Thanks to the Nashua Telegraph for printing my most recent op-ed ‘Something missing at state budget hearings.’ Read the story here.
Something missing at state budget hearings
The NH Senate held over five hours of budget hearings last Wednesday. For several hours I listened to one citizen after another plead for funding for a host of our state’s needs. Through it all there was a nagging feeling that something was missing.
My heart ached for a mother who lost one child to cancer last year and was losing another to the ravages of mental illness as she pled for adequate mental health funding.
Still there was something missing.
Representatives Hall was filled to capacity as was the House gallery, the ante-room, and the corridor outside with some attendees escorted to the Statehouse cafeteria to wait for a seat. An estimated more than1,000 citizens turned out for the hearing. Approximately 400 signed up to testify on the House-passed budget. Others signed in favor or in opposition. Still others just came to bear witness.
Yet, there was something missing.
One mother said, “I come here every two years to say the same things. We shouldn’t have to beg you for support year after year.” Like many parents of disabled children she beseeched the Committee to reinstate the thin safety net that provides care for her child while she works each day. These parents pay property and other taxes and save the state tens of thousands, if not millions, of dollars by keeping their adult children out of state care.
But, there was something missing.
Chambers of commerce and tourism-related businesses asked for restoration of tourism promotional funds, noting a 9 to 1 return on every dollar so invested, an industry accounting for more than 34 million visits, and $4.5 billion in spending.
Keene State College’s student president testified about friends who’ve had to drop out due to tuition costs and escalating debt. “I love New Hampshire. I want to stay, but my college debt and the cost of living here will likely result in my leaving when I graduate.” He won’t be alone: An alarming number of young people are abandoning New Hampshire.
Many sported neon green t-shirts with the chalk outline of a body on the front bearing the number 321, the number that have died in the past year from drug overdoses. They entreated the restoration of funding for addiction services during the worst opioid crisis in our history.
Dozens of seniors asked the Committee to save ServiceLink, a coordinating agency for seniors, and to restore funding for Meals on Wheels. There are very practical and economic reasons for maintaining adequate services to allow seniors to stay in their homes. For example, our current county nursing homes can’t accommodate much more.
Suddenly, amidst the supplications for prudent investments in our economy, in educating and retaining our young people, and in crafting a budget that demonstrates our moral priorities, I realized what was missing. In all the hours of testimony I had not heard one, not one, who stood up and asked for cuts to the budget, not one who implored the Committee to tighten our collective belt and eliminate any of the programs being discussed. Not one person demanded fee and tax cuts. Even a Republican North Country Executive Councilor, known for advocating fiscal belt tightening, pleaded with the Committee to restore funding for economic development and services needed by his constituents.
Of the more than 800 signatures on sign-in sheets ten were in favor of the budget with the rest opposed. Some of the ten may have been an error as two individuals indicated they were homeless (who have also seen cuts). Even if we accept every one of those ten as being in favor of the budget, that’s a mere 1.2 percent of those present at the hearings.
Where, then, does the outcry to slash these programs come from? As one woman said to the Committee, “We heard loud and clear from the House: you don’t matter to us, your children don’t matter to us. Will you tell us the same thing?”
Is that really what we want to tell the citizens of our State – the vulnerable, our students, seniors, tourism businesses – you don’t matter to us. Is that truly the best we can do?
Seacoast Online: “(W)ith the possibility of a wide open race for governor other names are appearing in the political blogosphere. One in particular that has caught our attention is that of Jackie Cilley.”
“The Seacoast Democrat currently serves as a state representative. She has previously been a state senator and a Democratic primary candidate for governor. During this time she has developed a reputation as a consensus builder who does her homework and knows how to crunch legislative budget numbers.” Read the story here.
Thanks to Patch for running a story on the rally at UNH yesterday calling attention to the related crises of student debt and income inequality. It was my pleasure to join the students of the UNH Peace and Justice League (https://www.facebook.com/unhpjl?fref=ts) and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (BoldProgressives.org) to work on these crucial issues. (My remarks can be heard in part at https://www.facebook.com/unhpjl/posts/840269342731935 )
Patch: “I was the first in my entire extended family to be able to go to college. There were Pell Grants, reasonable student loans, assistantships, and housing assistance… because society said to people like me that ‘we believe in you, we want to invest in you, we want you to be part of the future.’ Somewhere along the line, we have forgotten that.” Read the story here.
It was great meeting with progressive students working to make a change and demand answers to the student debt crisis. I look forward to working with them and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (BoldProgressives.org) to pin down our presidential candidates during our first in the nation primary on real solutions to the high cost of higher education. Read the story here.
Poll from this week shows two things – Maggie is a VERY popular governor and, should she run against Kelly Ayotte, Maggie will win and leave a wide open gubernatorial race in her wake. Read the full story here.
Statement of Representative Jackie Cilley on the results of today’s Public Policy Polling survey of New Hampshire
Statement of Representative Jackie Cilley (D-Barrington) on the results of today’s Public Policy Polling survey of New Hampshire
(Barrington, NH – April 16th, 2015) In a Public Policy Polling survey conducted of New Hampshire, Barrington Rep. Jackie Cilley is shown ahead of, tied with, or within the margin of error of the likely Republican candidates for governor in head-to-head match ups.
“I didn’t run for governor in 2012 to be someone important, I thought that there was important work to do. When I decided to run for the legislature again after being away for four years, it was because there were specific policy goals that I thought needed to get done. Raising the minimum wage and passing a reasonable budget that protects and expands the middle class are more important than my job title. I’m interested in whatever role affords me the best chance to advance that agenda.
I’m in no hurry to make a decision about what I’ll do next year and, last I checked, Gov. Hassan hasn’t made any announcement about her plans either.” See the full poll here.
Thanks to everyone who turned out yesterday and expressed an interest in helping to get a raise for our most poorly-paid neighbors. It will take time, but we can get this done. And thanks to Rich DiPentima for putting this together and for all the work he does. Read the story here.
Panel focuses on living wage
Maine, N.H. legislators offer viewpoint
By Karen Dandurant
PORTSMOUTH – A panel of Seacoast area legislators led a community discussion on the challenges of earning a living wage on Sunday, at South Church.
The event was sponsored by the Social Justice Associates as a way to foster a dialogue with residents of the greater Seacoast about the topic. Bringing their perspective to the issue at the forum were N.H. state Sens. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth and David Watters, D-Dover; N.H. state Rep. Jackie Cilley, D-Barrington; Maine state Rep. Deane Rykerson, D-Kittery, and Rebecca Boyle of Rockingham Community Action Programs.
According to a living wage calculator created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an adult with two children would need to earn $26.98 an hour in order to live in Portsmouth. It is estimated that the cost of living in Portsmouth is 8.5 percent greater than the New Hampshire average and 26.1 percent greater than the national average.
Boyle talked about the families she works with at RCAP.
“This winter was very hard on families,” she said. “One family I know, was chopping up their furniture to heat their home. They got fuel assistance, but when it ran out, they had no other choice. If this family had a livable wage, this would not need to happen, and they are just one story. You can only divide and cut up what you make in so many ways, and it’s not enough.”
The legislators have been active in promoting an increase in their states’ minimum wage – $7.25 an hour in New Hampshire and $7.50 an hour in Maine. The N.H. Legislature last month rejected three bills to increase the minimum wage, including one sponsored by Cilley that would have raised it to $14.25 by 2018.
“We had a chance to insert more money into our recovering economy and increase its momentum and we didn’t,” said Cilley at the time her bill was defeated. “Most importantly, we had a chance to stabilize the finances of thousands of our neighbors while allowing them to move off food stamps and other forms of public support and we didn’t.”
Cilley said a fair living wage matters to everyone. She said it affects the economy and job creation.
“Minimum wage workers are not part-time workers,” said Cilley. “Fifty-three percent are full-time workers. They are not teenagers as people say. Seventy-six percent of minimum wage workers are 20 or older, and the majority are women.”
Bills to increase the minimum wage in Maine are not expected to pass, either; yet Rykerson said a hike in wages benefits workers.
“In the 20 states that have raised the minimum wage this year, not only are the families of wage earners doing better, the economies of those states have also been improving,” he said.
Rykerson said he believes in a free market, as in people trading one service for another.
“Like if I paint your shed, you mow my lawn,” Rykerson said.
“Society should not have to bail out workers because businesses are not holding up their end and paying their employees enough for basic needs like food and shelter. A living wage does not result in job loss but will result in less need for federal subsidies.”
Rykerson said he would welcome a study on the correlation between substance abuse and low wages. He said he believes the self-esteem issues involved in not being able to support a family could well contribute to “self-medicating.”
The question we should be thinking about is what our neighbor’s worth is to society, said Watters.
“These are our caregivers and the people who serve us food,” said Watters. “They have families to support and they want to provide a good home in a safe house. By definition, minimum means the least allowable. Consider the social cost of these wages, and do we think the government should have to subsidize the rest of what a family needs to survive?”
Former N.H. state Rep. Rich DiPentima, chairman of the South Church Social Justice Associates, served as moderator for the forum. He said his group has been concentrating this year on issues of dignity and worth. The group also organized the March 8 walk over the Memorial Bridge to honor the 50th anniversary of the walk in Selma, Ala.
“A living wage is a critical aspect of social justice and basic human dignity,” said DiPentima. “As such, the South Church Social Justice Associates feel compelled to address this need.”
A question-and-answer period followed comments made the panel members.
After a four-year absence from the New Hampshire General Court, newly-returned state Rep. Jackie Cilley, D-Barrington, announced that her first piece of legislation – and her chief priority in the coming session – is to give New Hampshire’s struggling workers a raise with an increased minimum wage paired with the elimination of the so-called “tipped minimum wage.” This legislation would mark a return to a state-based minimum wage and move tipped workers into the economic mainstream with a raise from the current rate of $2.90.
Cilley, whose legislation would raise the minimum wage to $14.25 per hour over a three year-period and eventually tie the tipped minimum wage to the same figure, argues the move from both a matter of fairness and economic common sense.
Don’t be fooled by candidates who claim they will slash State budgets but don’t explain how they will protect you against rising property taxes. Many needs, such as educating our children or maintaining our roads and bridges, don’t go away simply because the State fails to pay its fair share. Instead, the costs roll down to property taxpayers just like you and me. As your next State Representative you can count on me to stand against damaging State cost-shifting to Barrington’s property taxpayers. We must shift damaging cost-shifting to Barrington property taxpayers while preserving our K-12 education, pristine environment, and bridge and road safety. We must have smart, cost-effective State Government that places no further tax burden on our town.
- Born Berlin, NH
- Barrington Resident 25+ years
- Represented Barrington in Concord, 2005-2006
- Representative; 2007-2010, State Senate
- UNH Bachelor of Arts & Masters of Business Administration
- University of New Hampshire Adjunct – 20+ years
- Business Consultant – 15+ years
- Helped Build Barrington Horseshoes Plus, Inc. with husband Bruce – 22 years