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Senate Budget Writers Hear From Public On State Budget

Paige Sutherland for NHPR
Advocates lined up to give testimony to the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday. More than 400 people signed up to speak.

Hundreds of New Hampshire residents turned out Tuesday to weigh in on the State budget, with more than 400 people signed up to testify during the hearing.

While waiting their turn activists filled the chamber and hallways wearing shirts that read  “addiction kills” or printed stickers with “people can’t wait.”The hearing went well into the night with 30 people left to speak around 11 p.m.

Those who spoke urged lawmakers to restore money that was trimmed from the spending plan passed by the New Hampshire House,  including millions from elderly programs such as Servicelink and Meals on Wheels  as well as millions for those with developmental disabilities.

Credit Paige Sutherland/NHPR
Deborah Drobysh of Nashua takes care of her 15-year-old granddaughter who has Cerebral Palsy.

Besty McNamara of Concord, who has a 15-year-old son with Cerebral Palsy, asked the Senate Finance Committee, "what are family members supposed to do when they have to leave their jobs to stay home to take care of their adult child with a disability, these short-term savings will turn into long-term expenses in the form of welfare and institutional care for the person with a disability.”

Deborah Drobysh of Nashua takes care of her 15-year-old granddaughter who also has Cerebral Palsy. 

“If we are not able to continue with existing funding I either need to quit my job and lose my lose or I say to the state, you take care of her. If the state takes care of her it will cost them at least a 100,000 dollars a year in funding where currently it costs the state 30,000 dollars a year.”

Many also voiced concern about the $6 million for drug treatment funding House budget writers removed from the Governor’s spending proposal.

Credit Paige Sutherland/NHPR
More than 30 people were left to speak after 11 p.m. The hearing started at 3 p.m.

Judy Tilton of Tilton said when she tried to get her son treatment for his heroin addiction there was a month long waiting list.

“My youngest son decided to dabble with heroin, a mere 4 weeks later, a mere 4 weeks he had played with heroin, I found him dead in his room, 21 and gone. That was 33 days ago.” Tilton said, who is a close friend of Senate Finance Chair Jeanie Forrester.

Forrester says she hopes many of these programs, including substance abuse, will see more dollars than the House proposal due to better revenue estimates.

“We are going to set our priorities and our most vulnerable citizens will be the ones that are at the top of the priority list just like the last time, so last time we funded meals on wheels, Servicelink, all those programs, DD waitlist, homeless community,” she told  NHPR, adding that raising taxes or fees are off the table.

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