Rally to denounce budget cuts

Last modified: 3/30/2011 12:00:00 AM
Organizers of a rally say they expect thousands of people to gather at the State House tomorrow to ask the Senate to reject a state budget under consideration by the House.

The rally is planned for noon on the same day House lawmakers are expected to vote on their proposed budget, which spends $742 million less than the state's current budget by making deep cuts to almost all state services. Lead organizers, who work for social service networks in the state, said they expect residents to turn out for a variety of reasons, including cuts to social services, education and law enforcement.

"This budget just has something for everyone to dislike," said Christina D'Allesandro, an organizer who works as a coordinator for NH Cares, a statewide network of health and human service providers.

Sarah Aiken, another organizer, said the rally is not a protest of budget cuts, but a call for the Senate to craft a new spending plan from scratch. Aiken, who works for the Community Support Network, said senators should consider the effects of proposed cuts on people throughout the state.

"We're asking the Senate to throw out what the governor has proposed for his budget, throw out what the House has proposed for their budget, and start over," Aiken said.

Organizers expect at least 2,000 people to attend, D'Allesandro said. A Facebook page for the rally lists more than 800 people who have said they will be there. Aiken said organizers spread the word primarily through an e-mail network. Buses will bring people to Concord from throughout the state, she said.

House Chief of Staff Bob Mead wrote to legislative staff yesterday telling them to carry or wear their legislative ID badges today and tomorrow, due to the anticipated crowds. "It may be necessary to show that you are a member of the staff for access to the buildings," Mead wrote. A similar e-mail was sent to representatives.

The Concord police announced that Capitol Street and Park Street will be closed today and tomorrow alongside the State House, from North Main Street to North State Street. The blocks will be closed to traffic from 5 a.m. until early evening each day in anticipation of the large crowds, the police said.

Religious leaders have endorsed the rally, with both Bishop Gene Robinson of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire and Bishop John McCormack of the Catholic Diocese of Manchester expected to speak, D'Allesandro said. The New Hampshire Council of Churches, which represents 10 denominations, is encouraging people to attend. Executive Director David Lamarre-Vincent said the budget proposal before the House surpassed the "worst fears" of the council.

"We're galvanized to take action and say to the House members, 'You can't possibly pass this in good conscience,' " Lamarre-Vincent said. "And to the Senate, 'You can't even begin to use this as a foundational document to begin a budget. You have to throw it away and start over again.' "

A small group of clergy, led by the pastor of the Community Church of Christ in Durham, delivered a letter yesterday to the office of House Speaker William O'Brien informing him that they intend to hold a prayer vigil at his office beginning this afternoon and lasting through the night until the House concludes its budget deliberations.

The State Employees' Association expects hundreds of its members to attend, said spokesman Mike Barwell. The Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire said members will rally in opposition to a budget amendment that would allow public employers to unilaterally change wages, benefits and terms of employment after a contract expires.

Liz Hager, a Republican former state representative from Concord, will emcee the event. Hager, who retires this week as executive vice president of the Granite United Way, said the House is considering a budget that is "devastating across all sectors."

Among the people planning to attend the rally is Lois Pincince, a Dunbarton woman who said the proposed budget would end services that have allowed her daughter, Madeline, to hold two part-time jobs despite a significant developmental disability.

"It makes such a huge difference in her life," Pincince said. "She feels good about herself, like she has meaning in her life."

Under the proposed budget, Madeline would lose access to services in July, when she turns 21, her mother said. Since Madeline needs assistance at all times, Pincince said she would have to quit her job.

Shira Schoenberg contributed to this story.

(Karen Langley can be reached at 369-3316 or klangley@cmonitor.com.)


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