House votes on ruthless budget this week - Protesters mobilizing for show of anger

The House Finance Committee will hold a two-hour briefing on the draconian cuts in the proposed two-year state budget Monday, March 30, at 10 a.m. in the Hall of Representatives. The needy, the disabled, the elderly, the mentally ill, prisoners, former offenders and their advocates will protest the budget on Wednesday, April 1, 2015. That’s the day the House votes on all spending bills. People of faith will gather at 8 a.m. for a prayer breakfast at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, then cross Park Street for a prayer vigil and visibility to remind policymakers the draft budget would hurt real people badly.

There will be no public hearing on the House budget, which is by design. The Finance Committee heard testimony in Concord, Derry and Conway on the Governor’s proposed budget, an impressive display of open government. But they their own plan under close wraps until now, giving opponents almost no time to muster resistance.

Strip parolees of their new health insurance

The spending bill and its companion budget trailer bill will decimate what little remains of the social safety net the legislature shredded in 2011.  The Finance Committee, for example, voted along party lines to defund the Medicaid expansion program, which would now sunset at the end of 2016. That program has already given health insurance to 37,000 people with incomes less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level, including the vast majority of former offenders.  They now receive medications, medical and mental health care, and treatment for addictions to help them stay out of prison.

Proponents say Medicaid expansion is a bargain for the state. The feds currently pay 100 percent of its cost under the Affordable Care Act. The federal share would drop to 90 percent after 2016, when the state must pay a matching 10-percent or lose the whole program. House leadership wants to axe the state match from the governor’s budget, along with nine times as much federal revenue.  A cut like that is a formula for recidivism back behind razor wire at an average cost of $35,000 per inmate per year.

Treat women only in prison, gut programs for parolees

Even the good news on spending is partly bad. The capital budget, known as HB 25, includes $12.6 million to pay the projected cost overruns in building a new women’s prison behind the men’s prison in Concord.  But for the original $40 million outlay, the state could have built a smaller women’s prison and an array of halfway houses and sober houses. A robust community corrections system is vital to help women succeed on parole. Instead we will have only a maximum security prison for them. It is founded on 19th century philosophy of punishment and segregation.

Bring back private prisons, oh boy

Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform worked hard for several years to block private prisons, and it was a tough fight. We helped to form a loose coalition that included the State Employees Association, the Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, the American Friends Service Committee, the League of Women Voters, the Civil Liberties Union, and other groups.  Now we all have to do it again. The budget trailer bill would privatize the Sununu Youth Center for teen offenders. The profit-making prison industry is coming back for a second try at taking over part of our corrections system. You can learn what that means by reading our State House News pieces from 2011, 2012 and 2013 at

Click here to find contact information on your lawmaker. They need to hear from you right away.

By Chris Dornin, founder, CCJR,