For Immediate Release
Molly Cowan Senate Democratic Policy Director
CONCORD – The New Hampshire’s eight Democratic Senators gathered today to express their concern that the Federal Government's new budget cuts will have a devastating effect on New Hampshire's citizens as Washington continues to downshift costs on state and local
The Senators pointed to repeated federal- level funding cutbacks that will have a direct effect on New Hampshire residents - the elderly, low income families and children, students and disabled persons - who are most in need of assistance.
Recent federal action, combined with under-funding Federal programs like No Child Left Behind, Fuel Assistance programs, and many others, have forced the New Hampshire Legislature to step up and protect the welfare and local taxpayers of New Hampshire citizens.
The Senate Democratic Caucus today focused on seven federal funding cuts: the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, No Child Left Behind, Employment Security Funding, Fuel Assistance, Student Loans, and Medicaid and Medicare cuts.
Referring to the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, Sen. D’Allesandro objected to an agricultural appropriation passed by Congress and signed by President Bush resulting in a reduction of caseloads by 9.2%. That eliminated 711 qualified elderly New Hampshire citizens from the program. “I find it unconscionable that seniors, most of whom are living below the poverty level, are in danger of losing the Commodity Supplemental Food Program”, said Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester. “This food program in many instances is the difference between having enough to eat and going without.”
Addressing changes to federal “No Child Left Behind” education requirements Senator Iris Estabrook added, “Since the passage of No Child Left Behind four years ago, federal involvement in education policy making has overshadowed state policy making – even though federal support still remains in the single digits,” said Sen. Iris Estabrook, D-Dist. 21. “The National Conference of State Legislatures was concerned enough about this issue to create a task force to study ways to improve the federal law. I have sponsored a resolution through which the legislature can embrace the recommendations of the NCSL task force, whose major theme is the need for greater state level flexibility in meeting the law’s goals.”
On the issue of Employment Security Funding, Senator David Gottesman of Nashua pointed out, “A cut in the federal funding that supports services and assistance to the unemployed in New Hampshire could lead to the closure of up to five of the 13 offices around the state. The state Department of Employment Security (DES) is funded by the federal government, rather than the state’s general fund. To counteract this reduction in employment assistance , Senate Democrats joined with the House sponsors to support HB 1474, which is a temporary fix to cover a more than $5 million deficit DES expects over the next several years.”“If HB 1474 is not passed, DES will have to change the way it works. For example, DES will not be able to offer any face to face contact with people in need of services, DES will not be able to offer interview services, resume services or employment consultation that leads to job placement,” concluded Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, co-sponsor of HB 1474.
On the issue of Fuel Assistance Cuts:
“As a result of federal downshifting of fuel costs to the State of New Hampshire, more than 5,900 families have already exhausted fuel assistance money available for 2006,” noted Sen. Peter Burling, D-Dist. 5. “The New Hampshire Senate Democratic Caucus will work hard to make sure no one is in need of heat. However, at a time when fuel costs are at an all time high, the Federal Government should be taking responsibility and offering help, not simply downshifting the cost to New Hampshire.”
Objecting to drastic reductions in federal student loan programs, Senator Joe Foster stated, “The Federal Government has also cut federal spending on student loans by a net $12.7 billion – the deepest cuts in history. There are 37,666 New Hampshire citizens who have taken out student loans, and will be directly affected by this funding cut.”Senator Maggie Hassan affirmed this stating, “Students and their parents will be forced to pay more money to ensure a quality future, even though 39% of college students already graduate with unmanageable debt.”
And, addressing the issue of Medicaid and Medicare coverage to New Hampshire’s needy and elderly residents, Senator Sylvia Larsen pointed out, “We have seen the terrible ramifications of Washington’s new Part D prescription legislation on the dually eligible citizens of New Hampshire. Problems have occurred all over this state for our low-income, elderly seniors trying to obtain life saving medications, such as insulin and other necessities. When the federal money’s not there it’s still going to fall onto local and state taxpayers to help in these medical emergencies.” Concluded Senate Democratic Leader, Sylvia Larsen.
New Hampshire residents were urged to call their Congressional representatives at 1-800-426-8073 to register their opposition to the downshifting responsibilities.