Report on 2017 closing sessions

To my constituents,

As I was sworn in at the very end of the legislative session, I missed 99% of the legislation activity. There were still a few critical issues remaining.

As promised, I am sharing how I voted and why.

The biennial budget passed.  It had some good things in it but I voted against it.  Many cuts to Health and Human Services caused a double loss from Federal matching Funds.  While it included some funding for Developmental Disability Services, the final conference agreement underfunds services by $36 million.  The waitlist for services will grow by hundreds.  The budget also removes authorization for the Fiscal Committee (that makes decisions between budgets) to approve any increase in funding for the waitlist!  It includes a new Medicaid work requirement that if a federal waiver is not approved, the entire NH Medicaid expansion program in NH  is eliminated, taking away medical insurance for thousands and increasing uncompensated care costs for our hospitals (and the rest of us).  In Elderly Services the congregate housing and foster grandparent programs are suspended. All providers were given a pay raise.  In Mental Health services, the rate increase for workers in the Governor’s proposed budget was eliminated.

While our business and corporations are critically impacted by a lack of qualified and technically trained workers, the University System is flat funded. We already have the highest tuition in the country.  The Granite Workforce Program, developed in the House with bipartisan support to address the workforce training issues, was eliminated in the final agreement.  It was to be completely funded by federal TANF money!

In spite of unacceptable staffing shortages in our probate and district court system, these issues were not addressed.  Funding was reduced by $600,000 from civil legal services and for legal aid for the North Country and Claremont.  Retired State Employees under age 68 will see health care costs increase in spite of prior agreements.  Our state employees receive no pay raises.

Yet the budget reduces taxes on businesses.  Actually, 80% of them are paid by 100 out of state companies that are only in our state as a market.  70% of our small businesses already do not pay these taxes.  These reduction rates provide minimal savings to the businesses, but in the aggregate mean a loss of many millions to the state.  The same is true of the Electricity tax cuts.  That will mean about a $3.00 each savings for consumers, but the aggregate will cost the state millions.  These are cuts the businesses have not asked for – they want us to deal with the lack of qualified work force, affordable housing, and the opioid crisis!  This budget does not go far enough in these areas to make a significant difference.

Cuts from the last cycle already will cost us $20 million this year.  With the above cuts in this budget, the cost will grow exponentially until the loss of revenue reaches $128 million in 2022.  Altogether it balloons to $208 million.  These funds could  be addressing the critical problems we face.  We would have to grow by a totally unrealistic 10% a year to maintain this budget’s commitment to tax cuts.

Full day kindergarten funding was tied to a poison pill – Keno gambling.   70% of our school districts are already providing full day kindergarten through property taxes, including Wolfeboro.  However, I am keenly aware of the importance of early education when the brain is developing at a dramatic rate.  While I hate the idea of “marrying” Keno to Kindergarten, I feel involving state funding rather than the downshifting to property taxes and providing for all children to have full day programs is a first step.  I voted for the bill.

HB620 forbade school districts to exceed “minimum requirements” of federal law in services for our disabled children if they included any unreimbursed expenditures or “administration burdens”.  It took away local control and would not allow decisions to be made on what is best for the child and/or long term investment for future social benefits. It thankfully was not accepted in the Senate.  Had it come to the House, we were prepared to fight it.

If you have any questions please contact me by phone: 569-2512 or e-mail me at: ediewolfebororep@gmail.com.

I thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve you.  I look forward to next year when we will have the opportunity to discuss issues together as they arise so I can then better address your interests and concerns.

Edie DesMarais

Wolfeboro Representative