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April 01. 2013 12:38PM

NEA-NH exec board backs Hassan budget, opposes House Finance Committee proposal

CONCORD -- The executive board of the state's largest teachers' union has reversed its past opposition to expanded gambling and backed Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan's budget plan, while opposing the plan put forward by the Democratic-led House Finance Committee.

NEA-NH president Scott McGilvray said at a Monday news conference that while Hassan's budget fully funds an education adequacy formula for K-12 students, the House budget does not, and for that reason the board opposes that plan.

The 300-member delegate assembly of the 16,000-member union will have an opportunity to discuss and vote on the issue during its annual meeting Friday at the Frank Jones Center in Portsmouth, said McGilvray. According to the NEA-NH web site, there are 23 executive board members.

"The choice is not between the governor's budget and a better plan," said McGilvray. "The choice is between Gov. Hassan's budget and one that slashed funding to our university system and shifts costs to already overburdened property taxpayers by not funding aid for catastrophic special education costs and school transportation."

For that reason, he said, the executive board opposes the House Finance Committee-proposed budget, which reportedly cuts $52 million from the governor's $2.8 billion two-year plan, including $12 million from the governor's proposal for the state university system.

The full House is scheduled to vote on the finance committee budget on Wednesday. Republican leaders Monday lined up against the proposed House Finance Committee, budget, saying it contains regressive tax hikes and downshifts costs to county taxpayers.

Hassan included $80 million in casino licensing fees in her proposed budget, even though the Legislature has not yet passed expanded gambling.

A casino bill passed the Senate last month but has not yet been taken up by the House, where an uphill battle is expected.

McGilvray said that more than a decade ago, the NEA-NH board opposed expanded gambling as a "single revenue source" for public education in a formal resolution.

"But since that time, the world is a lot different and this (gambling plan) is very specific, going to roads and bridges, higher education, redevelopment of our North Country," said McGilvray.

McGilvray said "it was morally wrong what the past Legislature did to the citizens of New Hampshire -- not paying for the cost of catastrophic education, not taking care of school transportation, slashing spending to public safety. If we're going to debate a moral issue, we ought to take a look at the most vulnerable citizen and how they have been effected over the past two years due to the budget.

He also said the GOP budget currently in effect "is morally wrong to our most needy citizens. We can't retain students to stay at our university system. The cost is prohibitive. We're sending kids out of state to go to college. I think that's morally wrong."

McGilvray noted that gambling, in the form of the lottery, is among several sources currently funding education in the state. And he noted that Bingo and charity gaming thrive in New Hampshire.

"Given how education has come to rely on gaming in New Hampshire, and how the methods of gaming have changed in the state," McGilvray said, "it is difficult for an education association to claim that one form of gaming is morally superior to another."


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