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Our Turn: Senate Democrats delivered on budget promises

Published: 6/4/2019 12:15:20 AM

When Senate Democrats ran for office, we pledged to advance our Granite State Opportunity Plan and fight for economic opportunity for everyone.

When Senate Democrats won the majority, we committed to producing a state budget that ensures every Granite Stater has the opportunity to thrive. We committed to a budget that prioritizes the opioid epidemic, mental health, child protection, infrastructure, public education, affordable housing and meaningful property tax relief.

That’s what we promised, and that’s exactly the budget Senate Democrats have delivered. All without implementing any new taxes.

The Senate Finance Committee’s budget reinstitutes revenue sharing – the $40 million we’ve committed to support cities and towns does more than at any time in the last 10 years to help municipalities address growing burdens on local property-tax payers.

Our budget dedicates the greatest new state investment in local public schools in almost two decades, since Gov. Jeanne Shaheen. We’ve invested more than $100 million in new state funding for local public schools, including stabilization grants and finally funding full-day kindergarten.

The budget also addresses the affordability of higher education with funding for the Community College System that allows for a tuition freeze. For the first time in five years, there is increased state funding for the University System of New Hampshire campuses, where tuition will be frozen for the 2020-21 academic year. Together, these efforts aim to retain more high school graduates in state as they pursue credentials and degrees that prepare them for New Hampshire’s workforce.

In our budget, Senate Democrats put the health care security of Granite Staters front and center by providing prescription relief for low-income seniors who fall into the donut hole and fully funding family planning programs to ensure health centers can continue to deliver these critical services, regardless of what happens as a result of the Trump administration’s Title X rule changes.

Our budget combats the opioid and mental health crises in our state by enhancing provider support and capacity by over $60 million in rate reimbursement, and by fulfilling the promise of the bipartisan Medicaid expansion deal of last year that behavioral health rates will be sufficient to ensure providers can afford to deliver the care that Granite Staters so desperately need.

We support New Hampshire’s 10-Year Mental Health Plan by expanding mental health services across the continuum of care and ensuring Granite Staters can receive the care they need, when they need it, in an appropriate setting. This budget addresses the emergency room boarding crisis and funds a new forensic hospital, to finally stop the criminalization of the people with mental illness at the state prison. We fund the development of a new and better place for children currently at New Hampshire Hospital, which will allow us to remodel the vacated space to ensure access to appropriate care for those who need it. And we advance efforts to provide people the opportunity to live inclusive lives in our communities by increasing funds for transitional housing.

We also support law enforcement and public safety in this budget by increasing funding for the Granite Shield, regional drug task forces, efforts to attract and retain our state police, and New Hampshire’s domestic violence crisis centers. Further, our budget establishes two new attorney positions and two state trooper positions to work in the cold case unit to work unsolved homicide cases and bring New Hampshire families justice.

Our budget protects children’s safety and well-being by investing more than $10 million to fully fund child protection staffing, consistent with audits dating back to December 2016, and bring caseloads at DCYF in line with the national average. It advances cost-effective prevention services, such as voluntary services for at-risk children and families, parental assistance, home visiting, family resource centers, and it establishes the first-ever statewide mobile crisis team for children in need of mental health services. And we combat childhood lead poisoning from paint and water.

In this budget, Senate Democrats address the housing and homelessness crisis in New Hampshire by proposing the greatest increase in homelessness programming and rapid re-housing in history, and it capitalizes the affordable housing fund with $10 million in new investments, including ongoing and consistent commitment through a set-aside from the Real Estate Transfer Tax in Fiscal Year 2021 and moving forward.

Lastly, this budget supports the workforce of tomorrow. It implements a public-private partnership for paid family and medical leave insurance and incorporates the Granite State Jobs Act to boost funding for job-training programs. This budget supports our small-business incubator programs and the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center and supports jobs in advanced regenerative manufacturing.

Overall, the Senate Democrats’ budget works for everyone, both now and into the future. It is fair and equitable for all Granite Staters. That was our charge from New Hampshire voters. That’s what we ran on. And that’s what we delivered.

We sincerely appreciate everyone who raised their voice, provided input and advocated their causes; your voice is critical to this process and to building a budget that works for everyone.

(Sen. Lou D’Allesandro of Manchester is chair of the Senate Finance Committee. Sen. Dan Feltes of Concord is vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee and majority leader of the Senate. Sen. Jay Kahn of Keene is a member of the Senate Finance Committee. Sen. Cindy Rosenwald is a member of the Senate Finance Committee.)

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