BEDFORD — Gov. Maggie Hassan said the state Senate made sweeping, across-the-board cuts in its proposed budget without being forthright about the impact it will have "on our people and our economy"
Hassan, speaking at the New Hampshire Forum on the Future breakfast Friday at the Bedford Village Inn, said the Senate budget includes a $50 million cut to state employees, "a group that has sacrificed significantly in recent budgets, and a cut that will dramatically hurt the services the Senate claims to be investing in."
Their budget, she said, would force Health and Human Services (HHS) Commissioner Nick Toumpas to cut $40 million from his budget.
"Now, I regret to say that Senate budget writers are responding to these critiques by muddying the waters rather than addressing the real impact of their actions. They will tell you that their budget provides more spending for HHS than the House budget did. Of course, if they aren't covering all the money going out with enough money going into HHS, they're creating a hole," she said.
She compared the cuts made by the Senate to an airline selling 100 tickets for a plane that seats 80. "Twenty people will be left behind," she said. "That's what Senate Republicans have done to HHS. They've said we want you to spend this much money on all those services, but we're not going to give you enough to pay for it. Nice words about the willingness to spend money on critical programs needed to be backed up with real dollars."
The governor also criticized the Senate for rejecting Medicaid expansion, leaving behind $2.5 billion in federal funds.
"Medicaid expansion would stabilize our health care system by reducing cost-shifting on businesses, making it easier for families to succeed financially and improving the health of our citizens," she said.
Hassan said such expansion would provide insurance coverage for more than 58,000 New Hampshire residents. She said Democratic and Republican governors across the country agree the federal offer is a good deal that will help more families access health insurance, while boosting the economy. The federal government will cover the cost of the program for the first three years and then 90 percent through the seventh year for a total of about $2.5 billion.
The state will lose out on $340 million by delaying one year, money it will never be able to recover, she said.
"Those are federal tax dollars that the people of New Hampshire paid, that the people of New Hampshire deserve, and that our families and economy need," she said to loud applause from those attending which including university and college presidents, politicians, business owners, among others.
The Senate Finance Committee last week voted 4-2 to reject Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") and instead established a commission to study its impact on the state.
Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, said then he had reservations about the federal government meeting its obligation to pay 100 percent for the first three years, gradually reducing its share to 90 percent after seven years.
The governor said it was disappointing the House didn't pass "our bipartisan proposal," which included a single, highly regulated casino. She still believes revenues from a casino would allow for important investments in the state, especially with Massachusetts moving forward with casinos, which she said is expected to cost New Hampshire $75 million annually in lost revenue and social costs.
"To make progress and for our democracy to thrive, we need to be willing to listen to each other and consider each others' ideas," she said. "Sometimes that means setting aside old ideologies, going beyond our preconceived notions, and listening to the people to get to something that moves us forward — even it if is not a perfect solution."
Hassan said it will be more difficult to come up with a budget without revenue from a casino, "but the people of New Hampshire expect their leaders to do difficult things."
The New Hampshire Forum on the Future is in its eighth year and focuses on issues shaping the state's future economically, socially and culturally with respect to education, the environment and historic traditions.
Founding partners include the N.H. Higher Education Assistance Foundation, the N.H. College and University Council and the N.H. High Technology Council.