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Only 20% of HHS dollars go to clients in form of direct services

To The Daily Sun,
I am writing in response to a letter from Susan Michaels Gunther, which was printed on April 23. I would like to say that I understand her angst over having to advocate repetitively for a loved one's disability services. Ms. Gunther shamed the House of Representatives and accused them of "trying to eviscerate the state" because of the lack of funding for services to the disabled. This year, the House of Representatives appropriated a total amount of $5.5 billion dollars for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for the 2016/17 biennium. This represents an increase to the total funding for DHHS of $141 million over the current biennium! Where does all that money go? Not to those with disabilities you say, Ms. Gunther? Well you're right. I was told about 20 percent goes to direct services for those living with disabilities and an estimated 80 percent goes to salaries, benefits, retirement, raises, vehicles, cell phones, and the list goes on and on.

The people "eviscerating" the budget are those who are employed to ensure people with disabilities get their services! The taxpayers are paying handsomely to be helpful to those in need. I don't know any taxpayer who would delay funding to those who are truly in need. Both the taxpayers and the people with disabilities are seeing the short end of the stick. When you think about $5.5 billion dollars being allocated and all the while people are on wait lists for funding to get their needs met, it's beyond awful. Ms. Gunther, you are correct that something is drastically wrong however, the fault does not lay at the feet of the House of Representatives.
Barbara Howard

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We should expect Forrester to engage in honest conversation

To The Daily Sun,

Let me start with what might be a surprising revelation. I voted for Jeannie Forrester in the last election.

I voted for Senator Forrester with the hopes that she would be a senator in the great Republican tradition of Walter Peterson and Warren Rudman, where thoughtful moderation was the hallmark of their service. So I voted for her. I suspect that many voters made the same decision.

I've chosen to speak out now because I'm deeply troubled by the kind of senator she has actually been, choosing to ally herself with those for whom compromise is scorned and partisan grandstanding is the norm.

You may have read, in these pages, that Senator Forrester is fighting the Department of Health and Human Services' decision to forego a rate increase for nursing homes. She is making a lot of hay over a problem that she herself helped create.

In 2011, Forrester voted for the infamous "O'Brien" budget that included a $30 million cut to nursing homes. And in the most recent budget, Forrester pushed for vague across-the-board cuts to Health and Human Services, without specifying which services should actually be cut.

This was a dishonest attempt to cut the budget without facing up to the pain those cuts would create and now she is trying to protect the nursing home owners from the consequences her actions.

In effect, Senator Forrester opened the door for the horse to escape from the barn and now she is standing on the rooftop screaming for someone to stop the horse.

Hypocritical and dishonest political stunts like this mislead our seniors and do a disservice to her constituents and to our state's public discourse.

Whether you agree with the policies of Forrester and her Senate Republican colleagues or not, surely we can all agree that it's time for us to demand that political leaders like Senator Forrester face up to the challenges and propose real solutions not political stunts that avoid a serious conversation.

As a former state senator, I fully understand that disagreement is an inevitable — and important — part of our democratic process.

We do not expect that our legislators in Concord will always agree with us.

What we do expect, however, is for our legislators to engage in a thoughtful and honest conversation about the issues that matter most to our communities and our state.

Unfortunately, Senator Forrester does not seem to be up to that task.

Wayne D. King

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