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Two New Hampshires: Unfinished business

Former presidential candidate John Edwards often spoke about “Two Americas.” While the messenger was flawed, the message was not. In my experience as an educator and now as a representative, I have seen this play out as, “Two New Hampshires.”

From a political standpoint, the New Hampshire of the “Haves” does not want to do what is needed to help the New Hampshire of the “Have nots.”

I saw a news item on WMUR the other day pitching the need to refill our food banks. A spokesman for the charities said that the banks serviced over 150,000 different citizens of our state. That means that more than one in ten of our citizens need this assistance. Not surprising since another figure suggests that one in six of the state’s children live in poverty.

I was recently at a conference session on education. The presenter was from a district where 85 percent of the children were eligible for free or reduced lunches from a federal program. All districts have children in poverty, with reduced lunches and even homeless, including our own district.

In the last budget cycle, cuts were made that specifically targeted the population that lives near the margin. Children in Need of Services, (CHINS), developmentally disabled, adequacy funding for schools, Planned Parenthood, uncompensated care to hospitals, and Meals on Wheels all were cut. Expanded Medicaid and a path to affordable health care were blocked.

We just passed a new budget for the next two years. The conversation was different. This budget restores money for CHINS, the developmentally disabled wait list, some of uncompensated care, some of school adequacy funding, some of cut funds to tech schools and the university system. We were able to do this because revenues are coming in above predicted levels, as the economy recovers.

The one big item that remains undone is the expansion of Medicaid. In this program the federal government is providing all the funding for the next three years and 90 percent of it after that ($2.6 billion). This would allow tens of thousands of our citizens to have health care. This was pushed off to a commission to “study” it further. Their findings are due on Oct. 15.

The New Hampshire House has already voted for this expansion. The Senate has requested this commission. The senators who represent the ConVal towns have been among those blocking the passage of expansion. This will soon be in their hands again. While we wait, a million dollars per day, that could help our neediest citizens, will be frittered away.

Contact your senators. Let them know that it is no longer acceptable to play politics with the health and lives of our citizens.

Jon Manley, a Democrat, represents Hillsborough District 3, which includes Bennington, Greenfield and Hancock.

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