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Please make the commitment to Stand Up for Laconia with us

To The Daily Sun, 

Although the school year is over and the slower and more relaxed pace of summer is here, Stand Up Laconia is not taking the summer off, but picking up speed.

Substance misuse continues to be a significant issue here in New Hampshire. Only your involvement can help us to keep this issue on the front burner where it belongs. As we know, the effects of substance misuse reach and corrode all fibers of our community, whether it be relationships, health, safety, or our economy. Although this issue is certainly not unique to our community, our community's reaction to this issue is.

Throughout our state, people are beginning to notice Stand Up Laconia, a small but committed and growing group of people. Our mission is simple: We want the drugs out, and a safe, vibrant community back. Many of us are refusing to just close our doors and pretend it is not an issue or complaining that it is just too complex of an issue to tackle. So Laconia and Lakes Region — Way to Go.

However, we still have lots of work to do. This issue is huge and we need every member of our community to get involved. And there are so many ways to become involved. We recognize everyone's time is precious and some may have more time than others to commit to this coalition. If we all give in whatever way we can, the momentum will gain and positive changes are then inevitable.

The only thing that will decrease the impact of the coalition is feeling, "Oh it's a growing coalition and they have enough people," or "I'll get involved sometime down the road when I have time."

There are 16,000-plus people who live in Laconia. Stand Up Laconia has about 250 coalition members, and about one-third of those are active members. If with those small numbers we are making positive changes, can you imagine with a substantial amount of involvement the positive changes that would take place? A year from now this community would be a completely different place. People would be lining up to move here. This is not a dream and could absolutely be a reality. If together we make this issue a priority this summer, get involved and see what 16,000 people Standing Up together Laconia can achieve.

Here are upcoming ways for you to get involved:

— Thursday, June 18, Monthly coalition meeting at Laconia Middle School from 5:30-7 p.m.

— Thursday, June 25, Free movie event "Anonymous People" at Lakes Region Community College

— Saturday, July 4, Stand Up Laconia table at Opechee Park.

— Monday, July 6, Make A Difference Monday – Fundraiser at Winni Playhouse in Meredith.
— Aug. 4, National Night Out

These are just a few ways Stand Up Laconia is getting involved, increasing awareness and creating a louder voice to ensure our community is a leader in prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery.

Make the commitment to Stand Up with us and come to this Thursday's meeting. Bring a neighbor, family member or co-worker with you. I sincerely hope we see you on the 18th. If you cannot make it send me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and let me know how you can help us grow this coalition.

Clare Persson

Laconia

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Sen. Jeanie Forrester - Senate has produced a responsible state budget

The New Hampshire Senate has passed a thoughtful, conservative, and compassionate budget. This $11.3 billion budget will fund state government for the next two years. The Senate budget spent more than the House, but less than the governor. By approving this budget, our Senate colleagues took an important step to grow New Hampshire's economy and provide vital services to those most in need.

The first step in building a responsible budget is figuring out how much money we have to spend. Estimating state revenues more than two years into the future is always uncertain, and it is prudent that we be conservative in our estimates. If we're too optimistic about the rate of growth in our economy, revenues will fall short and force deep cuts to state programs. We saw how painful this mistake was in 2010 when rosy revenue estimates failed to materialize, forcing a special session to cover a budget deficit. The estimates on which we based this budget project conservative 2 percent annual growth over the next two years in state General Fund revenues.

The governor's budget planned on an additional $129 million in tax and fee increases, on everything from small businesses to cigarettes to car registrations. The Senate budget removed those tax and fee increases. We found a way to build the budget without adding an unnecessary financial burden on our hardworking citizens.

This budget lowers the Business Profits Tax for the first time in 20 years, and cuts the Business Enterprise Tax paid by our small businesses for the first time ever. Tax rates will go down for businesses that employ 95 percent of New Hampshire's private sector workforce, leaving entrepreneurs with more money to reinvest in their workforce. This modest reduction will serve as a beacon that after four years of anemic economic growth, the Granite State is again open for business.

We're also proud that this budget more than doubles the state's Rainy Day Fund to $21 million. Rebuilding our fiscal reserves helps our bond rating and provides a cushion against an unexpected economic downturn.

Ultimately, budgets are about priorities, and you can tell the Senate's priorities from the programs and services we chose to fund. A top priority was restoring funding for programs aimed at those most in need.

Within the Department of Health and Human Services, we were able to fully fund developmental disabilities and the waitlist, fully fund Meals and Wheels, and restore funding for emergency shelters and ServiceLink.

We also spent $22.9 million for existing and new mental health programs including the 10-bed crisis unit at New Hampshire Hospital.
We restored Governor Hassan's cut to nursing homes and home health care providers and provided a 3 percent rate increase to home health providers (e.g., visiting nurses, Granite State Independent Living, etc.) — the first increase since 2006.

Faced with a growing crisis of substance abuse, we were also able to stand up the alcohol fund by dedicating proceeds ($6.7 million) from the Liquor Commission for the first time in over a decade. This fund was created in 2001 by then Senator Ned Gordon who recognized the importance of funding prevention, treatment, and recovery services. (The original request for funding was approximately $17 million. The governor cut the funding to $9.6 million and the House cut the funding to $3.4 million.) Including the alcohol fund appropriation, we increased spending on drug and alcohol programs across state government to $42.1 million.

The Senate budget also commits to education at all levels. It lifts the cap on state adequacy grants, providing an additional $4 million to local schools, and increases state support for charter school students. It increases the state's investment in the N.H. Community College System, triggering a two-year freeze on tuition, and increases funding for the university system ($11 million more than FY14/15).

The Senate budget prioritizes road and bridge construction by targeting more money to municipal construction projects, increasing state aid from $60 million to $70 million over the biennium. By restructuring our Highway Fund debt through a federal pilot program, we're able to use more money on highway construction and maintenance, and less on interest payments.

We've restructured our public safety programs to ensure sustainable funding, without raiding the Highway Fund. By dedicating funds for Homeland Security, adding positions and overtime at the Department of Corrections, funding the Department of Safety Detective Bureau, and increasing pay for courthouse security, we are meeting the Legislature's commitment to protecting the public.

There are things missing from this budget, most notably the state employee pay raise and the N.H. Health Protection Plan. With respect to the pay raise, we anticipate this will be discussed during final budget negotiations in the next two weeks. With respect to NHHPP, we will consider this important program outside the budget process (just like we did in the last budget).

The Senate passed a fiscally responsible budget that meets New Hampshire's needs and helps spark the New Hampshire economy and I am proud to support it.

(A Meredith Republican, Jeanie Forrester represents District 2 in the New Hampshire Senate. She is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.)

 

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