Now is the time for the NH House to pass a casino bill; SB366 deserves their support. Casino opponents make a lot of excuses but I’ve spent more than twenty years getting a bird’s eye view of our government here in NH. Here’s a small glimpse into what we’ve got to show for ourselves as a state when it comes to managing our finances:
- Twenty-eight years ago we were sued for failing to provide appropriate services to educationally handicapped youth in our state safety net. This year we will again place some of these children at risk with more budget cuts.
- The health, safety and well-being of our most vulnerable children – those abused and neglected – was another thing we failed to protect, which is why we were sued 23 years ago. Eleven years later we faced federal courts again because we were still failing our children.
- We have faced lawsuits for more than 30 years because we do not adequately fund public education. Claremont I and II have now spanned two generations and the problem still isn’t fixed.
- Ten years ago we reneged on rates paid to residential providers serving youth in the care of the state. We left some providers going to food pantries by our action.
- A quarter century ago we reformed our mental health system and were commended for it; within ten years we failed them again. We violated federal law and cleaned up our act. We were sued again and recently settled for $30m.
- Failing thousands of female prisoners for more than three decades on their road to rehabilitation and reform, we’ve faced two class action lawsuits three decades apart.
- Five years ago over 200 doctors and other health care entities sued the legislature for illegally taking $110m from the medical liability insurance fund.
- NH hospitals sued us for taking over $100m in Medicaid money to balance the budget.
- In the 70s-90s state employees were promised free healthcare in retirement until they died; five years ago we reneged on that promise leaving thousands of former workers without adequate funds for healthcare. We remain over $2b in debt to them for even just the partial payment of their health insurance we still offer.
- Thanks to 20+ years of budget gimmicks, we are similarly in debt to active and retired public workers for insufficiently contributing to the pensions we promised them. In the past five years, 70,000 public workers and retirees sued us multiple times. Over $200m in pension benefit changes are at stake.
- In the past six years we’ve taken out over $125m of budget cuts on less than 1% of the population by eliminating 17% (almost 2,000) of the good full time jobs in state public service. Thirty years ago, we took such pride in these jobs that high school students took civil service aptitude tests.
This is just some of what’s been happening as a result of NH’s shameful budget shenanigans. Time and again the courts have proved NH doesn’t have a spending problem (at least not over spending). NH has a revenue problem and it has grown significantly during the decades that we’ve been debating bringing casinos to NH. We have left thousands of people in harm’s way for far too many years. Lives have been wrecked, roads to recovery and self sufficiency delayed for years, and we have eliminated the road of continued independence for hard working people – all in these years of debate.
After more than 40 years of accounting gimmicks and fiscal risks to pass so-called balanced budgets and dozens of class action lawsuits there is no excuse good enough to keep saying no to economic growth, new jobs and revenue.
We are tired of the fairy tale “we made some tough choices but in the end we passed a responsible budget.” We can’t keep being the sacrificial lambs for legislative budget woes.
Say yes to casinos now. It may be a drop in the bucket to legislators or casino opponents that have the luxury of saying that, but to the rest of us it is an important step forward.