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Community Leaders Call for Further Progress toward a State Budget that Builds a More Healthy, Secure, and Prosperous Granite State

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June 11, 2015

 

Community Leaders Call for Further Progress toward a State Budget that Builds a More Healthy, Secure, and Prosperous Granite State

 

Concord, NH – Prior to the start of the Committee of Conference on the FY 2016-2017 state budget, community leaders and concerned citizens gathered today in the lobby of the Legislative Office Building to outline critical issues that the committee should address in order to build a more healthy, secure, and prosperous Granite State.

“Some progress has certainly been made in responding to the concerns voiced by hundreds of citizens at public hearings on the budget, but further advances in the coming days are both possible and essential,” said Jeff McLynch, executive director of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute, in opening remarks.

Speakers highlighted five issues that are among those conference committee members should address and urged members of the House and Senate to work together to craft a state budget that best meets the needs of New Hampshire’s citizens.

The reauthorization of the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, also known as Medicaid Expansion, was included in the Governor’s budget, but removed from both the House and Senate versions. The program is set to expire on December 31, 2016, and without reauthorization, more than 40,000 individuals will lose access to affordable health care.

“Physicians see the Health Protection Program working for our patients and we encourage the legislature to include the necessary funding for reauthorization in the state budget,” said Dr. Travis Harker, family physician and past president of the New Hampshire Medical Society. “New Hampshire cannot afford to walk away from its low-income citizens. For our patients and for the health care system in New Hampshire, it is critically important to reauthorize and fully fund the New Hampshire Health Protection Program now.”

In 2014, advocates secured a landmark legal settlement regarding the provision of mental health services in New Hampshire, including supported employment and housing, mobile crisis response, and assertive community treatment teams. Yet neither the House nor the Senate versions of the budget provide the level of funding for mental health services recommended by Governor Hassan.

“Today New Hampshire’s mental health system sits at a cross roads. This biennial budget will determine whether the system can move ahead or whether it will continue to flounder,” said Ken Norton, executive director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) New Hampshire. “As the Committee of Conference begins deliberations, we urge that the health and well-being of all of our citizens should be our number one priority and, toward that end, we as a state commit to providing funding and supports to rebuild our community mental health system.”

New Hampshire currently faces a substance misuse epidemic. In 2014, more than 300 Granite Staters died from drug overdoses, while close to 100,000 are in need of treatment for substance use disorders. Beyond the tragic loss of life, this epidemic imposes very real costs on the state’s economy, its health care system, and its courts and correctional systems.

“As we have seen the death toll from our state’s opiate epidemic rise, communities and leaders from across New Hampshire have been calling for action,” said Timothy Rourke, chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery. “Now is the time for the conference committee to demonstrate the leadership required to tackle this epidemic, which is killing citizens, threatening public safety, and damaging our economy. The Governor’s Commission looks forward to a state budget that reflects the evidence-based fiscal policy required to address this immediate and real threat to our quality of life.”

Neither the House nor the Senate included funding for the state employee contract in their versions of the budget, although the necessary funds were included in the budget put forth by the Governor. Funding cuts enacted in prior budgets have resulted in the loss of numerous positions with associated responsibilities shifted to remaining employees.

“New Hampshire state employees go to work every day prepared and motivated to provide high quality public services whenever and wherever needed. We get the job done if it snows on Sunday night or Wednesday morning to ensure every motorist arrives safely to their destination,” said Ken Roos, first vice president for the State Employees Association/SEIU Local 1084. “Public workers across our state are asking our legislators to build a budget that provides the resources New Hampshire needs for a safe and prosperous future.”

Business tax cuts contained in the version of the budget approved by the Senate would severely constrain New Hampshire’s ability to make critical investments. Based on the latest information available from the Department of Revenue Administration, business tax cuts would drain away much as $23 million in state revenue during the FY 2016-2017 budget cycle; once fully implemented, the tax cuts would reduce revenue by more than $90 million each biennium.

“As both the experience of other states and academic studies demonstrate, cutting taxes in this manner would not produce jobs or bolster economic growth,” said Jeff McLynch, executive director of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute. “Instead, cutting taxes would leave New Hampshire unable to meet the needs of residents, visitors, and businesses alike. They would leave New Hampshire unable to support the well-trained labor force and robust physical infrastructure that bring employers to New Hampshire and keep them here. They would leave New Hampshire unable to provide the good schools, vibrant communities, clean parks, and other amenities that make the Granite State a place people are eager to visit and proud to call home.”

In conclusion, McLynch added: “Consequently, I am hopeful that as conferees go about the difficult task of completing the FY 2016-2017 budget and as they strive toward a goal that we all share — a thriving and expanding economy – they will set aside plans to reduce business taxes and instead give priority to the public services that can serve as the foundation for a more healthy, secure, and prosperous Granite State.”

 

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The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to exploring, developing, and promoting public policies that foster economic opportunity and prosperity for all New Hampshire residents, with an emphasis on low- and moderate-income families and individuals. Learn more at www.nhfpi.org.

 

CONTACT
AnnMarie French
603.856.8337 x2

 

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