activists continued their prayer vigil in the State House’s third floor hallway, the New Hampshire House of Representatives today approved a $10.2 Billion budget that cuts deeply into the fabric of programs our communities rely upon.
The Concord Monitor called it correctly this morning in an editorial that said the budget is“so heartless in its approach to the poor, the disabled and the mentally ill as to be immoral. Should it become law, New Hampshire will be a different state, one that under the guise of ‘personal responsibility’ replaces the social compact with the survival of the fittest.”
The budget proposal, which now moves over to the Senate for further consideration, cuts funds for homeless prevention, mental health , child care subsidies, higher education, secondary education for technical students, and more.
After 16 roll call votes on amendments and procedures, the final roll call vote was 243 to 124.
Yesterday the same group of legislators voted for a measure that would nullify public sector collective bargaining agreements upon their expiration, at which time all workers would be employed at will and subject to unilateral management decisions regarding wages, benefits, and working conditions. Critics have called it “Wisconsin on steroids.”
The morning began with nine participants in what is now called “Interfaith Voices for a Humane Budget” conducting their vigil in the hallway outside the 3rd floor office of the Speaker of the House. During the course of the day they were joined by other active clergy, retired clergy, Quakers, and lay members of several congregations. They agreed they would return Monday at 1 PM, when the House Finance Committee will present the budget to the Senate Finance Committee. The vigil will relocate to the first floor hallway outside Room 103. The meeting will be an information session, not a public hearing. Public testimony will be invited at a later date, but comments to Senators are already timely.
The Senate Commerce Committee will take up the House-passed proposal to turn New Hampshire into a Right-to-Work (for LESS) state at 9 AM on Tuesday in Representatives Hall. This one is a public hearing, which means that anyone can present testimony on why it matters for New Hampshire to respect the human right of workers to organize unions and bargain collectively.
As I write this, hundreds of teachers are rallying on the State House Plaza. Discouraged as I am by the mean-spiritedness of our elected officials, I am heartened by the renewed community-minded spirit of resistance to the House proposals.