Inefficient defense spending hurts New Hampshire


My Turn: Inefficient defense spending hurts New Hampshire

For the Monitor
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
(Published in print: Tuesday, March 15, 2016)

As Congress begins considering President Obama’s final budget request, it’s a good time to take stock of where our hard-earned tax dollars are going. As a state representative, I am concerned that some urgent funding needs in New Hampshire – such as drug treatment, education, our aging roads and bridges, and community development – are being squeezed out by wasteful spending at the Pentagon.

New Hampshire currently relies on federal funds for about 30 percent of its revenue. Yet, this flow of federal dollars to the state is constantly under siege because more than half of the nation’s discretionary budget goes to the Pentagon. While I strongly believe in the responsibility to provide for a robust national defense, there are far too many examples of inefficient spending eating up our tax dollars.

One area that deserves particular scrutiny is the planned full-scale update of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal, expected to cost taxpayers $1 trillion over the next three decades. The so-called nuclear “modernization” programs include new fleets of nuclear-armed submarines, bombers and ground-based ballistic missiles, a new air-launched cruise missile, and new bells and whistles for the associated nuclear warheads.

The president and his military advisers have stated that we can reduce the deployed arsenal by one-third while maintaining stability with other nuclear powers. Yet, the current plans lock in a nuclear force structure that looks the same as it did 25 years ago and a spending trajectory that some experts are calling a budget train wreck. For instance, in 2029, the Pentagon will be spending $34 billion on nuclear force modernization alone, or “about as much . . . as the total budget of the U.S. Department of Justice,” according to the Center for American Progress.

Indeed, the Defense Department and supporters in Congress are beginning to justify the nuclear build-up with Cold War-like rationales, calling investments a counter to Russian aggression. Such thinking is backward, dangerous and provocative. Nuclear weapons did not stop Russia from invading Crimea or intervening in Syria.

Wasteful spending on dangerous weapons takes away from the safety and welfare of Granite Staters where they need it the most. Over the last several years, New Hampshire has seen a sharp increase in heroin overdoses and many families have been affected by the devastating epidemic of drug abuse. In addition, in public education, taxpayers have been picking up the slack where the current funding formula does not cover schools that are growing. Our state’s businesses and manufacturers also suffer when Congress cannot nail down long-term highway and transit appropriations. It will take purposeful resource mobilization to provide drug addicts with effective rehabilitation, students with a first-class education and commuters with highly efficient transit systems.

Budget decisions are hard to make. Yet, today, unchecked public spending largely benefits the military-industrial complex without tackling 21st-century security threats and needs. New Hampshire’s hard-earned tax dollars ought to be put toward the things that really keep us safe and secure.

President Obama entered office calling for the “peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” but given the current political atmosphere, we cannot assume the next president will be quite as visionary. It is time for all of us, at the local, state and federal level, to speak out against excessive, wasteful and counterproductive nuclear weapons spending.


Magical thinking in Republican budget will turn NH into Kansas


We stand with Gov. Hassan in her decision to veto the fiscally irresponsible and unbalanced Republican budget, which we can only describe as a trail of false promises.

You may have heard Republicans claim that their budget increases funding for critical priorities like substance abuse treatment, mental health services and our seniors. But there’s one very big problem. Republicans’ fiscally irresponsible budget isn’t actually balanced, placing every single one of those priorities – and more – at risk.

This budget overpromises and under-delivers. Our Republican colleagues know that their budget doesn’t actually do what they say it does, but that doesn’t seem to bother them.

Instead of making tough choices and being honest with the people of New Hampshire about what their budget actually funds, Republicans would rather pass a budget riddled with magical thinking and false promises.

Republicans know that because their budget is unbalanced as written, they are simply passing the buck onto state agencies who will inevitably have to decide what critical services to cut down the road to keep the state in the black.

Even worse, their budget hurts our state’s long-term economic outlook by including unpaid-for tax giveaways for big corporations that will blow a $90 million hole in future budgets.

By blowing a massive hole in future budgets, it will be impossible for our state to invest in critical priorities like holding the down the cost of tuition, maintaining safe roads and bridges, and ensuring access to affordable health care.

We don’t have to guess what would happen as a result of these large, unpaid-for tax giveaways. We only need to look at the example of other states across the country, particularly Kansas.

The governor of Kansas proudly declared that his state was a real-world experiment in trickle-down, Koch Brothers’ economics when he pushed through massive, unpaid-for tax giveaways in his state.

What resulted? The state teetered on a fiscal cliff, deficits exploded, bond ratings sank, and none of the economic benefits that were promised actually materialized.

From Kansas to New Jersey to Louisiana and Wisconsin, we’ve seen what happens as a result of unpaid-for tax giveaways: first, deficits balloon, and then critical economic priorities must be cut.

New Hampshire’s economic outlook is promising. In 2014, New Hampshire’s economy grew the fastest in New England and faster than the national average. Not to mention that our unemployment rate is fifth lowest in the country, and our businesses have recovered all of the jobs lost in the recession – and then some.

This is the time to build on our progress by investing in our people and businesses, not let Republicans turn us into Kansas.

House and Senate Democrats will continue to stand with Gov. Hassan as we fight together for a responsible budget that is balanced and that will live up to the promises we make to our families and our businesses.

Rather than repeating the mistakes of states like Kansas, we encourage our Republican colleagues to come to the table and negotiate in good faith so that we can pass a responsible budget that will build on our economic progress and move our state forward.


Proud to Help Promote North Country Economic Development



Budget is a twisted tale of Broken Promises

The Telegraph
Sunday, April 5, 2015

Budget is a twisted tale

The House Republican budget is a twisted tale of broken promises. It breaks its word to voters, to taxpayers, to employers and employees, to the elderly, to people with mental illness or disabilities, and to our state’s future. It is a budget with shocking and Dickensian assaults on our economy and our citizens.

The Republican majority made a public promise at the beginning of the session that their budget would not raid dedicated funds, downshift costs to local taxpayers, or use other budget gimmicks. Their budget breaks all three promises.

In a dazzling money grab, this budget raids $51 million dollars from the Renewable Energy Fund. This money, collected from ratepayers, is dedicated to helping municipalities, businesses and individuals lower their energy costs.

As the majority’s budget passes down costs in the millions to counties for long-term care, it breaks its promise not to downshift to local taxpayers. Adding to the $12 million in downshifts to county property taxpayers are the yet-undetermined costs to municipal taxpayers that will result from deep cuts in safety net programs. Property taxpayers will be left holding the bag for these broken promises.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of the O’Brien-Jasper budget’s broken promises is their decision to empty the state’s Rainy Day Fund. According to the state treasurer, such a move could jeopardize New Hampshire’s credit rating, which has recently improved. In a growing economy, wiping out our emergency savings account is completely irresponsible.

We have a long-standing social commitment to our elders who helped ensure the previous generation could live their lives with security and dignity, with the trust that we would do the same. Yet this budget reduces the level of important services for frail seniors, putting their safety at risk.

We have a social commitment, also, to individuals with developmental disabilities and mental illness. This budget reduces funding below current levels and cuts back on mental health treatment and services. As a result, vulnerable populations will find themselves pitted against each other as they struggle to gain access to critical services without adequate funding.

Our business community has been clear that they need a healthy workforce and they are sick of the impact on their insurance premiums that comes from uncompensated care costs. The failure to extend the New Hampshire Health Protection Plan breaks our promise to help reduce uncompensated care. It also leaves almost 40,000 Granite Staters out in the cold when their insurance is cancelled next year.

This budget won’t promote economic development or attract youth to the state – two promises that we cannot break if we are to commit ourselves to a prosperous New Hampshire. The budget passed by the House is a budget so filled with broken promises as to shatter our prospects for a better tomorrow. We must hope that the Senate takes a different approach, and works across party lines to pass the kind of responsible budget that our future is counting on.


State Finances Can’t Depend on Unstable Currency –Union Leader op-ed

SINCE REGAINING the majority in the New Hampshire House of Representatives last November, the Republican leadership has promised responsible fiscal stewardship. Arguably, however, the most fiscally irresponsible bill this year is sponsored by Republican legislators. House Bill 552 would require the state to accept the digital currency bitcoin as payment for taxes and fees.Many people have never even heard of Bitcoin. It is a virtual currency introduced in 2009. Unlike major currencies, however, such as the dollar or euro, it has no central repository, and it is extremely volatile. From a high of $900 in late 2013, the value of a bitcoin has dropped to its current value of $224. That’s a drop in the value of the currency of 75 percent in less than a year!It would be supremely irresponsible for the State of New Hampshire to gamble with the public’s money by taking payments in such an unstable currency. Right now, New Hampshire’s cash reserves are approximately $160 million. Imagine if, all of a sudden, that reserve was worth 70 percent less. It would become more expensive to pay our financial obligations, for example, on our $1.6 billion of bond debt.Bond rating agencies look for stability and prudent fiscal policy. New Hampshire’s bond rating outlook was just improved to “stable” by Standard & Poor’s, due in large part to the settlement of a large hospital lawsuit. Currently, our average interest rate on outstanding general obligation debt issued in the last 10 years is just over 3 percent. This rate is based in large part on our bond ratings. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to imagine our bond ratings not being downgraded if our cash flow was dependent on such a volatile currency!Our financial obligations are not only to our debt service. We have 15,000 state employees whose families’ security depends on their paychecks not bouncing. We send money to our local communities to help pay for schools. We pay contracts to thousands of outside companies as well, and we also have financial obligations such as for rent and to the utility companies for lights and heat on 3.4 million square feet of building space.Imagine if we had to meet all these obligations and were doing so based on revenue collected that could be worth significantly less the day after it was received.The New Hampshire House has a long history of working hard to build responsible, frugal budgets that deliver essential services without overburdening taxpayers. Accepting tax and fee payments in bitcoin is not in keeping with responsible fiscal stewardship.We cannot afford to take our bonds to market with a scheme to pay the debt in a currency CNN recently termed “worse than the Russian ruble.” We cannot pay our employees with what Bloomberg has called “the worst currency of 2014.” Our state can and must be governed responsibly if we are to retain our New Hampshire Advantage.


From the Nashua Telegraph, setting the record straight on the budget deficit myth

Friday, February 6, 2015

Republicans promote myth of $800M deficit

Letter to the Editor

Republicans have been telling a story for five years that when they took over the legislature in 2010, they were stuck with an $800 million deficit left by the Democrats.

This story is a myth. The truth is that biennial state budgets are always balanced; it is required by law. As PolitiFact verified back in 2012, there never was a Democratic deficit in 2011. PolitiFact confirms that the budget Rep. Bill Ohm refers to in his recent letter (“Nashua rep fires back at letter-writing critic,” Jan. 30) left a $17 million surplus at the end of the biennium.

So if Democrats leaving the state budget with a $17 million surplus is the truth, where does the deficit myth come from? The $800 million Rep. Ohm refers to was additional federal funding, not part of the state budget. This was extra money all states received to help stabilize critical services during the Great Recession.

Every biennial state budget is balanced. In 2011, there was a $17 million surplus; the next budget had a surplus of $15 million. This budget will be balanced as well.

Governor Maggie Hassan has been working hard throughout the biennium, taking steps such as hiring freezes and directing budget cuts to meet bipartisan, legislatively-directed spending. A change in federal law governing Medicaid eligibility has also led to increased costs on the state level for low-income children and pregnant women.

The budget deficit myth of 2011 may have been a good story, but it just isn’t supported by the facts. The truth is that every two years the House and Senate work hard and produce a balanced budget. It’s what we do. It’s what we must do.

Rep. Cindy Rosenwald



The ABCs and Ds of Medicare by Rep. Cindy Rosenwald

Falling leaves, crisp nights and pumpkins signal Halloween and Thanksgiving—a busy time of year for all of us.  These seasonal markers also mean it’s time for New Hampshire’s 230,000 Medicare enrollees to choose their health coverage plans for 2015.

The annual open enrollment period for Medicare runs from October 15 to December 7.  Although no major benefit changes are expected, and some aspects of Medicare plans are standardized, individuals do have a number of important choices to make.  Since choosing Medicare coverage options can be confusing, it’s a good idea to take the time to review costs, coverage, and network options carefully.  As long as enrollment is completed by the end of the open enrollment period, coverage for 2015 will be in place.

Medicare is an alphabet soup of coverage for hospitals and skilled nursing care, outpatient services, and prescription drug insurance.  The open enrollment period is the time when most beneficiaries will need to assess their options and needs in detail.

Medicare part A covers hospital, skilled nursing home care, some home health care and hospice.  Part B covers outpatient medical care, including doctor visits and preventive care.  For the last few years, annual physical exams and important preventive health screenings and services have been covered without cost to the patient.  Parts A and B do otherwise have cost sharing, however, in the form of deductibles, co-payments and responsibility for co-insurance, and there is no limit on the amount for which the individual can be responsible.  Some retirees have supplemental insurance from their former employers to cover the payment gap; other beneficiaries will likely want to purchase Medigap insurance.

Since 2005, Medicare Part D has offered prescription drug insurance, either through private insurance plans or some employer-based coverage.  The infamous “donut hole” is closing under the health reform law.  Last year, approximately 15,000 Medicare beneficiaries in New Hampshire were able to save an average of $800 on their medications thanks to continuing closure of this loophole.

If you are confused by this alphabet soup, you might consider choosing a Medicare Advantage plan, known as Part C, which includes parts A and B, and sometimes D. Hillsborough County residents will have a choice of eight different Medicare Advantage plans for next year.  Some plans may also cover vision and dental care.  These plans may be the easiest and most inclusive options, but they can leave the insured person with high out of pocket costs.

When evaluating their coverage options, beneficiaries need to pay careful attention to cost sharing provisions such as premiums, deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance.  It is also important to make sure your doctors and other health care providers are covered by the plan you are considering, even if they are located in a different state.  This is especially crucial for “snowbirds” and frequent travelers.

There’s a lot to consider during Medicare open enrollment.  Fortunately, help is available locally through New Hampshire’s Service Link.  Their toll-free telephone number is 1-866-634-9412.  They also have a website:  http://www.nh.gov/servicelink/medicareinfo.html.

So enjoy the glorious New England Fall.  But make your choices in Medicare as well.


I am proud to have been named a Henry Toll Fellow

Rep. Cindy Rosenwald Selected as CSG Toll Fellow

LEXINGTON, Ky.—New Hampshire state Rep. Cindy Rosenwald is one of 48 state policymakers from across the country selected as a Council of State Governments’ Henry Toll Fellow for the Class of 2014.

The 48-person class of 2014 Toll Fellows represent 35 states and Puerto Rico, with 35 serving in the legislative branch, four serving in the judiciary and nine hailing from the executive. A nine-member committee of state leaders, many who are Toll Fellows themselves, reviewed a record number of applications to select the class.

“The Henry Toll Fellowship has a distinguished history of cultivating some of the nation’s top leaders and forging lasting relationships among a special few who serve without fear or favor,” said Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, the 2014 CSG national chair and a 2002 CSG Toll Fellow. This year’s class is drawn from a very deep talent pool, and each of those selected will contribute significantly.”

The Toll Fellowship Program, named for CSG founder Henry Wolcott Toll, is one of the nation’s premier leadership development programs for state government officials. Each year, Toll Fellows brings 48 of the nation’s top officials from all three branches of state government to Lexington, Ky., for an intensive six-day, five-night “intellectual boot camp.”

Rosenwald said previous CSG Toll Fellows had told her how the program helped them better serve their state.

“I hope to strengthen my skills and mitigate my weaknesses so that I may become a better, more effective leader in New Hampshire’s citizen legislature,” she said. “Particularly in a citizen legislature like New Hampshire’s, where there is minimal staff, the individual legislator can make a significant difference to the policies that affect the public.”

The program’s agenda includes a lineup of dynamic speakers and sessions designed to stimulate personal assessment and growth, while providing priceless networking and relationship-building opportunities. While each year’s program is unique, previous programs have included sessions on leadership personality assessment, media training, crisis management, appreciative inquiry, adaptive leadership and much more.

“The Toll Fellowship remains the oldest and most prestigious of all leadership development programs for elected officials,” said David Adkins, CSG’s executive director/CEO. “Its impact is profound and its quality is renowned. As a Toll Fellow from 1993, I know first hand the impact the program has on elected officials.”

Adkins was a 1993 Toll Fellow when he served as a Kansas state representative.

Toll Fellows alumni include U.S. Rep. John Carney, a former Delaware lieutenant governor; U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, a former Hawaii state Senate president; U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, a former Indiana secretary of state; former North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue and former U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

This year’s program will be held Sept. 5-10 in Lexington.



Medicaid Commission Recommendation is a Balanced, Consensus Approach

The bi-partisan commission established in the budget to study the feasibility of expanding Medicaid to provide health insurance to New Hampshire’s lowest income, uninsured adults issued its recommendation this week, and it represents the work of our volunteer state government at its best.  The commission issued a recommendation to create a pathway to Medicaid expansion that is a balanced, careful New Hampshire solution, representing our shared values and a respect for our citizens, our health care providers, and our health insurance carriers.

Our recommendation to extend health insurance to nearly 60,000 low income, working Granite Staters maximizes consumer choice and use of the private insurance market.  New Hampshire is ahead of a number of other states in that we have already elected to make use of a managed care model delivered through contracts with private managed care organizations.  Consumers have a choice among plans, and the carriers have the experience in coordinating an often fragmented health care system that will result in efficiencies and savings.  In addition, our commission’s recommendation is to expand New Hampshire’s premium assistance program that keeps Medicaid-eligible individuals on insurance offered by their employer instead.  Not only will this prevent people from dropping private insurance for Medicaid, but it will also allow them the stability of not needing to change doctors when their incomes fluctuate.

The commission’s recommendation is fiscally responsible as well, respecting the interests of New Hampshire taxpayers.  We aim to begin the expansion as soon as possible next year to take maximum advantage of 100% federal funding for three years while we incorporate newly-insured residents into rational use of health care resources, emphasizing prevention and primary care.  The increased use of the premium assistance program is expected to save as much as $35 million in the current budget.  We will cap the state’s financial risk as well, as we shift the risk to the private market through our capitated managed care contracts.  These contracts offer savings already incorporated in our current budget.  Finally, the commission recognized that, despite nearly 50 years of the federal government’s living up to its promised financial contribution to Medicaid, there are those who doubt the promised funding level for Medicaid expansion.  We recommend, therefore a “trigger” to discontinue expansion if the statutory requirement for guaranteed federal funding levels were to be changed by Congress.

We will trust the commercial market to implement its own successful business models as long as we realize our expected efficiencies.  Improved data collection, required by contract, will give both our department of health and human services and the carriers information on health outcomes as they are expected to be impacted by prevention, access to primary care and coordination of health care.  The carriers have the opportunity to offer wellness incentives or cost-sharing requirements as appropriate.  In any case, the risk is theirs in the managed care environment.  The commission also recognized the potential value to encouraging the managed care companies to participate in the new Marketplaces as early as 2015, broadening their attractiveness to more residents, and minimizing network churn for people with fluctuating incomes.  This is an innovative model being implemented in other states with potential benefit for us too.

Finally, the Medicaid Expansion Commission’s recommended pathway supports our health care providers.  In decreasing the number of uninsured Granite Staters, we reduce the amount of uncompensated care delivered by our hospitals, health clinics and mental centers by a projected $117 million in this biennium alone.  This is an enormous help for our critical health care safety net providers.  Beyond reducing uncompensated care, the recommended expansion of the premium assistance program helps providers with commercial market reimbursement rates which have traditionally been higher than public payers such as Medicaid and Medicare.

Working hard over the past three and a half months, we have agreed to a recommendation the way the public wants us to:   by putting our heads together and listening to each other, across the aisle and across the other states, we have recommended a balanced, responsible approach to decreasing the rate of uninsured New Hampshire residents.  As someone who worked on the House vision of Medicaid expansion last winter, it’s not where I expected to end up, but I’m glad I did; this is a better New Hampshire solution.


Medicaid Expansion Must be Legislature’s Top Priority for 2014

When the Legislature gets back to work next month, our first priority must be to pass Medicaid expansion.  Offering health insurance to New Hampshire’s poorest adults is the single most important step we can take to improve the health and security of our population, while investing in jobs and the economy.

58,000 New Hampshire residents between the ages of 19 and 64, who earn less than $16,000 a year, are currently unable to afford health insurance.  These are our state’s working poor: hairdressers, bus drivers, waiters and construction workers.  We depend on them for the quality of life we enjoy here in the Granite State.  However, these important members of our communities often put off routine care because they are unable to afford medical treatment and are more likely to end up in emergency departments, where care is more expensive and lacks coordination and follow-up.  A catastrophic illness or accident can cause result in crippling debt and bankruptcy for too many New Hampshire families.

Fortunately, comprehensive, affordable health insurance is now an option, offered through our nearly 50-year old Medicaid program.  Medicaid can help these 58,000 New Hampshire residents get treatment for their heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and depression.  Treating their chronic conditions can help them get back on their feet, work more hours, find full time work, and eventually earn enough money to get off Medicaid.

As efficient as Medicaid is, especially now that it is delivered through managed care contracts with private insurance carriers, the expansion to low income adults is an even better deal.  For the first three years, the federal government pays 100% of the claims, eventually settling at 90%.  This is tax money we already send to Washington, only now it will be returned to New Hampshire.  Medicaid expansion will represent an investment in New Hampshire’s economy of more than half a million dollars a day, every day.  This investment will lead to the creation of over 5,000 new jobs in our state; something we all agree is a priority.

Finally, Medicaid expansion will decrease uncompensated care in our hospitals, health centers and mental health centers by at least $80 million a year.  This financial burden on our health care system is created when people get seriously ill or injured and cannot pay for the treatment.  It is a burden that is currently passed on to families and businesses, making health insurance more expensive for us all.

With Medicaid expansion, we will improve the wellbeing and security of the people of New Hampshire, decreasing the burden of uncompensated care on our hospitals and health care providers.  We will gain 5,000 new jobs through unprecedented investment in our economy.  It’s no wonder the New Hampshire Business and Industry Association supports Medicaid expansion.  They know a healthy population is ready and able to work hard in a vibrant economy.

When the Legislature reconvenes in January, we need to roll up our sleeves and make Medicaid expansion happen.  Our friends and neighbors, health care providers and businesses are waiting for us to act.