Monday, June 26, 2017

Ich Bin ein Berliner

It was on this day in 1963, that President John F. Kennedy deliver his most memorable foreign address.
Some readers were not yet born or to young to remember this time in history, but to East and West Germans especially, it was iconic.
I had the opportunity in the late 90's to spend some time in Stuttgart ,Germany. In a dinner conversation with a surgeon at a local hospital, he relayed how he remembered exactly where he was when he heard Kennedy's speech. It was a highlight of his life. In my lifetime ironically, the most memorable historical  moment for me ( before 9/11) was President Kennedy's assassination just five months after his " ich bin ein Berliner" speech.

For a good read on this important event in history, this article in The Atlantic  is well worth the time.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

"Opportunities and Challenges for the New Hampshire Economy" on Thursday June 29th at 6:30 pm in the Moultonborough Library.

In posting this a  few days ago, I neglected some important information, namely the date, time and location. It is this Thursday, June 29th at 6:30 pm in the Moultonboro Public Library.

Medicaid Critical For New Hampshire

The US Senate last week released it's version of a healthcare bill which proposes a fundamental restructuring and deep cuts to Medicaid.
A study from 2011 by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network , was meant to show how important Medicaid is for Granite Staters with serious health care needs, focusing on four groups, the number of Granite Staters with cancer, diabetes, chronic lung disease, or heart disease or stroke who rely on Medicaid for their health coverage.
The following charts are the results of the study.

Keep in mind that much of the Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act had not occurred at the time of the study, so in all probability, the above numbers would be even higher.

The Senate bill is proposing capping Federal funding to states for Medicaid on a per capita basis and let each state essentially determine how that money is distributed.  According to the report  "Without a guaranteed federal match that moves in tandem with state spending, states would have more difficulty operating their Medicaid programs in hard times, making Medicaid a much less reliable health care safety net.
Cuts to the Medicaid program, whether cuts in federal Medicaid funding or cuts at the state level, would mean the loss of essential health care for Granite Staters who rely on Medicaid, including thousands of Granite Staters with serious health care needs."

Not covered in the above report is the potential impact to long term care and nursing homes in NH. Under federal law, state Medicaid programs are required to cover nursing home care. Each state though can decide how much to pay nursing homes. In NH where we have very limited revenues, budgetary pressure  could decrease what they pay or restrict eligibility for coverage. Nationally, 42% of all Medicaid spending is on long term services. 
 In New Hampshire, Medicaid accounts for about 65 percent of the revenue of the state’s nursing homes, according to  the Nursing Home Operators Association New Hampshire nursing homes get about $161 per Medicaid patient, which is last in the nation. If Medicaid is capped at a time when the NH demographic is aging and more and more residents will need long term care, where will the money come from? If it's county nursing home, the answer is easy: your county tax rate will go up.

These are critical issues that must be factored into any decision on health care legislation, whether in Washington or Concord. The discussion instead has focused on ideology and politics instead of people. These are matters that should transcend politics and political ideology. Real people and families will be impacted, not just statistics. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Moultonboro Getting Closer to Plowing Private Roads as " Emergency Lanes"

The BoS work session included a discussion of the way forward to legally plow and sand many of the private roads in town.
There are four criteria the town is looking at that would qualify a road for that emergency lane designation:

  1. Are there school bus routes that need to be kept clear
  2. Emergency services- is the road accessible from two ends. Some private roads are  narrow and emergency vehicles could clog the road.
  3. Access to water
  4. Dead end roads where there is overall benefit to protect residential and taxable property

The list will be complete by the end of next week,  and notices will be sent to to every one on those roads for a scheduled public hearing to be held in late July or early August.
The town is also planning to meet with the leadership of all the associations in town to be sure every one understands the process and is on the same page.

Per the NH Municipal Association, "A Class VI or private road may be declared an emergency lane by the governing body under RSA 231:59-a. An emergency lane declaration may only be made after a public hearing if the governing body finds that “the public need for keeping such lane passable by emergency vehicles is supported by an identified public welfare or safety interest which surpasses or differs from any private benefits to landowners abutting such lane." RSA 231:59-a, II. In other words, an emergency lane declaration should be made only when it is in the interest of the public—not just for the benefit of the abutters. If a road is declared an emergency lane, municipal funds may be spent to plow, remove brush, repair washouts or culverts, or do other work “deemed necessary to render such way passable by firefighting equipment and rescue or other emergency vehicles." RSA 231:59-a, I. The municipality then has the authority, but not the obligation, to maintain the road in that manner. An emergency lane declaration may be withdrawn or disregarded at any time by the governing body, and no one may recover damages from the municipality for failure to maintain an emergency lane. RSA 231:59-a, IV."

The New Hampshire Economy: Opportunities and Challenges

Greg Bird, an economist from the NH Center for Public Policy Studies will present on the opportunities and challenges facing  the New Hampshire economy over the next few years.

His presentation will be followed by comments from Jeb Bradley, Republican State Senator for District 3 and chair of  the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, and former Democratic State Senator Andrew Hosmer for District 7 and member of the Senate Finance Committee in 2015 and 2016. 

The presentations will be followed by an open question and answer session. 

This forum is a non-partisan event and all are welcome. 

Sponsored by the Tri-Town Economy Focus Group of the Democratic Committees of Moultonborough, Sandwich, and Tuftonboro. For more information, contact John Morrissey,

NH House Approves Committee of Conference Budget

The vote completed just a few moments ago was 198 Yea to 169 Nay.

Our three representatives all voted in favor.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

NH Budget Vote Thursday

The NH House and Senate will vote on the state budget proposed by the committee of conference, tomorrow. The Senate is just about a sure thing and will easily pass along party lines, but the NH House is up in the air. If it does not pass, it's back to the committee of conference to tweak it further and give it another shot.
The budget at present calls for very large tax breaks to wealthy corporations, at a time when we have serious funding deficits for many critical needs.
Will the needs of NH prevail over the mindless " cut, cut, cut," mentality of the Freedom Caucus?
I'll get back to you tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Education Finance in New Hampshire: Headed to a Rural Crisis?

The New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies published this report this week to attempt to answer the question: have the fundamental goals of the original 1997 Claremont education lawsuit been met? 
In 1991, the school districts of Claremont, Allenstown, Pittsfield, Franklin and Lisbon filed a six-count petition for declaratory and injunctive relief against the state of New Hampshire claiming that the New Hampshire Constitution imposes a duty on the state to support public education and that the state’s system of funding public education fails in that duty in violation of the New Hampshire Constitution. The suit eventually found it's way to the New Hampshire Supreme Court and in December of 1997, they ruled  that the system of financing public education was unconstitutional and that every educable child in New Hampshire has a fundamental right to a state-funded,
constitutionally adequate public education. That led to the so-called donor town tax wherein property rich towns such as Moultonboro, saw huge increases in their property taxes to support the education funding for property poor towns. 

According to the report,  the biggest losers if the state continues with the current system are rural, property-poor communities such as  Colebrook, Hinsdale, Greenville, Lancaster, Berlin, Northumberland, and Newport. They could see a reduction of more than 10% in the aid they receive from New Hampshire between 2017 and 2022. The loss will have to be made up with increases in property tax. By 2022 ,the total amount of state aid  to local communities would drop by 6% percent. Of the 234 incorporated cities and towns in New Hampshire, 96 (41%) would see an increase in state aid per student, 104 (44%) would experience a decline, and 36 (15%) would see no change. Moultonboro is one of the 36 that would see no change a we do not receive any adequacy funding.

Where will this end up? In today's Union Leader,executive director of the NH Center for Policy Studies and co-author of the report was quoted as saying "What we have discovered raises important questions about how many rural communities prepare to transition to what we might call a new education normal 'smaller schools, consolidated districts, new models of learning' and what role the state should play in that transition."
Governor Sununu was also quoted in the article saying "I've always had severe reservations about the Claremont decisions of the 90s. I think the power of education funding needs to solely be in the hands of the Legislature, the true representatives of the people. Right now a lot of it sits in the courts, so allowing that process to return to the Legislature is absolutely vital."

For Moultonboro, that is a scary prospect. As the NH legislature continues to find ways to siphon funding from public education, larger property poor districts such as Claremont, and cities such s Dover who are seeing increased in student populations, will see even less state adequacy funding and even higher local property taxes. Will the solution be to once again dip into the tax base of towns like ours? 
Considering that some in Concord want to rely on Keno to fund full day kindergarten, and find that cutting revenue in a time when necessary services are underfunded, doesn't give me a warm and fuzzy feeling that a fair and equitable solution will be forthcoming. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Gambling on Kindergarten?

Part of the proposed NH budget deal may include funding for full day kindergarten .
The bill would use the Keno lottery game to generate money that would go to the state education fund. The money from that fund could then be used to support full-day kindergarten and other education-related programs. Keno could generate about $12 million per year, which is about what full-day kindergarten funding would cost under the new bill.
Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, sponsored the “Keno-garten” amendment. 
NH funds school districts that offer kindergarten, receive  $1,800 per student, for half-day programs. The keno plan would add an additional $1,100 per student to a total of $2,900, 80 percent of full funding. If Keno generates sufficient income, funding will be consistent, but if it doesn't, funding may be cut. Is that a responsible way to fund education? Iif Keno revenue drops, local taxpayers will need to pick up the tab. 
The bigger question is whether NH is committed  to fully funding kindergarten without having to resort to budget gimmicks. If Jeb Bradley supports full day kindergarten, he should be prepared to propose funding it with real money, not gambling revenues that may or may not be realized. Take a stand Jeb, don't hedge your bets. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Good Jobs Imperative

For New Hampshire’s economy to grow, we need to build on our strengths and invest in our people
June 4th 2017
 by Andru Volinsky

There is little to show for the governor’s recently completed recruiting visits to 100 businesses.
As a newly elected member of the Executive Council, I believe we can enhance the job creation landscape for New Hampshire, but we must make some clear choices. We should create jobs by building on our strengths and investing in our people. We must take advantage of our small size to innovate in terms of healthcare and energy, and we must invest further in our schools.
Offering business tax breaks, undermining unions and retreating from safeguarding our environment will not attract companies to New Hampshire or help those businesses that are already here to grow.
The process of attracting job-creating businesses is similar to the recruitment process that my firm uses to attract talented young lawyers. We decide on what parameters we can distinguish ourselves and then we network our way to quality candidates. We compete on quality of life and the early opportunity for leadership. We don’t compete on money. Our recruitment is also more successful the closer we stay to home.
Businesses that are already located in New Hampshire are our best targets for job creation. Freeing up capital through expansion of state loan programs would help these businesses grow.
Bensonwood Homes in Walpole, for example, recently took advantage of a state loan guarantee that it will use to convert a vacant warehouse in Keene into a manufacturing plant that will create 15 new jobs.
We must also distinguish our state from its competitors on quality-of-business-life factors. To do this, we need to be connected, have an educated and skilled workforce, and we need to deal with the cost of healthcare and energy.
It is shortsighted to compete based on our state’s tax structure. Businesses quickly realize that our over-reliance on the local property tax offsets reductions in state taxes.
Maintaining our nationally recognized, 21st century public school system is critical to attracting and growing businesses whose owners and workers will live in our state. Our modern educational standards and strong career-tech programs must be touted as key assets.
While supporting these assets, we must invest in others. Working parents require full-day kindergarten and affordable daycare. By offering generous incentives to qualified early childhood educators, we will attract and keep young parents who depend on quality preschools and good daycare for their infants and toddlers.
Businesses depend on connectivity. This means fiber-optic backbones across the state, coupled with grants and revolving loans to finance the last-mile connections necessary to encourage tech businesses.
Modern public transport must be available within and between our cities to attract a generation that eschews car ownership. Rail to Boston must be a part of this equation, and so must highly livable, walkable, and cultural towns and cities.
All businesses worry about healthcare costs. Imagine the advantages of a state that brings these costs under control. This must be our number one priority. We can start with our state, municipal and university healthcare systems that, together, insure over 80,000 people. If the current research is correct, about 4,500 members in these plans are responsible for 50 percent of the costs incurred. Surely, we can develop ways to assist 4,500 people to improve their health outcomes and drive down our costs.
We already have healthcare reform efforts being studied at Dartmouth and UNH. We need to spur these programs to action and apply their research on a practical scale. 
For many of us, quality of life begins with the environment. Access to the outdoors, clean air and clean water are attractive to most employees and to their employers. These resources are our assets. We must carefully protect them at the state level when they are under assault federally.
If we truly want to compete for business, we should distinguish ourselves based on how hard we work to protect the environment, not on how much regulation we abandon. Remaining a leader in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and with Renewable Portfolio Standards is a must.
There is power in networking. A focus on one person visiting 100 businesses is ineffective. Existing businesses and local workers should be recruited as ambassadors to attract new businesses. The Manchester Millyard must be recognized for the business hub that it can be. We must also enlist our colleges and universities to help us identify those out-of-state businesses run by graduates of New Hampshire schools. Leaders with connections to New Hampshire are more likely to return.
This could and should be our pitch: “Create jobs in New Hampshire where the air is clean, the schools are good, healthcare costs are under control, and where you can get home from work in time to watch your child’s ballgame. With healthy and talented employees, forward-thinking private/public partnerships, and world-class connections across communities, you can take your business to the next level here with us.”
Andru Volinsky, an attorney with Bernstein Shur in Manchester, represents District 2 on the NH Executive Council.