Thursday, September 22, 2011
Arbiters of Fiscal Responsibility
The work of repairing the damage done to our state by Hurricane Irene continues. The Kancamaugus Highway has been repaired enough to allow traffic upon it. The repairs to Rt. 16 above the Dana Place are moving along very quickly. A temporary bridge has been put over the Sawyer River on Rt. 302. All of these fixes were put in place in time to ensure that the tourists who come to NH from all over the world during foliage season will be able to see the show. These fixes also ensure that our businesses won’t suffer during the busiest time of the year. In all of the places where homes and property were damaged, the signs of clean up continue.
In a state where the Teabaglican legislature cut the Dept. of Transportation budget to the point where there is concern about how NH will pay for plowing, it is curious that the question of how this will all be paid for is not really being discussed. There are roadside signs and newspaper ads telling local folks how and where to apply to FEMA for help. FEMA is the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a branch of the Dept. of Homeland Security. FEMA is tasked with helping respond to disasters that overwhelm the resources of local or state authorities, including funding for rebuilding. Not a word from any of our state representatives on this subject. Are they opposed to FEMA money to help their neighbors rebuild? Are they keeping quiet in order to have some hope of getting reelected? Where is Frank McCarthy’s manifesto on this subject?
US Senator Jeanne Shaheen spoke on the Senate floor about the need for Congress to provide comprehensive disaster aid to her own state, and all of the other states that were hit hard by Irene. In a year of many natural disasters (hurricanes, tornados, floods, and wildfires) FEMA funds have been depleted, and Senator Shaheen was urging her fellow members of the Senate to provide more funding for FEMA. Shaheen knows that without that funding, NH will be unable to rebuild and recover.
What of our other federal officials? Senator Kelly Ayotte voted against aiding her state. In the US House, Rep. Eric Cantor (R. Reptile House) insisted that appropriating funds for FEMA be tied to more federal spending cuts. That’s right. Cantor is opposed to rebuilding his country. NH Congressmen Frank Guinta and Charlie Bass went right along with Cantor, and voted against their own state. Be sure to thank Ayotte, Guinta, and Bass if you ever see them. Guinta and Bass have taken to holding telephone town hall meetings, in an effort to avoid angry constituents.
Neither Cantor nor Bass ever demanded budget cuts to offset the $55+ billion we’ve spent on building infrastructure in Iraq, or the paltry $36 billion we’ve spent rebuilding Afghanistan. The DoD is currently taking bids for building a giant new prison in Bagram, Afghanistan. This prison would be large enough to hold 2000 prisoners, at an estimated cost of $100 million. Not a word of protest from Cantor, Ayotte, Bass, or Guinta on this use of our tax dollars. They don’t have a problem with our spending money on other countries. It’s the needs of their own country that they don’t care about.
This week we learned that the legislature is getting ready to deal with a $35 million budget shortfall. This shortfall comes about because NH is probably going to have to pay back some $35 million in Medicaid funds that were improperly used in 2004. The misuse of Medicaid money to help prop up the General Fund is nothing new; it began during Judd Gregg’s tenure as Governor of our state, saving his bacon in a 1991 budget crisis. In short: states that could prove they treated a disproportionate share of low-income patients were eligible for federally matched funds to create Disproportionate Share (DSH) programs. The funds were supposed to be used to reimburse hospitals and providers who treated a disproportionate share of low-income folks. To greatly simplify, the hospitals got half of the revenue, and the other half went in the General Fund. The party ended in 2007, when the US Dept. of Health and Human Services questioned NH’s use of those funds, and an audit found that NH was not adhering to federal guidelines, and would have to pay back $35 million. Governor Lynch is appealing this decision.
The NH media reports this story carefully, ever mindful of their role as GOP stenographers. Most reports never mention that Mediscam began during Judd Gregg’s tenure as governor, or that in 2004 Craig Benson was the governor of our state during the time of this mismanagement of funds, and that the GOP had control of both the NH House and Senate. Mediscam is a GOP legacy, as is this $35 million dollar payback.
Now, Rep. Neal Kurk, (R. Sociopath) is rubbing his hands together with glee at the prospect of re-opening the budget and eliminating another $35 million. Neal Kurk doesn’t care if our roads are plowed – or even paved. This same budget has already caused some 2000 job losses. Neal Kurk can’t wait to make sure even more NH residents are unemployed.
I am left with two questions. The first: why would anyone ever believe anything the NH GOP has to say about fiscal responsibility?
The second question is the one I keep asking: Is this what you voted for? A Senator and 2 Congressman that shovel money overseas without question, but vote against helping their own states and their country rebuild after a natural disaster?
this was published as an op-ed in the 9-23-11 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper.
© sbruce 2011
Posted by susanthe at 12:46 PM