All you can hear are the crickets
It’s hard to understand the lack of outcry over the recent round of budget cuts by Governor Lynch and the Democratic majority’s. I realize the weather has been nice, we are in the month of July and many people are on vacation. However, it’s unfathomable to me that nobody is paying attention. Citizens and interest groups have been largely silent and it’s completely nonsensical. Can it be that politics is being placed ahead of the betterment of the people? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends New Hampshire spend between $10.9 million and $24.8 million per year on tobacco prevention. When Governor Lynch funded the cancer plan at $4 million, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids praised him. In 2003, Governor Benson was sharply criticized for his funding level of tobacco prevention programs by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. They stated, “Governor Benson’s proposal goes well beyond a fair shared sacrifice and singles out tobacco prevention, this is a penny-wise pound foolish decision.” When the Democrats cut $3.5 million and left the Comprehensive Cancer Plan with only $500,000 for 2009, did anyone complain? No - instead we heard crickets. Where was the American Cancer Society or the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids? You might say to yourself, tobacco prevention and cancer screening are different programs, but in actuality, they overlap. Sixty-eight percent of the funds allocated to the comprehensive cancer plan go towards state tobacco use prevention — two programs that serve the same group of people. The Democrats also reduced the Healthy Kids program by $1.1 million after the governor stated in his budget address, “Children’s Health Insurance is a smart investment for our state, and the right thing to do for our kids. And with this budget, over the next three years, we will be able to provide health insurance to an additional 10,000 children.” Now that funds have been cut from the Healthy Kids Program the goal of expanding insurance to 10,000 more children is seriously jeopardized. Yet again - crickets. In 2000, the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Intervention and Treatment was legislatively established. This commission serves in an advisory capacity regarding the delivery of effective and coordinated alcohol and drug abuse prevention, intervention and treatment services. The commission is charged with developing a statewide plan for the effective prevention of alcohol and drug abuse, particularly among youth. A percentage of its funding comes from state liquor sale profits. Democratic leadership took $1.5 million from the Governor’s Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse. It’s proven that during these difficult financial times, these services are most needed because the potential for abuse is heightened. What is most disturbing about this cut in particular is the response it drew from advocates for the program. They stated that in the “2010-2111 biennial budget we will redouble our advocacy for full and protected funding of the Alcohol Fund.” In the past, when these programs have been reduced the Legislature was told it was those seeking help who would suffer. The people with addictions will miss days of work, their health-care costs are higher, they fill the courts and populate the prisons and when treatment isn’t available, everyone is affected. Are those same statements not true today? Other cuts included: $15 million from the Department of Health and Human Services (this number will increase due to federal funds being reduced); $2.5 million from children placed in special programs by the court; and $1 million on severely disabled students. In total, $30 million worth of cuts was made by a group of six Democratic legislators on the Legislative Fiscal Committee. There was no public hearing or vote taken by our citizen legislature. These cuts will undoubtedly have unintended consequences for the people that need the services and their providers. I love the summer, the warm air, the ability to spend time outside with family and friends, I even love to hear crickets in the evening but not when the governor and Democratic leadership make poor decisions that will affect the neediest people of New Hampshire.
Sen. Ted Gatsas, R-Manchester, is the Republican leader in the New Hampshire Senate and a member of the Legislative Fiscal Committee.