Budget Bills - balancing spending with caring
ICE OUT!!! Well, at least in our yard...hoping you are all feeling a "Spring" in your step!
As many of you know, I campaigned for a year before I was elected last November. During that time, I spoke to people at 19 house parties, at the Inside Scoop, at the River Road Tavern, the Transfer Station and just about every grocery store in town. Consistently, we talked about public education. We talked about the opioid crisis, the critical shortage of mental health services in our state, and taking better care of both the young and the aging. Over and over I asked folks if they would be willing to pay a little more if they knew that their dollars would be going to our neediest populations, and time and time again, the answer was yes.
On Thursday the House passed HB 1 and HB 2, commonly known as the Budget Bills. Over the next few weeks, you are going to hear arguments on both sides. Some will say that this initial budget proposes preposterous taxation and reckless spending. Some will say that it doesn't spend nearly enough and ignores some critical shortage areas yet again...there were tough decisions all around, and I am respectful of all the hard work on both sides and across the aisle. Representative John Graham got a shout out by name on the Floor for his work on HB 25, which is the Capital Budget.
This preliminary budget increases funding for education (we stand to get 1.9 million more) to lower property taxes, and targets additional funds to poorer communities. Berlin closed its last elementary school. Conval and Winchester are suing the state because they can't sustain their programs on $3600 per student. It has been absolutely gut wrenching to listen to hour upon hour of testimony from folks representing districts that simply can not rely on property taxes as the major funding source any longer. Young families and older adults have been particularly hard hit, and this budget tries to stop the bleeding. There is also money to fund a commission to study a long term solution. The commission calls upon advice from experts in addition to law makers, given the fact that the Legislature has been unable to make any meaningful progress on its own in the 20 years since being given the responsibility to adequately fund our public schools.
There is money ear marked for Health and Human Services that increases the number of DCYF workers that we need to investigate and manage child abuse cases, establishes a Family Medical Leave, and begins the funding for the state's 10 Year Mental Health Plan. The entire document is about 1300 pages long, so I am only offering a few highlights here...
Next, the budget moves on to the Senate. The House version includes freezing business taxes and including some capital gains in the interest and dividends tax, but there are also exemptions for people over 65, does not include the sale of a primary residence and establishes the exemptions for both single and married couples. While I know that none of us like the idea of paying additional taxes, the reality is that revenue must be generated to take care of critically underfunded and vitally necessary programs/services. The House budget attempts to generate funds in a responsible manner that considers the needs of the state as a whole. Now we wait to see what the Senate has in mind.
Despite the stereotypes that are frequently misapplied to the people of Bedford, we know the truth: We don't just care about money; we care about people. We don't ignore the needs of those less fortunate; we are a generous and kind community that understands that within our town, we have families and older adults who need our help. And we recognize the need to help the citizens beyond our town border, as well. This great state of NH belongs to all of us, and I am proud to represent you.
As always, feel free to reach out at: email@example.com with any questions or comments, and thanks for reading this!