ARGUABLY, one of the most important documents a governor can produce is his state budget, which is why union members at the State Employees’ Association, myself included, were left speechless when we pored over the details of Gov. Chris Sununu’s budget.
If you expected Sununu’s budget to address the grim realities Granite Staters face, you will need to look elsewhere for that leadership. He forgot about a few key groups.
As the governor likes to remind us, New Hampshire is experiencing an economic boom. Where is that reflected in his budget for staffing and retention across state agencies? You would be hard pressed to find it. Unfunded positions are now the norm.
For example, the Department of Health and Human Services — the same agency that mandated their staff to work overtime during the federal government shutdown — received inadequate funding to address their staffing needs. His budget still leaves the Division for Children, Youth and Families short-staffed. The Department of Transportation, whose workers keep our roads safe and now maintain more road with the expansion of I-93, received nothing to address their staffing and retention issues. The list goes on.
When economic indicators point to a roaring economy, it means that now is the time to make investments in the state’s workforce, both in staffing and wages. It is not enough to talk about a booming economy and expect that it will somehow sprinkle everyone with good fortune.
The workforce needs to directly experience the effects of a strong economy. I cannot emphasize this enough: now is the time for investment. The economic pendulum will eventually swing in the other direction and whoever is sitting in the governor’s office will be quick to tell workers that times are lean. This justification will be used for just about everything.
Current public employees are not the only ones who have been forgotten in Sununu’s budget. New Hampshire’s public servant retirees who have not received a true cost-of-living adjustment since 2010 were also left out as well.
With the exception of a one-time payment made last year to retirees who fell within certain parameters, they have not seen an adjustment in eight years. This means their purchasing power has dropped by more than 15 percent when accounting for inflation. To add insult to injury, many have seen their health-care premiums skyrocket over the last decade. How can they possibly retire with dignity when they’ve been forgotten like this?
Retirees are one of the most inclined groups to spend their pensions right here in the Granite State. If the governor had chosen to invest in retirees, he would be investing in the local economy. Yet he missed an opportunity to do so with his budget.
The very people who make New Hampshire run smoothly or who have dedicated their lives to this state have been forgotten in this budget. Granite Staters need to demand that their legislators do the work the people elected them to do and rectify this wrong.