---- — CONCORD (AP) — More than 100 New Hampshire residents spoke out on behalf of the state funded programs they hope will be supported in the next budget at a Senate hearing Thursday, with many calling for the cuts made in the last two-year spending plan to be restored.
Some of those cuts were restored in the $11 billion budget passed by the House in April, and much of the testimony at the hearing was in favor of keeping that money in the final budget. Earlier in the week, Senate Republicans indicated they will try to pare down the House proposal, saying it relied on unrealistic revenue projections.
The Senate Finance Committee listened to more than four hours of speeches Thursday from advocates and beneficiaries of a wide range of programs including disability, domestic violence and other social services. Numerous people also testified in favor of Medicaid expansion.
Jo Fonda, of Amherst, said she was lucky to have a well-paying job and the resources to get her and her daughter away from her abusive husband. After she ran away with their daughter, he later crashed their private plane into the home they had built, burning it to the ground and taking his own life. Domestic violence prevention services help women without the resources she had get out of abusive situations, she said.
“I urge you to generously fund domestic violence services in New Hampshire,” Fonda said. “This funding could quite literally mean the difference between life or death for victims of abuse.”
Domestic violence services were cut in the last biennial budget and received level funding in Gov. Maggie Hassan’s proposal for the next budget beginning July 1. The House increased that money by raising the marriage license fee, part of which is dedicated to domestic violence prevention services.
Pete Eldredge, of Somersworth, was among many parents of a child with developmental disabilities who urged the Senate to keep funding in the House budget for disability services. Elderege said his daughter Samantha, now 40, was 2-years-old when she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and he was a newly single parent. Today, he said, his daughter is receiving the support she needs and is able to be involved in her community. But he recalled a dark period when she aged out of school-based services and landed on a waiting list for adult support services, leaving her isolated in their home.
He said there should be no waiting list, adding that the House budget includes money to get many families off that list as well as restoring in-home and other support functions that were underfunded in the last budget.
“Over the years, the state has balanced the budget on the backs of people with disabilities,” he said.
Among the many who spoke in favor of Medicaid expansion was Steve Ahnen, President of the New Hampshire Hospitals Association.
“There are currently over 130,000 people in New Hampshire who lack health insurance coverage and this would reduce those numbers dramatically,” he said.
Others called for increased funding for community based social services for families and at-risk youth as well as nursing homes and long-term care services.
The Senate will vote on its budget plan in early June and then will meet with the House to negotiate a final budget.