June 21, 2021
Why I’m Voting NO on Budget Bills
Budgets are a statement of values and the FY 22-FY23 biennial budget coming before the NH legislature on Thursday runs counter to my values and counter to the values of NH voters. This budget brings the Trump administration’s values to the Granite State, which voters opposed last November. Before this legislative session began newly elected state Republican legislators submitted Trump era legislation on private school vouchers, abortion limits, tax cuts, NRA gun laws and resistance to racial and gender inequities reform. In spite of overwhelming testimony to the contrary, Republican legislators are pushing forward these bills in HB 2, the budget trailer bill, which has the full support of the Governor.
Private and Religious School Vouchers
Remember Betsy DeVos and her zealous support for private school vouchers? This year the New Hampshire legislature saw two bills mirroring her efforts to stifle our public schools in order to give public tax dollars to private and religious schools. The NH House version of the bill (HB 20) was retained in committee. The Senate passed its version (SB130) with only Republican votes, after 3,400 of 3,900 people registered their opposition to the bill. Republicans tabled the bill without any fiscal analysis in order to push it through the budget process, which they’ve done in HB 2. The bill includes family income qualifications at 3 times the federal poverty level, $79,000, for a family of 4, which is the same level for another program funding private and religious school vouchers, called Tax Credit Scholarships, which serves less than 750 students a year. Republicans never answered if someone can double up on these programs. Then the icing on a horrible bill is there is no means testing after one qualifies for a private or religious school voucher, only once does one file a statement of income and then a second income earner can return to the workforce, push family earnings over 3 times the poverty level and continue to have the public pay for private schools for their children. You’ll hear this called school choice. There never was any hearing on this version of the bill. This is the broadest government handout of any state and it’s going to draw on the same funds as public schools, the Education Trust Fund.
Public Education Funding Drops by $100 Million over The Biennium
Don’t let anyone lie to you, public school funding, called adequacy aid, is dropping in this biennial budget. Compared to FY21 adequacy aid, FY22 education spending will decrease by $39 million. In FY23, it drops by another $22 million. When you hear that the Statewide Property Tax (SWEPT) is dropping by $100 million for one year in FY23, you’ll need to remember that $15.2 million are going to the highest property valuation communities that don’t qualify for adequacy aid because they don’t need it. When my Republican colleague said everyone deserves a tax break, I replied, “The difference between us is I believe aid should be directed to the communities that need it the most.”
Divisive Concepts Prohibition
After HB 544 got clobbered in public hearings, the Senate tabled it and then an amended version was introduced into the Senate budget by Sen. Bradley. The public had no opportunity to give input on this amendment. When the Governor’s Commission on Law Enforcement Accountability saw it, they sent a strongly worded letter in unanimous opposition. How can the Governor fully endorse the Commission’s recommendation one summer and 10 months later endorse a statement prohibiting teachers and state officials from teaching that a member of any race, gender, or other identifier is inherently biased, whether consciously or unconsciously?
Is this how we want to teach our children? That when their friends, neighbors, teachers, or families are targeted by groups wishing them harm that they should turn the other cheek because the discussion of such a “divisive concept” may make their white peers feel uncomfortable? Should we teach our children that their silence is worth more than their safety? No. We confront that which makes us uncomfortable in the hopes that we create a society where no one is forced to confront the dangers of bias, both conscious and unconscious. We look within ourselves to understand how our position as white people in a majority white state has given us a level of privilege not felt by all of our neighbors. We admit that there are real biased actions happening right now. Not in our distant past, but in our very real present, and we take steps together to be brave and be better.
Women’s Reproductive Freedom and Abortion Prohibitions
The budget bill establishes one of the Country’s most restrictive abortion measures and completely ignores the testimony we heard in Senate Judiciary. The President of the NH Society of Physicians said late term abortions don’t occur in NH without extenuating circumstances, such as fatal fetal abnormalities, a child with a partial skull or spine for instance. Parents face the most difficult decision and they should be able to do so with their expert medical advisor. The government has no business interfering with a decision to terminate a pregnancy and certainly needs to give space for a woman to decide for herself. The amendment then goes further and requires a physician perform an ultrasound before any abortion, or face criminal prosecution.
This biennial budget introduces extremist legislation not in the best interests of Granite Staters. My vote will be a no.
July 8th Friends of Jay Kahn Fundraiser
I hope you can join Cheryl and me for a post-session discussion at our home, 135 Darling Rd. in Keene from 5 to 6:30 pm. There are a variety of levels at which to contribute.
The registration site is https://secure.actblue.com/donate/kahn.session21# or you can send a contribution to Friends of Jay Kahn, PO Box 433, Keene, NH 03431 or call us at 603-352-2903. We plan to be outdoors and appropriately cautious of community health concerns. There were 45 bills that went to conference committees, I participated in 8 of those, we resolved 5. We have much to talk about and need to plan ahead.
Please be well, stay safe and enjoy the great outdoors. It’s good to see people in familiar places again. But after the past year, I hope we remain cautious.
Senator Jay Kahn
District 10 include 15 towns in Cheshire County: Alstead, Chesterfield, Gilsum, Harrisville, Hinsdale, Keene, Marlborough, Nelson, Roxbury, Sullivan, Surry, Swanzey, Walpole, Westmoreland, and Winchester.