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Archive for May 26th, 2011

Granite State Still Cheap

After seven weeks of meetings and one marathon public hearing, New Hampshire’s Senate Finance Committee has completed its work on the state budget for the next two years.  On party line votes of six to one, Committee members approved an amended version of HB 1, the budget, and HB 2, the “trailer bill,” which outlines various measures needed to achieve the budgeted amounts.

The Senators have restored some funds to some essential human service programs, chuck carolyn dick 4-14-11

but have gone along with the House’s refusal to consider new revenue options.   And savings would go into the “rainy day fund.”  Sen. Morse, the Finance Committee Chairman, said the state should not be allowed to go on a “spending spree.”

The Senators have removed from HB 2 the odious proposal to strip public employees of their rights to collective bargaining.  But that issue is still up in the air pending the outcome of a newly mandated House-Senate study committee on public sector collective bargaining.  

Sen. Morse’s proposal to order the “outsourcing” of 600 prisoners to out-of-state private prisons has been shelved.  But HB 2 still calls for the Department of Corrections to study the matter and take bids, ostensibly to save money.  The fact that other states have not found prison privatization to bbudget hearing 4-21-11 019  e a source of savings appears to be irrelevant for the time being.

The budget will go to the Senate floor next week, where the Democrats will offer amendments that will be defeated. Then it will return to the House, which can either concur or call for appointment of a Committee of Conference to work out differences.

The budget will widen the gaps in the state’s frayed safety net.  Repairs will require changes in the composition or thinking of the legislature, and for that matter of the governor’s office as well.  According to a US Census Bureau report released last November, New Hampshire has the highest median household income of any state.  In other words, we are a rich state, and a cheap one.

Members of the Interfaith Voices for a Humane Budget conducted 7 weeks of vigils in the State House hall outside the room where the Finance Committee met.  We could say our prayers fell on deaf ears.  We could say that the budget could have been worse.  We can certainly say that real change doesn’t happen overnight.  

 

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