NH can’t afford to backtrack

As I talk to voters around my district this fall, I ask them how their family is doing. I’m getting a consistent answer: "Things are OK, we’re doing fine."

The numbers bear out their sense of confidence. Incomes in New Hampshire are up, unemployment is among the lowest in the country, and more people are working in New Hampshire today than ever before in our history.

At least in some measure, we can attribute our state’s recovery to prudent investments in our people and our infrastructure through the state budget over the past two cycles.

And there was a lot to clean up after the disastrous "O’Brien Budget" of 2011-12, which cut $40 million in general funds and devastated critical programs essential to safe, healthy communities and a vibrant economy.

We all remember the impact of the $40 million budget cuts under former House Speaker Bill O’Brien: downshifts of long term care costs to local property taxpayers, funding cuts to private nursing homes that forced staff reductions and put frail seniors at risk, elimination of the Children in Need of Services program that increased costs to local communities, cuts to hospitals that cost up to 2,000 jobs and brought on expensive litigation, and cuts to public universities and community colleges that drove tuition up. Funding for drug and alcohol prevention and treatment programs was decimated, and now we are faced with more than one drug overdose death each day.

The list goes on, affecting all areas of life in the Granite State.

It has taken several years for us to climb back from the O’Brien budget cuts of $40 million general funds, but we have, and residents of my district are happy with the quality of life in New Hampshire. But that quality of life could be threatened again with the legislature due to be elected next month.

The chair of the powerful House Finance Committee has filed a bill to eliminate the interest and dividend tax, which is paid by wealthier Granite Staters on their investment income. This bill would decrease state revenues by a whopping $187 million. The O’Brien $40 million budget cuts pale in comparison.

If New Hampshire residents didn’t like the impact of $40 million in cuts affecting seniors, individuals with disabilities, college students, property tax payers, and jeopardizing community safety with a rise in drug abuse, what would they think about a budget cut quadruple that size?

Would they want to see drug treatment services decimated again, with drug abuse our No. 1 public health problem? Cuts to snowplowing? Road paving? Nursing home care for our elderly family members?

Voters need to think very carefully about the legislators they choose to send to Concord in November.

If the Republican leadership’s bill passes, what important programs will be on the chopping block?

Will the next Legislature pass a tax cut for the wealthiest people in the state, shifting costs down to hard-working middle class families? New Hampshire can’t afford the risk, especially now that we’ve fought our way back from hard times.

Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua, is the Deputy Democratic Leader in the New Hampshire House.