Carriage Towne News
---- — Looking Forward to 2014
The tree is down, the decorations are safely backed in their storage boxes and the boxes are back in the attic…Happy New Year!
During 2013, the New Hampshire House of Representatives restored civility and bipartisanship to our political discourse in Concord. Working with Governor Hassan, we were able to preserve and further the real “New Hampshire Advantage” which is our people, our strong sense of community and our willingness to work together for our shared common purpose.
We kept college tuition rates for New Hampshire families from going up. We provided tax credits to businesses that wanted to bring new good paying jobs to New Hampshire, by doubling the research and development tax credit. And we provided much needed funding to rebuild our mental health system and restore important social services that help working families across our state.
And we did so in a fiscally responsible way.
On December 26, we learned that the state of New Hampshire would finish 2013 with a budget surplus of $72.2 million. I believe, along with many of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle, that a portion of this surplus should be placed in the state’s “rainy day fund” as protection in the event of future budget deficits. But I also believe that another portion should be re-invested in the priorities that will help strengthen New Hampshire’s economy for the future.
We should strive to reduce or eliminate the $25 million in “back of the budget” personnel related spending cuts that Senate Republicans insisted needed to be included in the budget for the next two years. Doing so will save hundreds of jobs and enable the state to deliver much needed services that will benefit all of us.
To the extent we can, we should also look for ways to provide some relief to our towns and school districts. With the Republican super majorities in control, the previous state budget “downshifted” millions of dollars of costs to our towns and school districts. Examples of what we might consider doing include expanding school building aid and providing additional assistance for public works projects.
Looking beyond the surplus, we also need to have a serious conversation about what we do now that the Senate has closed the door on Medicaid Expansion. Their failure to move forward is already costing us $500,000 per day. It is also increasing the cost of healthcare for all of us, and it will continue to result in a loss of much needed economic activity that will weaken our overall economy.
New Hampshire has the highest average college student debt in the country; over $32,000 per student. That is in no small part due to the limited availability of scholarships and the higher than average in-state tuition rates that New Hampshire residents pay. By re-investing a portion of our surplus in these two areas we can better prepare our skilled New Hampshire workforce for the jobs of tomorrow and – in the process – attract new businesses looking for talented employees to the state.
We also need to have a conversation about the minimum wage. Currently New Hampshire has no minimum wage, and we default to the federal level. I firmly believe that whenever possible, in New Hampshire we should exercise local control over the economy – and that means setting our own minimum wage.
There are currently 5,000 working people in New Hampshire who earn the minimum wage; most of them are adults supporting themselves and their family and most of them are women. It is next to impossible to survive on just over $15,000 a year (annual amount someone earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour earns), which places an additional burden on local communities and state agencies. Raising the minimum wage will provide these individuals with some added purchasing power, will boost economic activity throughout the state and will provide these hardworking individuals with some additional dignity.
The New Year is about looking forward and making resolutions. There are many challenges that we face as 2014 begins. However, we have an opportunity this year to shape the future of our state. There is nothing that we can’t do if we continue to focus on our common purpose, continue to invest in each other and continue to strengthen our communities, our economy and our state.
Happy New Year.
State Representative from Hampton
Rockingham County District 21