Posts Tagged ‘budget cuts’

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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Vigil to Resume Thursday

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE — Seven religious leaders opposed to cuts in human services and anti-union provisions of the proposed state budget were escorted from the State House by police at 7:30 PM after a five and bill LRa half hour prayer vigil at the office of Speaker of the House William O’Brien.

The religious leaders will return to the State House Thursday morning to continue their vigil, while the House continues its consideration of the budget.

The vigil began shortly after 2 PM, when the group, Voices of Faith for a Humane Budget, arrived at the Speakers office and announced their intention to begin a prayer vigil. As Rev. Bill Exner, of St. Matthews Episcopal Church in Goffstown, prayed and read from the book of Isaiah, a member of the Speaker’s staff and State House Security ordered the group to leave the office.

For the next five and a half hours the group sat in the hallway outside the office, where they shared prayers, songs, periods of silence, and Bill Mary Trooper Chris Laporte discussion of the many issues at stake in the state budget debate. Members of the group decried the impact of the proposed budget on the state’s most vulnerable residents and its public employees.

Following the House vote in favor of House Bill 2, which contained provisions limiting collective bargaining rights and lessening the responsibility of cities and towns to care for their neediest residents, the vigil concluded with a song and a prayer for public sector workers. State Troopers stood nearby, and then proceeded to escort the vigilers from the building.

In a letter delivered to the Speaker’s office Tuesday afternoon, the group said “In recent weeks we have closely followed discussions and debates over the state budget. As people who believe in loving our neighbors, and as people who believe that we are unambiguously responsible to advocate for and serve those who are mark most vulnerable among us, we are deeply troubled by the dramatic cuts in funds for essential services contained in the budget proposal, which will be before the House on Wednesday and Thursday.”

“In addition,” the letter said, “we are in profound distress over proposals to lessen the responsibilities of communities to care for those most in need and to undermine the collective rights of those who serve our communities as teachers, firefighters, public safety officers, and other public servants.”

In addition to Rev. Exner, participants in the prayer vigil included

Rev. Dr. Mary Westfall, Pastor of the Community Church of Durham,

Rev. Dr. Frank Irvine, of Concord, a retired United Church of Christ pastor,

frank barbara bill Gregory Heath, of Canterbury, co-clerk Concord Friends Meeting (Quaker), and a member of the Oxbow Zen Sangha, a Canterbury based Buddhist group,

Mark Barker, of Boscawen, a member of Concord Friends Meeting (Quaker),

Arnie Alpert, of Canterbury, the New Hampshire Program Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee,

L. R. Berger, of Contoocook, Northeast Regional Associate, Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service, and

Barbara French, a member of the Henniker Congregational Church, who had to leave at 4:30 PM.

Rev. Kendra Ford of the Exeter Unitarian Universalist Church joined the vigil for about two hours.

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save the dream 3-15-11 concord 005Budget Cuts Opposed

Rep, Martin Harty, who last week said the state’s “defective people” should be sent to Siberia or the Granite State equivalent, has resigned.  But lawmakers who espouse policies every bit as heartless are still in power.

This morning, the Concord Monitor reported :

The 2012-2013 budget proposed by Gov. John Lynch would have given Health and Human Services – the state’s largest department – $621 million less than the agency calculated it would need to maintain current services. But Republican leaders who control the House say Lynch’s revenue estimates are $300 million too high. They also object to the governor’s cuts to local aid. House Finance Committee members have pledged to make up the difference through deeper spending cuts.

There is little doubt that cuts that deep will cause death and suffering for those who depend on state-funded services to live dignified lives. 

More than 50 people joined a spirited rally at State House Plaza in Concord this evening to oppose the cuts in essential programs and support public sector workers.  save the dream 3-15-11 concord 016

The rally included experienced activists like Rev. Dwight Haynes, who m arched with Dr. King from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, but included others who said this was their first time demonstrating at all.

Will Thomas, of Veterans for Peace, aroused cheers by save the dream 3-15-11 concord 009 quoting Dr. King’s lines about a “country that approaches spiritual death” by devoting more resources to war than programs of human uplift. 

Solidarity with Wisconsin’s public sector workers, who have been stripped of their collective bargaining rights, was another popular sentiment at the rally, which was part of MoveOn.org’s “Save the Dream” campaign.

New Hampshire workers face a formidable fight to keep our state from adopting anti-union policies like Right to Work (for Less), which has already passed the House and has the support of Senate leaders. 

But perhaps people are finally waking up.

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