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N.H. House passes stingy budget as demonstrators rally outside

Demonstrators rallied on the steps of New Hampshire’s State House yesterday to protest proposed spending cuts and a provision that would strip public employees of union protection. Demonstrators rallied on the steps of New Hampshire’s State House yesterday to protest proposed spending cuts and a provision that would strip public employees of union protection. (Jim Cole/Associated Press)
By Norma Love
Associated Press / April 1, 2011

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CONCORD, N.H. — Amid chants from the gallery and thousands of demonstrators in the State House plaza, the New Hampshire House approved a $10.2 billion budget yesterday that deeply cuts social programs and strips public unions of much of their bargaining power.

The House debated the budget for five hours before Republicans pushed it through, 243-124. Early in the debate, chants of “Shame On You!’’ rained down from a crowd in the gallery, which was temporarily cleared but reopened before the final vote. Outside the State House, thousands more gathered to voice opposition.

House Speaker William O’Brien, a Republican, called it a historic achievement to send a spending plan to the Senate that raises no taxes or fees and does not borrow for operating costs.

Referring to yesterday’s vocal opposition, he told reporters, “The voices that speak to me are the taxpayers who say [the spending is] too much.’’

An estimated crowd of 2,500 rallied outside while the House debated. The demonstrators were public employees, their supporters, and opponents of deep cuts to social service programs.

“Are we going to give everyone the opportunity to live free, or are we going to sit back, pass a state budget like this, and just let people suffer until they die?’’ Jesse Welch, 16, a recovering drug addict, told the crowd.

State funding for substance abuse treatment is reduced in the House budget.

Katharine Terrie — retired director of development for the North Country Consortium, which provides social services for northern Grafton and Coos counties — said she came to support the unions and the poor who will be harmed by the cuts.

“If these cuts go though, I think people will die,’’ she said.

Governor John Lynch, a Democrat, said: “The House budget goes far beyond what is necessary to live within our means, risking our state’s economic strategy and the health and safety of our citizens.’’