The following letter from our State Sen. Jeb Bradley (r) Wolfeboro, was in today's Conway Daily Sun. It is a bit partisan, but there is some substance in there and he does make some good points on a number of issues, where compromise and bipartisan cooperation for the good of NH citizens won out over the ideologues. Contrast that with the NH House, where a report tonight on WMUR indicated that the NH House Freedom Caucus, the fringe wing of the NH GOP, vowed to block the budget when it gets to the House. No compromise or any semblance of cooperation among that group co-chaired by our own Glen Cordelli. In the end, their unwillingness to compromise has essentially made the House irrelevant in terms of the budget.
A couple of things though on Jeb Bradley's letter. Mental health treatment, or should I say the lack of adequate ability in NH for treatment of mental illness, is a direct result of the draconian budget cuts of the 2010 Bill O'Brien led NH House. NH went from a model state in care and treatment of mental illness to one of the worse. Beds were eliminated, funding for community based programs slashed and we still cannot catch up. I am pleased to see that the legislation adding 60 new mental health beds and two more mobile mental health crisis units, passed the Senate unanimously and the budget for all this is included in the Senate budget. This is a good start, but it can't just be a one time thing. I hope that Concord continues to make getting our mental health system back to being one of the best in the nation a legislative priority.
I question the accuracy of the reason for the increase in business tax revenue ( 12.1% or $56 million) was due to the reduction in the business tax rate. That's a great partisan talking point but is it accurate? Looking at 2016, it was a great tourist year. Numbers were up across the board. The economy has been bouncing back for a number of years and unemployment has been steadily dropping to record lows. If the tax cut caused this, where is the proof? He offers none.
Lastly, I wholeheartedly agree that " Kindergarten has proven to be a critical component of a successful education", but whether the full senate agrees to fund it, remains to be seen.
New Hampshire’s winter was long and the spring wet, but during that time important bipartisan work has occurred in the Legislature and builds upon the efforts of recent legislative sessions that have led to an improving economy.
One of the first bills signed by Gov. Chris Sununu was my legislation, SB-10 that provides assistance to New Hampshire’s beleaguered dairy farmers. The combination of last summer’s drought and low federal mandated prices for milk left many dairy farms struggling to survive. This legislation, which enjoyed broad bipartisan support, will provide one-time relief for these dairy farmers.
Continued funding for grants to local law enforcement to target drug dealers, another piece of bipartisan legislation I sponsored, has passed the Senate and is pending in the House. This bill will continue funding for grants to local law enforcement to target drug dealers. This successful initiative called Granite Hammer is a critical component in the effort to thwart the heroin epidemic gripping our state.
SB-38 which has passed the Senate and is being considered by the House will provide $37 million to cities and towns for road and bridge repair. Companion legislation that I sponsored has also passed the Senate and is pending in the House. It will finally fulfill a commitment to communities to fund the state portion of grants for water and sewer upgrades. This funding was cut several years ago by Gov. John Lynch and given the budget surplus we have, it is time to honor this commitment to cities and towns.
One of the biggest issues this year has been Gov. Sununu’s efforts to fund full-day kindergarten. Kindergarten has proven to be a critical component of a successful education. More and more New Hampshire communities provide full day kindergarten and the Governor’s initiative will allow more school districts to provide kindergarten.
Another issue that has emerged as a critical priority is rebuilding our capacity to treat patients with mental health issues. In the past, New Hampshire had very effective mental health treatment but over the years the community based system capacity has declined. This winter on any given day over 40 people were in emergency rooms in hospitals across the state waiting for admittance to the New Hampshire Hospital. Sometimes these individuals have waited for weeks.
I recently toured the emergency room at the Concord Hospital, which is ground zero in the mental health crisis. Patients are housed in waiting rooms or in some instances just in beds in hallways. The staffers at Concord Hospital are doing more than an admirable job managing this crisis while still taking care of heart attack, stroke and other patients. But mental health patients housed in hallways is unacceptable.
Working collaboratively with many groups and individuals, I proposed an amendment that recently passed the Senate to begin to deal with this crisis. The proposal will add 60 mental health beds in hospitals or community facilities.
Currently, New Hampshire has two mental health mobile crisis units and a third is being created. These units provide outpatient treatment to patients and have successfully diverted many people from actual hospitalization. My amendment will authorize at least one and possibly two more mental health mobile crisis units. These mobile crisis units and increased inpatient capacity were top priorities of mental health advocates.
This amendment also included key reforms to the Division of Children, Youth and Families an agency that has recently struggled to protect children from abuse and neglect. It will create a Child Advocate Office and other reforms to enable this agency to protect children.
I am gratified the Senate passed this legislation 23-0 and it is slated to be included in the Senate version of the next operating budget.
Looming ahead in the next few weeks is completion of that budget. Top priorities include funding for the heroin crisis, education and as previously mentioned funding for mental health capacity and kindergarten.
A key debate in the budget will be whether our state continues to lower our very high business taxes. In the budget that will close June 30, legislation that I sponsored in 2015 did lower our high business taxes. Gov. Maggie Hassan vetoed that budget over business taxes before an agreement was reached and the tax reductions were implemented.
It’s important to remember that New Hampshire’s business taxes were the 48th highest in the nation and all business leaders I speak with believe that fact is a significant competitive disadvantage for our economy.
Since business taxes have been reduced and legislation has led to lower workers compensation costs, the results have been very positive. New Hampshire enjoys the third lowest unemployment rate of 2.8 percent in the nation according to March figures of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Business tax revenue in New Hampshire is 12.1 percent or $56 million higher than projected. Lastly, according to recently released figures from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, our state’s economic growth for 2016 is the fourth highest in the nation.
These facts speak for themselves — the measures the Legislature has taken and continues to take have led a growing economy and better opportunities for hard working New Hampshire citizens and small business owners.
We need to continue to address workforce issues and high utility costs, but responsible budgeting and legislative efforts to make our business climate more competitive have helped New Hampshire emerge from the great recession.