Tax Talk | Front Door Politics

Cutting spending was a campaign promise of many Republicans who swept into office this fall. But that’s not stopping some budget hawks from calling for a different approach: raising taxes.

Yesterday, we recapped a conservative study encouraging spending cuts as the mechanism to resolve New Hampshire’s budget deficit, reportedly estimated at anywhere from $200 million to $800 million. In today’s Daily Dispatch, we bookend that consideration with another recent study — this one by the liberal-leaning New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute. Read more via Front Door Politics

Opinion: Should We Repeal Healthcare Reform?

Opinion

By Mark Fernald

The newly-elected Republican majority in Congress vows to repeal the healthcare reform bill passed in March.  Before you shout ‘amen,’ consider who will be hurt.

According to a 2009 Harvard Medical School study, over 40,000 Americans die each year because they do not have health insurance.  More people die for lack of health insurance than from drunk driving and homicide combined.

This is not surprising.  As one of the study’s authors observed: “For any doctor … it’s completely a no-brainer that people who can’t get health care are going to die more from the kinds of things that health care is supposed to prevent.”

What is surprising is that those who use healthcare reform as a whipping post completely ignore the lives that will be lost if reform is repealed.  They rail against the cost of the plan, its complexity, and its new mandates, but there’s nary a word about its benefits.  Apparently, saving hundreds of thousands of lives over the next decade counts for nothing. Continue reading

Can You Fix the Budget?

Talk of deficit reduction is everywhere on the news. Perhaps you have some ideas on the subject that you’d like to test out. This is from the NY Times and it looks at the federal budget. It’s the Budget Puzzle: You Fix the Budget.

Then, at the state level, today’s daily update from Front Door Politics talks about NH’s “Cloudy Budget Crystal Ball.”

Sunapee News welcomes your budget ideas…federal, state, and local. Just post a comment.

Related Article: NY Times: OK, You Fix the Budget (economistmom.com)

Opinion: ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’

Opinion

By Mark Fernald

“Justice delayed is justice denied.” This old expression has becoming increasingly true in New Hampshire due to cutbacks in the court system.  Plans by the newly elected Republican majority in the state legislature to cut the state budget by 10% should be of concern to all citizens.

Let me try to put a human face on the cost of court cutbacks.

In the not-so-distant past, Cheshire County Superior Court had two full-time judges, and a full-time marital master (hearing officer.) Now the court has one full-time judge, and a half-time marital master. The delays in scheduling hearings have been significant. Continue reading

Ayotte Calls on Bud Fitch to be State Director

Orville “Bud” Fitch, II, will be the State Director for Senator-elect Kelly Ayotte’s NH Senate offices, according to various press reports. Fitch will to finish up his work in the AG’s office on Dec. 3 and then join Ayotte’s transition team. Check out yesterday’s article by James Pindell via WMUR Political Scoop. Fitch, a native of Cornish and former Chief of Police in Sunapee, now serves as New Hampshire Deputy Attorney General. In 2009, Governor Lynch chose Fitch to head up the state’s Economic Stimulus Office.

Capital Comments: The Election Results and the Legislative Process

By State Senator Bob Odell

Legislators have often worked to impose mandates on local schools to teach civics.  It is natural that politically active people would want to make sure that public schools engage and motivate students to become good citizens.

And while school work is important, the power of an idea to pay respect to the staff and graduates of a high school who are serving or have served in our military seemed to this writer a very powerful addition to our attempts at civic engagement for students.

With the support of Stevens High School principal Paul Couture, substitute teacher Carol Thebarge’s idea for a Veterans Day ceremony for the students and staff to honor alumni who have served in the military was a new approach for involving students in our annual Veterans Day holiday.

An American flag, which had been saluted by our fighting men and women, and sent to Carol by Stevens High School graduate Army Sergeant David Carrier now serving in Afghanistan, was raised during an emotional ceremony.

I was at the ceremony to read a letter of support and congratulations to Stevens High School from Governor John Lynch.  Standing during the ceremony at the top of the stairs at the entryway to the school, I could see the attentiveness and respect the students showed during the program.

The highlights of the program were the reading of names of staff and alumni who have served and the raising the flag that so recently had flown in Afghanistan by Stevens High School teacher and nearly 40 year veteran of the Coast Guard, Tom Liveston.

I saw no texting, no cell phones in use and general student appreciation as all of us learned a new way to show our respect and to honor our men and women who have served or are serving our nation in the military.  Congratulations and thanks to Carol Thebarge for implementing a wonderful idea that is as good as any civics mandate from Concord.

While the majority in the new Senate has decided that Peter Bragdon (Milford) will be the Senate President and the House majority will determine the next Speaker of the House this week, there are hundreds of decisions on standing committee appointments, committee chairmanships, assignments of office space and parking spaces to be made.

There are dozens of statutory committees, commissions and councils that have members appointed by the House Speaker or the Senate President.  I canceled a meeting last week of the legislative subcommittee of the State Parks System Advisory Council. There are two Senators on the subcommittee and one was defeated in the election.  There are three House members; one was defeated, one did not seek re-election.  Only two of the five legislators are left on the committee.  Subcommittee work will have to await new appointments.

The Commission to Study Business Taxes has been meeting weekly to insure that we meet our statutory obligation to submit an interim report by December 1. The final report is not due for two years.  Business taxes are a complicated subject on the best of days and the input of veteran legislators with professional tax experience is important.

There are four House members on the commission; two were defeated.  One is a CPA and the other is a lawyer and CPA.  Three members are from the Senate.  One was defeated. And she is an experienced attorney with a practice involving general business and real estate matters.

The ripple effect of the decisions of voters on Election Day is forcing change throughout the legislative process. The new House Speaker and Senate President will need to move quickly to fill dozens of vacancies on study commissions and other committees.

The new leadership teams in the House and Senate will have full court presses put on them by members seeking appointments to favored committees.  A letter has been circulated to all newly elected House members asking them to submit their three choices for committee assignment.  The process in the Senate is no less deliberate, just a bit more subtle.

Our local Chambers of Commerce provides many services to our small business community. We all know it is those small businesses that are at the core of our successful regional economy.

Twice a year, for example, the Newport Area Chamber of Commerce hosts a “salute” breakfast to recognize businesses being established, moving into the area or changing location.  It is an opportunity to have chamber members see what is going on and to encourage and possibly help the new or expanding businesses.

The new businesses in the area recognized last week at the Fall Salute Breakfast included People’s United Bank, a mortgage lender; Watts Bakery, a new Main Street store; City Auto Sales, a trailer and used cars dealer; Pinnacle, a bait and tackle shop that will also sell hunting and fishing licenses; and, Northwood Power Equipment, a new location for a major regional dealer of tractors, backhoes and other power equipment.

The Community Alliance has a new volunteer driver program which will match volunteer drivers with people who need rides to go shopping, to get to medical appointments and other daily tasks that require transportation.

Two businesses were recognized as they expand and move to new locations.  Lake Sunapee Plumbing and Heating has relocated to their newly renovated building on Sunapee Street.  NAPA Auto Parts has also moved to their new location on Sunapee Street.

Keeping up with what’s going on in Concord

Front Door Politics (in NH) says, “We’ve got something for everyone.” And they sure do. Whether you’re a casual observer, political junkie or have a special interest, check out it out. Last week’s daily updates, all about Granite State politics and policy decisions, covered:

For more…visit Front Door Politics.

Sunapee’s New State Rep. “Excited about the Possibilities”

Republican Spec Bowers of Sunapee, the winner in Tuesday’s Sullivan County District 3 race for state representative, wants to help cut regulations and reduce the size and cost of government.

Bowers said he wants to pursue “smaller government and fewer services at a lower cost.” He said a majority of Americans want the same thing, and he cited four years of Rasmussen polling referenced on his website (http://specbowers.com).

Bowers also wants to “reduce regulation” that is “totally useless and hurting the economy.” New Hampshire is “losing business” because of the regulatory environment…We are ranked as the 4th worst state in terms of the number of occupations that require licensing,” Bowers asserted.

In an interview with Sunapee News yesterday, Bowers said he is catching his breath after a tight election. “It was closer than I expected, in this year, when so many Republicans won. I worked hard, and am excited about the possibilities.”

Two years ago in the Sunapee House race, Bowers lost in the Republican primary to Harry Gale.

This time around, he defeated two-term incumbent Sue Gottling—one of many Democrats swept out of office in a General Election that put Republicans firmly back in control of both the NH House and Senate. In Sunapee, a one-town district, 25 votes (2%) separated Bowers (749) and Gottling (724).

Regarding legislative committees assignments, Bowers is interested in “ED&A”— Executive Departments and Administration—and commerce.

Through the use of letters to the local media and his website, “I intend to let voters know what I’m going to do,…and what we [Republicans] are doing in the House and Senate.”

As for his nickname, Spec: “It was given to me by my father before I was born,” Bowers explained. “ My real name is Spotswood, an old Scottish name.”

After visiting the area with his father for 50 years, I became a Sunapee property owner 10 years ago, Bowers said.

Bowers is currently the chair of the Budget Advisory Committee in Sunapee. He lives in Georges Mills and operates Georges Mills Cottages.

Coalition Communities Point to Looming Education Aid Losses

“‘Donor town’ specter reappears” is the Laconia Citizen.com headline this morning. Reporter Bea Lewis covered a meeting last night in Moultonborough where “taxpayers were told Monday that unless the next session of the Legislature decides to change the existing formula the community will be have to send an estimated $3.4 million to Concord in ‘excess’ Statewide Education Property Tax come July.”

Read more via Citizen.com.

Recently Sunapee posted a Coalition Communities press release on the town website. It said that “almost half of NH’s municipalities will suffer losses in State education aid as of next July.” Continue reading

Fernald and the NH Progressive Newsletter

This week, Mark Fernald sent out  the 17th edition of his New Hampshire Progressive Newsletter for 2009. (To subscribe.)  It covered the state budget, Congress and health insurance, Paul Krugman on financial regulations, and last week’s US Supreme Court decision on DNA testing for those already found guilty. Fernald is a Democrat from the Peterborough area, a former state senator and a candidate for Congress in the 2nd District.

Continue reading

Odell on Caucus Process, BAC and Open Road Tolling

Last week in Concord, New Hampshire’s 24 senators (14 Democrats and 10 Republicans) faced over 90 bills in one day, writes Bob Odell (R-Lempster) in this week’s Capital Comments.

“After eight hours of debate and voting, the Senate President called a halt and special ordered about 20 bills remaining to our session this Wednesday. Senators of both parties will be in caucuses before session to prepare themselves for votes. The caucuses help insure an orderly process on the Senate floor,” Odell explained.

To read about the Senate caucus system, open road tolling, a Bank of America policy for check-cashing that everyone agrees is “ridiculous,” and legislation to close a coverage gap in the Healthy Kids program…go to Capital Comments (May 18) posted  under Columns.

Over 200 Attend DES Hearing on Wild Goose Boat Launch

By Katie Richardson

The Department of Environmental Services Wetlands Bureau held a public hearing at Sherburne Gym in Sunapee on Wednesday night.

Over 200 were in attendance to discuss New Hampshire Fish and Game’s application for a wetlands permit, needed for the proposed public boat launch on Lake Sunapee.  Having already received a shoreland impact permit, Fish and Game must obtain a wetlands permit in order to move forward with the launch planned for what is locally known as Wild Goose in Newbury.

The Wild Goose property, purchased by the state in 1990, is on the western shore of Lake Sunapee, north of the state beach.  The proposed project is to “construct two public boat ramps with parking for 31 car/trailer and 12 cars impacting 1500 sq. feet” on Birch Grove Road in Newbury.  The installation of another public boat launch at Wild Goose has long  been a contentious issue, with environmental and safety concerns heading the opposition’s list.

Fish and Game Executive Director Glenn Normandeau attended the hearing and gave an overview of the launch with assistance from the project’s engineer and environmental consultant.

Those opposing the launch were quick to speak up, beginning with selectman Dick Wright of Newbury.  “We as a board of selectman do not oppose additional public access,” he stated, “but we do not believe the issues of safety have been addressed.”  Though safety was not the intended subject of the evening, several Newbury residents made mention of it, agreeing with Wright that vehicles hauling boat trailers would be a hazard entering and exiting Route 103’s 50 mile an hour zone.  Wright also took issue with fact that the launch proposal is not in compliance with Newbury zoning ordinances.

Katheryn Holmes, chair of the Newbury conservation commission, was the first to speak to the environmental concerns.  She felt the plan was in violation of the state’s Shorelands Protection Act and urged DES to protect Wild Goose from development.  “We encourage the Wetlands Bureau to deny Fish and Game a wetlands permit.  Let Wild Goose stay wild,” she said.

June Fichter, Executive Director of the Lake Sunapee Protective Association, honed in on the extensive dredging the project would require.  The LSPA advocates for an upgrade of the boat launch at Sunapee State Beach rather than a new launch at Wild Goose, reasoning that the impact to the shoreline would be far less.  Fichter said only 1400 yards of dredging would be required at the State Beach, versus 5000 yards at Wild Goose.

Fichter’s other concern was the lake as a source for drinking water.  She said inadequate filtration at the site will negatively affect the water quality.  Fichter informed the public that $20,000-25,000 a year is now spent on milfoil control and asserted that an additional launch would require more expenditure in that area.

Atty. Howard Dunn, representing the Sullivan County Sportsmen Association, presented DES with a petition of over 900 New Hampshire residents in favor of the launch.  He stated there is “a terrific need for more access to the lake”, a sentiment echoed by several members of the association present.  Reggie Dodge of Newport expressed his frustration that fisherman have long been prevented from launching a boat on Lake Sunapee by inadequate parking for vehicles and trailers.

The hearing was attended by State Rep. Ricia McMahon (D-Sutton), State Rep. Suzanne Gottling (D-Sunapee), State Rep. Thomas Howard (R-Croydon), State Rep. Dave Kidder (R-New London) and State Rep. Beverly Rodeschin (R-Newport).  Members of the Newbury and Sunapee selectboards were in attendance, as were LSPA President Deb Benjamin, former Fish and Game Executive Director Don Clarke, Newbury Police Chief Bob Lee, New Hampshire Wildlife Federation Communications Director Bob Dufraine, Newbury Town Administrator Dennis Pavlicek and Sunapee Town Manager Donna Nashawaty.

Normandeau concluded the meeting by stating his wish to put this long-debated subject to rest one way or the other.  “I recognize everyone has a point of view,” he said, “and I respect all of them.”

DES will accept written public comment on the wetland application through June 26.

Climate Scientist Hansen Speaks in NH April 2

World-renowned climate scientist Dr. James Hansen will speak to the NH state legislature and the public about the impacts of global warming on Thursday, April 2 at the State House in Concord, NH. The event will take place at Representatives Hall from 11 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Yes, the public is invited to attend.

Your presence in numbers will send an important message that we are ready for bold action on climate change. – 1Sky Organizer Ada Aroneanu

For more information and to become more involved with 1Sky in your area, contact 1Sky Regional Coordinator Gail Denemark at: gdenemark@yahoo.com

Gov. Lynch Presents Budget to Finance Committee

Gov. John Lynch presented his proposed budget to the House and Senate Finance Committee yesterday. Now legislators begin to work on the state operating budget for 2010-2011.

Gov. Lynch presented a balanced budget that spends $40 million, or 1 percent, less than the current two-year budget. Given the continuing economic turmoil facing the nation, Gov. Lynch’s budget, on average, projects existing revenues will remain flat for the next two years.

“This is a difficult budget, but with challenge also comes opportunity – the opportunity to re-think everything state government does, how we do it and how we can do it better,” Gov. Lynch said.

As we developed this budget, we worked to lower the state’s cost structure, which is absolutely necessary to make sure New Hampshire gets through the next two years of this downturn. Although this recession will not last forever, I believe we must make continuing changes to state government in order to meet our priorities today and into the future. – Gov. Lynch

The proposed budget unfunds 391 vacant positions, and continues the state hiring freeze into 2010-2011. As a result of program eliminations and other efficiencies, there will be approximately 275 to 300 layoffs statewide.

Read the complete release at: http://www.governor.nh.gov/news/2009/021709.html

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