MANCHESTER, NH – The good news out of Concord – for those who have been critical of drastic cuts to social services proposed by the House – is that the May 20 Senate Finance Committee voted to restore critical funding for some of the state’s most important programs, says committee member Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester [read the NH Senate press release below for details.]
“The restorations were important, particularly for the homeless, elderly and ServiceLink, and they had to be done, otherwise people would’ve been left in the cold,” says D’Allesandro, one of two Democrats on the six-member committee.
“Democrats were supportive and wanted a little more, for community health centers, which weren’t added, and we’re always concerned about the reauthorization of Medicaid expansion, which covers 39,000 people. It’s had a positive effect. It’s been tracked by area hospitals, and the number of people using emergency services as family physicians is down, as is uncompensated care,” he said.
D’Allesandro said there’s still more to do, but he’s also heartened by New Hampshire’s participation in the new federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA), a non-profit public-private partnership that addresses federal surface transportation policies and failing infrastructure.
“What we did was much better than what the House presented. Is it everything I wanted? No. But with Democrats in the minority, it’s better than what we had. On a scale of ‘good, better, best,’ we’re at good. We were at zero,” D’Allesandro said.
Another important step forward was restoration of the Alcohol Fund, a state law which calls for 5 percent of profits on alcohol sales to be used toward prevention programs, D’Allesandro said.
Since its inception 15 years ago, the Alcohol Fund should have been funneling 5 percent of the state’s multi-million dollar annual profits from alcohol sales ($626 million sold in 2014) toward addiction recovery programs. It has only achieved full funding one time, as New Hampshire lawmakers have suspended the fund every other budget cycle.
Under the House budget the Alcohol Fund would have been level-funded at $1.75 million per year.
According to Tym Rourke, Director of the NH Charitable Foundation‘s Substance Use Disorders Grantmaking and Strategic Initiatives, strides made within the Senate Finance budget, by increasing that amount and supporting addiction recovery and treatment, are a good start.
The Senate budget would restore a good portion of the Alcohol Fund, said Rourke, allowing for 1.5 percent of gross profits for a total of $3.2 million in FY16 and $3.3 million in FY17, for a total of $6.5 million over the biennium.
Governor Hassan’s proposed budget called for roughly $4 million in FY16 and $6 million in FY17 funding of the Alcohol Fund, notes Rourke.
“Senate Finance voted unanimously to use the Alcohol Fund formula – in essence, to keep it as a dedicated fund appropriation, rather than suspending the formula and replacing the funding with a general fund appropriation, with the promise of reviewing revenue numbers over the next few days. We’re still very much watching to see if that happens, but this is a good start,” said Rourke.
“In addition, Senate Finance restored $3.3 million outside of the Alcohol Fund, in general funds, to support the ‘turn on’ of a substance use benefit for the existing managed care Medicaid population. This was proposed in the Governor’s budget and eliminated by the House,” Rourke said.
The Senate Finance budget will go before the full Senate for an up or down vote, then to Committee of Conference with the House. From there, it will go before the governor for signature, veto or to become law without signature.
D’Allesandro said the greatest hurdle in all of that process is the Committee of Conference.
“It’s important for those who support the budget as presented to make that known. If you see your senator, tell them. If not, call them or write to them,” he said.
The process should take a few more weeks, with a target of June 6 for finalization, D’Allesandro said.
CONCORD, NH – The Senate Finance Committee voted today to restore major services as part of the Department of Health and Human Services budget. Funding for vital services including Meals on Wheels, Service Link, Emergency Shelters, and the Developmental Disabilities Waitlist were restored. The committee also increased funds to the Alcohol Abuse Prevention and Treatment fund.
“We listened to our constituents and our state’s most vulnerable citizens’ concerns about losing the services that they use every day if cuts to funding had been made. In-home services, like Meals on Wheels and Service Link, are critical components in assisting the state’s growing elderly population, allowing these individuals to stay in their homes for as long as possible,” said Senate Finance Chair Jeanie Forrester, R-Meredith.
“In addition to being a significant cost savings for New Hampshire taxpayers, bringing services to the elderly in their own homes over being admitted to a nursing home contributes to greater independence and a higher quality of life for many,” added Forrester.
“The Senate made the right move in providing full funding for the developmental disabilities waitlist and emergency shelters for the individuals who heavily rely on these services,” continued Forrester.
“The Senate has been committed to providing a budget that addresses the needs of the state’s most vulnerable. With today’s votes to restore significant DHHS cuts, we have developed a thoughtful and compassionate budget that considered the needs of many Granite Staters who benefit from this type of assistance,” said Forrester.
“Alcohol abuse in addition to growing opioid abuse problems are negatively affecting communities across the state and by adding resources for treatment and prevention we are working to make sure these individuals are receiving the support they need,” said Senate Finance Vice Chair Jerry Little, R-Weare. “This has been a priority of the Senate and I am encouraged by today’s vote.”