CONCORD - The priorities of Speaker Bill O'Brien's legislature have been wrong for middle-class families and New Hampshire's economy, Democratic House and Senate leaders said at a press conference this morning, warning that worse could be yet to come.
"This Republican majority has had the wrong priorities for New Hampshire's middle-class families and the wrong priorities for our economy," said House Minority Leader Terie Norelli.
Republicans this session attempted to raise health insurances on women by eliminated guaranteed insurance coverage for birth control and raised tuition costs on New Hampshire families with the largest single cut to a public university system in the history of the US. They cut funding mental health, developmental disabilities and other services that are critical to the lives of Granite Staters, even as they lined the pockets of big tobacco companies by cutting the cigarette tax.
"Next on their agenda is a state takeover of Medicare, which would allow politicians in the New Hampshire Legislature to cut benefits for seniors, increase premiums, and raise the eligibility age," said Norelli.
An educated workforce is critical to our economic future - and Speaker Bill O'Brien's efforts to destroy affordable higher education will hurt our ability to attract new businesses and new jobs to our state.
While New Hampshire families are struggling, Bill O'Brien has threatened to cut another $400 million without saying where or how he would make those cuts. Even cutting all of the remaining funding for New Hampshire's colleges and universities would only get a quarter of the way to the Speaker's proposed additional cuts.
"In the context of New Hampshire's budget," said Senator Lou D'Alessandro, "the Speaker's proposed reductions and the current cuts already in place by the Tea Party legislature are enormous and devastating."
"This legislature has, at every occasion, chosen to side with radical special interests instead siding with New Hampshire's middle class families. Nowhere is that more true than in their misplaced education priorities," said Senator Molly Kelly.
Just last week, a Republican House member said that attending kindergarten causes crime - a claim which Ovide Lamontagne did not dispute. This legislature tried to eliminate public kindergarten and to tell kids they didn't have to go at school at all. They cut state aid to local schools, raising local property taxes.
"Simply put, Bill O'Brien's Tea Party legislature has made it easier to break the law and buy cigarettes, but harder to afford an education," said Kelly.
"For a group of people who came in to office at the start of 2011 promising to focus on the economy like a laser, we have to ask: Do they really understand how a laser is supposed to work," said Re. Steve Shurtleff
This legislature attached a radical, anti-choice amendment requiring a 24-hour waiting period for abortions - which they had already passed once but was rejected by the senate - to a bipartisan research and development tax credit. They voted to defund Planned Parenthood, which could put New Hampshire's entire Medicaid program at risk, and more importantly it denies women access to essential health care services such as cancer screening. They voted to increase costs on women by repealing coverage of contraception and even mandating that doctors provide false information to patients seeking an abortion.
"The only laser-like focus I've seen this legislative session has been in advancing a radical and far-right social agenda. This is not the agenda the voters thought they were getting in 2010 and it's not the agenda that the people of New Hampshire can afford in the future," Shurtleff said.
Throughout this session, Speaker O'Brien has repeatedly employed strong-arm tactics. He removed his own caucus members from committee and even his own Chairs and Vice Chairs whenever they failed to do exactly as told.
Just this week, without any warning or reason, O'Brien removed the Democratic House member from the Health Reform Oversight committee.
"The actions of this legislature have not gone unnoticed by the people of New Hampshire," said Rep. Gary Richardson. "The voters are looking for more from us. A recent poll in New Hampshire has identified the NH Legislature as being the 2nd biggest problem facing the state after the economy. The past session has been "my way or the highway."