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June 16. 2013 12:01AM

Priority profs: University system tops HHS

If you had to choose between funding university professors or children with developmental disabilities, which would you pick? If you chose disabled children, you clearly are not an elected state official.

The budget passed by the Republican-led state Senate directs Gov. Maggie Hassan to find $50 million in savings from personnel. The governor claims she will have no choice but to decimate Health and Human Services spending. When the Senate budget made it out of the Senate Finance Committee, she said "these deep cuts to Health and Human Services and employees will cost hundreds of jobs and put at risk critical areas, including mental health care, funding the waitlist for people with developmental disabilities, the CHINS program, and the ability to deliver basic services."

Of course, there were no deep cuts. The Senate budget spends $2.07 billion on HHS, up from $1.95 billion in the current budget. It spends more on all of the services she mentioned than is being spent in the current budget. Because the Senate proposed spending less in the next budget than she proposed, Hassan labeled the difference a "cut," but it was no such thing.

Hassan's claim that these areas of HHS will be hurt stems from the $50 million in personnel savings the Senate demands. Though the Senate's HHS budget number is tallied after taking the $50 million into account, Hassan says she will have to cut more from that department.

She expects us to believe that the state government simply has nothing else to cut. But that ignores the roughly $100 million in additional spending dedicated to the University System of New Hampshire.

Why would Hassan hold that spending harmless? Because everyone else does, too. The governor, the House and the Senate all agree that this spending is a top priority - a bigger priority than spending more on HHS, prisons, courts, etc.

That is mystifying. It would be understandable, perhaps, if the university system had instituted major reforms that would dramatically cut expenses and lower tuition. But the only concession the university system offered in exchange for that money was to freeze tuition for two years - half the time it takes to get a bachelor's degree.

Legislators and the governor are preparing to throw another $100 million at an unreformed university system at a time when most agree that other areas of state government, including agencies that serve the poor and disabled, are pressed for funds. Any time a political figure accuses another of not caring about the sick and disabled, just remember that all of them are putting university professors first.


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