Friday, March 20, 2015

Living Within Our Means

The NH House Finance Committee is currently working on the state budget. They are outraged by the budget sent to them by Governor Hassan, and so the pushback begins. So far it contains every bit of cruelty that today’s Republican Party has ever wanted to inflict on the non-wealthy, and plenty more besides.

NH’s infrastructure is the 11th worst in the nation, and that was before this winter. The Republicans on the Finance committee want to slash $88 million from the Dept. of Transportation (DOT) budget.  Some bridges would be closed. Welcome centers and rest areas would be closed. (Probably not the ones where we sell cheap booze to tourists.) Approximately 700 jobs would be lost, that’s half the workforce. Federal funds would be lost. Say goodbye to completing the widening of I-93. NH has failed to invest in infrastructure for decades, but this is a kind of bold, intentional negligence that is hard to imagine in a state that relies so heavily on tourist dollars. This also means that 2500 miles of roads and 1000 bridges would be turned over to cities and towns to pay for.

The state was sued for providing inadequate treatment services for the mentally ill. The class action lawsuit was settled in 2013.
The Republicans on the Finance Committee are suggesting that the terms agreed to in the settlement be underfunded by 20%. Some other legislature can deal with the costs of the next lawsuit, right?

Apparently the Republicans on the House Finance Committee really hate old people. They’re suggesting higher taxes on nursing homes, as well as higher fees and $26 million in state funding cuts. They’ve also proposed $10.5 million in cuts to social services for the elderly, cutting funds for transportation, caregivers, senior meals and meals on wheels. Our new state motto: Hey Olds: Live food free and die.

Some $2 million in proposed cuts to community health centers. At a time when heroin addiction and overdoses are rampant, the Republicans on the House Finance Committee have suggested cutting the inadequate addiction services budget by $6 million. Governor Hassan had proposed $8 million for emergency homeless shelters. The Finance Committee has cut that in half.

Representative Neal Kurk is the chair of the Finance Committee. He’s from Weare. His district consists of the towns of Weare and Deering. If you are from any of the other 219 towns or 13 cities in NH, you did not vote for Neal Kurk. That doesn’t matter - he’s not shy about speaking for you. “This is what the people of NH want,” he intones, with regards to the budget cuts he’s proposing. It seems unlikely he’s spoken all of the people in NH, especially those north of Concord. To his credit, he does not approve of the DOT cuts. He understands the connection between infrastructure and commerce. He doesn’t want to hurt the roads and bridges. Hurting people is a different story.

The people who want to make NH a failed state are the libertea crowd, a mix of John Birchers, Tea Partiers, and Free Staters.  Representative Dan McGuire, a Free Stater from Epsom, is emerging as a star pillager in this year’s budget follies.

Representative McGuire has proposed $2 million in cuts to the NH Veteran’s Home. The Veteran’s Home was established in 1890 as the Soldier’s Home for Civil War Veterans. It’s now a home for elderly and disabled NH veterans. The cuts proposed by McGuire would mean that the Veteran’s Home would have to kick out 25 residents. I suggest that Representative McGuire be the one to go in and choose who gets kicked out. I further suggest that this be televised.

The cruelty goes on and on. The Republicans are desperate to eliminate the NH Health Protection Program that is currently providing 37,000 NH families with health care, and has reduced emergency room visits to hospitals by 17% in just 6 months. The BIA supports the NHPP, by the way. It is slated to sunset in 2016. Failure to extend the program will mean a loss of approximately $240 million in federal funds.

The Republicans on the House Finance Committee are also intent on gutting existing Medicaid services to adults. They are eliminating personal care assistance for people who are wheelchair bound, and eliminating therapy for stroke victims. They’re also eliminating access to ambulances, optometry, audiology, and speech, physical and occupational therapy. Medicaid covers adults with developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injuries. What kind of people even think of doing this? If a budget is a moral document, NH is heading for the warm place.

A proposed Kurk/McGuire cut of $60 million in DD funds (developmental disabilities) failed on a tie vote in committee. This would be 10% of DD funding. Remember the shameful DD wait list? It’s likely to be coming back.

The Finance Committee hasn’t just cut funds to Service Link; they’ve eliminated them altogether. It seems that if you’re not funding any services, you don’t need an organization to help people find them.

In many cases, the cuts being made will result in further cost shifting to counties, cities and towns. Those cities and towns will have to come up with funding – and you know what that means. Hello property tax increases!

There will be a significant loss of federal dollars. The libertea crowd thinks this is striking a blow for independence from the gummint. What it really means is that instead of a portion of your federal tax dollars coming back to NH, they’ll go to some other state. FREEDUMB!

The Republicans on the House Finance Committee assert that they have to do make all of these budget cuts, and they mouth the usual platitudes about “living within our means.” If NH is in such dire straits for revenue, how is it that the Senate has passed SB 1 and SB 2- bills that cut the business enterprise tax and the business profits tax to the tune of tens of millions of dollars? What they’re saying is that if we lack sufficient revenue to run our state in a responsible and humane way, we should make big cuts to revenue sources.

“Cruelty, like every other vice, requires no motive outside of itself; it only requires opportunity.”  George Eliot


Steven J. Connolly said...

The $88 million reduction to DOT might be "draconian." But the fact still remains that this state department needs restructuring. This state needs to stop spending millions on rail studies, art in public buildings and supervising maintenance crews with at least five supervisors on salary. DOT could contract outside equipment maintenance, more millions saved.
The culture has existed at DOT has existed for generations,and it won't change easily. These deep cuts are a means to make these needed changes.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the info. Ironically, front page of the Sun today deals with just one of the aspects of budget cutting. Very sad. The right certainly gives the impression of hating all others, their neighbors, the sickly, drivers, it appears indiscriminate. It is also regressive and backward. This is exactly how outfits such as violent terror groups operate. Slash and burn. Telling indeed.

susanthe said...

What brilliance, Steven J. Connolly! The Republicans had control of the NH House for 150 years. They kicked that infrastructure can down the road for decades, and here you are cheering on cuts that will make the damage worse and even more expensive to repair.

Don't sit by the phone waiting for Mensa to call.

Anonymous said...

Never is late to do budget cuts. New Hampshire must not allow any federal dirty dollars, product of their looting. No need any beggars to claim any benefit.
In the roads thematic, these must be financed by voluntary collected money in the case of the routes, and by tolls when are highways. I think that is better fund our routes using crowdfundingIs better that land owners keep our roads, that collect taxes and later wait that a DOT bureaucrat remember it and give funds to repair the road. Freedom is always better. Is time to get to liberty a chance.

susan hay said...

Steven - if we need to restructure the DOT then restructure the DOT - do the hard work of making that happen. This is lazy and ineffective - and by the way offers no clear way of ensuring that the money will be reapportioned in the way that you deem necessary. These budget recommendations are, so far, elitist and aimed at the weakest among us. I am ashamed of my state.

xteeth said...

When in modern history has any Republicant meant anything other than cut funding when they use the weasel word "restructuring." That is the basis for their disaster capitalism. Let's not be fooled again, and again, and again, unlike Bush II.

Anonymous said...

STFU you stupid cunt - seriously.

susanthe said...

In case you've ever wondered why I moderate the comment section, see the anonymous comment above.

Joanne Saunders said...

anonymous needs serious mental health help