Opinion: Right-Sizing the Federal Government

By Mark Fernald

Washington is trapped in an endless fiscal debate.  Republicans argue that the Federal government is too big.  Democrats argue that revenues are too low.  The fight is over money, but the larger debate is over the size and scope of the government.

Before we line up on one side or the other, we should look at recent history.Over the past forty years, federal spending has averaged a little over 20% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

When the economy has been strong, federal spending as a percentage of GDP has dipped below 20%.  When the economy has been weaker, that figure has been several points higher.During the same forty years, federal revenues have averaged about 18% of GDP.  As a result, the federal government was in deficit for all but three of those years.

This fluctuation is to be expected.  When times are tough, spending increases for safety net programs, such as Medicaid, food stamps, and unemployment benefits.  The opposite happens when the economy booms, such as in the 1990s. Continue reading

Capital Comments: Gov. Hassan unveils budget Feb. 14

Capital Comments from State Senator Bob Odell

The long wait to learn what Governor Maggie Hassan is putting into her budget will end on Thursday.  Promptly at 10 o’clock in the morning, she will be introduced into Representatives Hall and with little ceremony will be introduced again for the purpose of making her budget address.

This happens in New Hampshire every two years.  And the Governor’s address sets the framework for the work the House and Senate will do before passing a two year budget in June for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. Continue reading

Capital Comments: Briefings give budget writers plenty to ponder

Senator Bob OdellCapital Comments from State Senator Bob Odell

One newspaper’s front page headline on Tuesday read, “For NH budget writers, it’s doom and gloom.”

The article was about a long day of briefings for House and Senate Finance and Ways and Means Committee members. Every two years the House and Senate invite in economic experts and analysts to put things in perspective as the budget writing process is beginning.

I remind my colleagues that the Governor will take the first step next month when she announces her budget plan in an address to a joint session of the legislature. That address will set out her spending plans that will tell us her policy goals. And she will explain her predictions on revenue for the next two years beginning on July 1.

Here is some of the news legislators heard.

First, economic growth is anemic. It is taking us longer to recover from the recession which officially ended months ago. And New Hampshire for the first time in memory is recovering more slowly than other states in New England except for Rhode Island. New England is also recovering more slowly than the rest of the country. That’s not good. Continue reading

Capital Comments: Hassan sworn in as governor, sets out priorities

Capital Comments from State Senator Bob Odell

Inaugurations of New Hampshire governors are always exciting and each one ties us to our long history of democracy as a state and nation.

Governor Maggie Hassan, a former State Senate colleague of mine for four years, is the second woman to be governor of New Hampshire and the first Democrat to replace another Democrat since the 19th century. Last Thursday, she was also the first woman sworn in by a female Supreme Court Chief Justice. Continue reading

Capital Comments: Senator Bradgon announces committee assignments

Capital Comments from State Senator Bob Odell

Organization Day, held on the first Wednesday in December in election years, is the opportunity for the new Senate and House to meet for the first time.  It is an occasion for legislators to share a special day with family and friends. Continue reading

Capital Comments: N.H. Medicaid and the new healthcare law

Capital Comments from State Senator Bob Odell

A constituent that I hear from periodically wants me to introduce a bill to nullify the new federal health care plan.  He writes, “Obama Care must be nullified within our state to eliminate the vast, new, unconstitutional powers over health care …”

In the days following the election, some legislators, government officials, stakeholders like insurance companies and health care providers and the media are focusing on the implications for New Hampshire of the Affordable Care Act, which even the President has said is appropriate to call Obama Care.   About 100 of them turned out last week at the Department of Health and Human Services headquarters to be briefed on the part of the new law dealing with Medicaid.

HHS Commissioner Nick Toumpas introduced the program explaining that while the U.S. Supreme found the new law constitutional, the federal government cannot force states to increase the number of people on Medicaid, the program that provides services to indigent people.  Commissioner Toumpas said policy makers, the legislature and the Governor need to determine whether or not we will expand the number of people on our Medicaid rolls.

After support for public schools, Medicaid is the next largest spending line in the budget.  To serve about 120,000 Medicaid eligible New Hampshire residents, the state spends $600 million annually that is matched by another $600 million from the federal government. Continue reading

State Representative-elect Linda Tanner thanks voters

Letter to the Editor

I would like to thank the people of Cornish, Croydon, Grantham, Plainfield, Newport, Sunapee, Springfield, and Unity in District 9 Floterial.  Thanks to all who supported me, hosted signs, sent donations and, most of all, voted for me as your State Representative. I look forward to serving all the people of my district as well as the people of New Hampshire to restore balance and common sense to our House of Representatives.  As a citizen legislator, I will keep your interests at heart and I will work hard to represent you and our communities to solve N.H. issues.

Linda Tanner, Georges Mills, N.H.
State Representative Elect
District 9 Sullivan County

2012 Election brings dramatic changes to Concord

Capital Comments from State Senator Bob Odell

The voters spoke last week and brought dramatic changes to Concord.

Most attention was focused on the election of a new Governor, former State Senator Maggie Hassan, and the reversal of a three to one Republican majority in the House to a 222 to 178 Democrat majority.  There is much less attention on the changes in the makeup of the State Senate.

Broadly speaking, the Republicans retained a narrow majority of 13 to 11 but that is down from 19 to 5.  Given the wholesale GOP losses in House contests, it is surprising only one Republican incumbent, Jim Luther (Hollis), lost.  And he lost to Peggy Gilmour, also of Hollis, who he defeated two years ago.

The 24 newly elected Senators will be sworn in by Governor Lynch on December 5 as required by the state constitution.  There are 14 Senators who were re-elected last week and three who are returning after being out one term having been defeated two years ago.  And there will be seven new members with four of them moving from the House to the Senate including David Pierce (Lebanon).

In 2006, history was made when the New Hampshire Senate became the first state legislative body in the country to have women make up a majority of its membership.  There were 13 women Senators between 2006 and 2010.  There will be nine women in the new Senate.

Republicans and Democrats moved quickly to choose their respective leaders.  Senator Sylvia Larsen (Concord) is the senior Senator in terms of service with ten terms and she was chosen by her Democrat caucus to lead the Senate Democrats.  Senator Peter Bragdon (Milford) was selected to lead the Republicans and with their majority he will be formally elected Senate President for a second term when the Senators gather on December 5. Continue reading

Sunapee Dems Gottling and Tanner win N.H. House seats

Sunapee, N.H. – 84.6% of Sunapee’s registered voters cast ballots in this year’s General Election on November 6. The local vote counts are available via the town website (homepage) or you can download them here (PDF 279 kb): Sunapee General Election Results 2012

In Sullivan County House District 2 (Sunapee-Croydon), Sue Gottling (D-Sunapee) defeated one-term incumbent Spec Bowers (R-Sunapee). The vote count: 1,343 to 1,003, 57% to 43%, according to NHPR published results. Gottling won Sunapee (1,138 to 798) and split the Croydon vote (205 to 205).

In Sullivan County House District 9 (Plainfield, Grantham, Croydon, Cornish, Newport, Unity, Springfield and Sunapee) Linda Tanner (D-Sunapee) defeated one-term incumbent Tom Howard (R-Croydon). The vote count: 5,525 to 4,759, 54% to 46%. (Unity confirmed Wednesday morning for SunapeeNews.com the District 9 vote count in Unity, the last town in the eight-town district to report, and it showed Tanner edging out Howard, 349 to 323.)

Linda Tanner seeks House seat in District 9 – Sullivan County, N.H.

Sunapee resident Linda Tanner is a candidate for state representative in Sullivan County’s District 9, a floterial district that includes eight New Hampshire towns: Plainfield, Grantham, Croydon, Cornish, Newport, Unity, Springfield and Sunapee.  Tanner is the Democrat on the ballot and lives in the village of Georges Mills.  She is running against one-term incumbent Tom Howard (R-Croydon). SunapeeNews.com asked both candidates in the District 9 race for voter information.

By Linda Tanner

Website: www.lindatanner2012.com
Email: electltanner@gmail.com

I graduated from a small teachers’ college in Pennsylvania and was drawn to New Hampshire because of its natural beauty and recreational opportunities. I ended up staying, coaching and teaching health, health occupations, and physical education for 35 years at Kearsarge Regional High School. I stayed because I fell in love with the New Hampshire culture of rugged individualism, frugality, community, school, and state pride, concern for the common good, and the protection of individual and civil rights.

I appreciate the way democracy is citizen based in this State and want to be your citizen legislator.

Over the past few years, I have become concerned with the radical legislation being considered and passed in our State House along with the lack of civility and consensus.  I feel I need to be part of the solution, not sit on the sidelines and hope for common sense to prevail.

I’m running to restore balance, common sense, and to work for solutions for New Hampshire not create more problems by promoting legislation from a national agenda.  I will vote to represent my constituents.

I will:

  • Promote economic growth by giving incentives for hiring and keeping jobs in N.H.
  • Vote for equal and adequate public education as well as funding for the State university and college system based on reasonable, ear marked revenues.
  • Vote for affordable health care and women’s access to reproductive health services.
  • Vote to support our workers, police, firefighters, public employees, first responders, and teachers.
  • Be vigilant in protecting our lakes, forests, and our precious environment.

Sue Gottling asks for your vote in N.H. House race

In the House race for District 2 in New Hampshire’s Sullivan County,  Sunapee and Croydon, former state Rep. Sue Gottling (D-Sunapee) is running against one-term incumbent Spec Bowers (R-Sunapee). SunapeeNews.com asked both candidates for voter information. Election Day is November 6, 2012.

By Sue Gottling

My name is Sue Gottling and I am running for State Representative in District 2, Sunapee and Croydon. Having served in the N.H. House from 2006 to 2010, I believe voters are ready for a return to cooperation and common sense.

Here is why I ask for YOUR vote in this important election.

First: The best legislation emerges when all sides work together. During my time in the House, I worked cooperatively with Republicans, including Senator Odell and Representative Kidder, sponsoring bills, serving on committees and chairing the Land Use Commission.

Second: I paid attention to my town by attending most Selectboard meetings for four years and sponsoring bills for the Board and constituents.

Third: As a member of the Resources Committee, I expedited help from DES [Department of Environmental Services] and DRED [Department of Resources and Economic Development] when crucial local issues arose.

Fourth: As an educator, I know the value of quality public education. I oppose the bills that threaten public education: 50% reduction of state support for our University system, making Kindergarten optional, removing vital curriculum components from state standards, and raiding the UNIQUE fund, the last vestige of state scholarships for college students.

New Hampshire does not need to be the only state that provides no money for scholarships, ranks last in financial support for higher education, and continues the highest rate of student loan debt for graduates. If employers come to N.H. because of our educated work force, then the present legislature is shortsighted and hypocritical when it claims its focus is Jobs.

Finally, I would never insult our small business entrepreneurs and skilled workers by attempting to take away their licenses. The prime sponsor of these bills was my opponent who took advantage of his narrow election to pursue an ideological agenda. My responsibility is to the whole community and to act in its best interest.

Imagine Sunapee IDs community “ideas, dreams and opinions”

Sunapee Harbor Riverway and Project Sunapee gathered “a fantastic variety of ideas, dreams and opinions” from Imagine Sunapee…2020, a pubic forum held at Sunapee Harbor in March 2012.

The two groups, the Riverway and Project Sunapee, sponsored the forum that attracted wide participation by local committees and non-profits.

Event organizers recently shared what they learned:

“Citizens of Sunapee see a need for more contact and communication with other people in town. The seasonal nature of our population, the lack of a town center and the absence of a year round gathering place were some of the reasons given for our unique challenge in meeting this need.”

“Our townspeople have lots to say about the future of Sunapee! They have strong feelings about the things they care about, and there is great support for efforts to enhance the feeling of community.”

To read/download the feedback gathered at the forum, click on Imagine Sunapee Forum – Feedback (PDF 3.2 MG).

The idea behind the forum was to offer a venue where civic groups and committees could share information about their work and goals and where members of the public could ask questions and offer their own ideas and suggestions.

Organizers want to reconvene in early summer to “continue the conversation.”

To receive an event notice, contact Project Sunapee, email: info@projectsunapee.org.

Imagine Sunapee committee members are Sue Mills, Muriel Bergeron, Janet Haines, Donna Gazelle, Barbara Sullivan and Mike Durfor.

Three ideas from the forum that generated the most interest were identified as:

  1. A year round coffee shop in town, which was the “far the most popular dream!”
  2. A physical, year round place (for clubs, youths and seniors) to gather for various events and activities: recreation, social functions, arts and music performances, farmer’s or crafts markets, birthday parties, etc.
  3. A farmer’s/crafts market

Other popular ideas include:

  • Organized beach games
  • Winter carnival
  • Sunapee mini triathlon
  • Street dances
  • Community garden
  • Mountain bike trails
  • Ice fishing derby
  • Outdoor movies by the river
  • Community event like ‘Old Home Day’
  • Organized walking group
  • Sledding parties
  • More nature trails
  • Youth center with a place for dances
  • Year-round harbor restaurant

People also said they’d like to have an on-line events calendar; open Beach Street to traffic; renovate the town’s elementary school; and build a new town library.

And here are more ideas from the forum:

  • Film festival
  • River front amphitheater for music, readings, contemplation
  • Toboggan run on to the Lake
  • Rowing regatta
  • Grocery store
  • Neighborhood competitions: block parties, canoe races, games, and “fun like in the old days”
  • Tea room
  • Breakfast on the M.V. Kearsarge

“Ambitious ideas” included:

  • Establishing a local TV/cable station
  • Having a turf soccer field
  • Installing lights and sidewalks on Main Street
  • Removing the poison ivy at Dewey Beach
  • Providing more opportunities for local agriculture
  • Paving on High and Maple streets and North Road

Roundabout ConceptImagine Sunapee also asked people to consider and give ideas about the town’s master plan and its implementation.

People could offer their ideas for Sunapee’s future by using a spontaneous “whatever comes into your head” method and by “dot voting” for suggestions posted on various displays.

Sunapee Harbor Riverway Corporation, founded in 1992 to “preserve and protect” the lakeside village, owns several properties at Sunapee Harbor including those that house the Anchorage Restaurant, Wild Goose Country Store, Sargents Marina, Harborside Trading, Sunapee Harbor Sweet Shop and Deli, and Quack Shack Ice Cream. It also owns Pete’s Shed, the home to Jenkins Dance and Gymnastics, Slavin’s Haven Preschool, Sine-Wave Technologies and the Sunapee Harbor Riverway office.

Project Sunapee is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to supporting and encouraging economic vitality and education, cultural and historic assets, scenic landscapes and the social well being of our community.”

Photos courtesy of Project Sunapee.

Capital Comments: N.H. community colleges are “technologically savvy”

Scroll down to read about New Hampshire’s Community College System.

From State Senator Bob Odell

I sent a note of apology for missing a committee meeting of the New Hampshire Humanities Council on Wednesday because our Senate session ran late.  The executive director of the council and the spouse of a State Representative replied that no apologies were necessary given the “bruising” time the legislature was going through last week.

Thursday was the last day for either the House or Senate to act on bills this year.  And that meant it was the final chance to take bills off the table, to amend bills to send to the chamber with policies already defeated there, and to pass bills that will require a committee of conference to sort out the differences between House and Senate positions. Continue reading

Capital Comments: Learning for legislators is on-going

Capital Comments from State Senator Bob Odell

Each week I shuttle between meetings in my office and committee rooms in the State House and the Legislative Office Building across the street.  Every meeting, whether with a constituent, a lobbyist or government official, is a learning experience.

If I were in school, a reader might compare it to moving between classrooms as much of a legislator’s role is being educated.  That means not listening to just one side of the story on legislation … but hearing the other side, too.

Last week I jotted down some information I gained from some of my meetings.

Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee:  As if we needed reminding, state governments have become very dependent upon federal government payments to states.  New Hampshire spent $2.271 billion of money received from the federal government in fiscal year 2011 that ended last June.  Total spending by the state in the same year, depending upon the figure used, was roughly $5 billion.  That means about 45 percent of state spending comes from Washington.

The implications for New Hampshire and other states are serious.  Spending from money we raise in-state  in the current two-year budget is down 11 percent from the prior biennium.  If the federal government, as advocated by leaders of both parties, cuts spending to reduce the national deficit and long term debt, some of those reductions will hit state governments. Continue reading

NH’s economy: good news balanced by challenges

Capital Comments from Senator Bob Odell

“Crossover” or midpoint in the 2012 session, was finished a week earlier amidst some of the busiest legislative days of the year.  That meant last week there were too few bills ready for either the House or Senate to meet.

A Wednesday not in Concord is very rare.  The day off gave me an opportunity to participate in an economic development breakfast in Newport hosted by Sugar River Bank in partnership with Public Service of New Hampshire.

The event brought out a roomful of business and community leaders to hear a presentation by PSNH’s Patrick McDermott on the status of the New Hampshire economy.  And while the recovery from the recession is slow, there are some positive long term indicators of the state’s economy and our quality of life. Continue reading

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