The 2023/2024 budget came in at $15.2 billion for two years of spending. The significant increase over prior budgets was explained by the Governor and GOP leadership as included expanded government (the NH Dept of Energy was created in the last budget trailer bill – 2021’s HB2) and state employee pay raises of 10% were in order to compete for workers who are harder to find and keep, post pandemic. This price tag comes on top of the over 2 billion in state, county and local relief funds from our federal government.
The last budget under my party was in 2019-2020. We were able to put a downpayment on fully funding public schools by sending 140 million back to towns and schools to bring needed property tax relief. Unfortunately, the public did not get the memo that our $12.9 billion two year budget was good for taxes and mindful of the future in a way that we’re not seeing in 2023. We’re now shortchanging long-term school funding, refusing to pay for school lunches, and sending district shortfalls back to your property taxes.
Responsible governance is not ‘live for today’ and disregard tomorrow. In fact, the best argument for a representative government is that your Representatives are worrying about the long term so you don’t have to! Government is guilty of ignoring the future in favor of immediate power, quick profits and the next election cycle. We need to elect independent leaders who will commit to fixing our short term concerns, while mending a broken system.
Governor Sununu and his Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut are using our tax dollars to fund vouchers for private schools, religious schools and home schooling; together they push unproven Learn Everywhere programs that remove local control of accreditation and standards, while dismissing the Extended Learning Opportunities (ELO) program that already allowed for credit for extracurricular education within school guidelines. School budgets are already insufficient to fund simple school supplies and the ConVal decision in the summer of 2018 proved yet again, that New Hampshire has a constitutional obligation to educate its people, not the property tax payer. Although legislators passed a budget to reinstate 140 million dollars to towns and schools in the 2019-2020 biennium budget (over the governor’s veto and objections), the ability to address public school adequacy funding is going to take a sustained effort to solve. These monies were based upon need, so the town of Hollis did not receive as much as some property tax poor towns. But, the ratio of school funding is approximately 75% property taxes, 25% state funding. The lowest in the nation in some polls. The state has already eliminated the building fund that supported 50% towards building maintenance and improvements and zeroed out state contribution (formerly 35%) to the State Employee Retirement Fund. When this happened, town taxes went from picking up 65% of our police, fire, and teacher retirement pensions, to picking up 100%. Without a partner in the state, most towns cannot afford to keep their school buildings and grounds in repair. This year, the Republican legislature passed a bill to allow charter schools to purchase unused town school buildings for as little as a dollar, even when there are planned uses for this community asset. Are we really ready to crater our own public schools to save a few bucks?
This theft of dollars away from public education is another example of the downshifting of state obligations to local taxpayers. Breaking our schools serves no one and creates a hit to local economies already stretched thin. My republican colleagues in Concord like to say tax is theft. But tax is how we support society. We short change our kids future when we renege on maintaining our schools. The worst economic hits from undermining public schools are to jobs, local businesses and property values. Each subsequent budget suffers from the pressure to freeze hires, question improvements, and discourage our tradition of volunteerism in Hollis. We get talented people on our school boards who care about educating our kids. Letting anti-public school efforts take hold in our community cuts off our nose, to spite our face. It doesn’t have to be this way.
We lose the best and brightest teachers and students as we weaken the public school system and we lose our long term investment in our town’s best asset. Strong schools are essential to our economy and our communities. Property values in the town of Hollis (and Brookline) are deeply tied to the success of our schools. If state government does not support public schools, they are handicapping our children’s future. ‘School Choice’ is a slogan designed to make a sinister effort to derail New Hampshire’s universal commitment to educate kids, sound reasonable. The reasonable position is to stop the march away from putting communities first, and figure out how to solve the problems we face. Reality over ideology. Recent article on the topic of how we don’t pay for education. http://indepthnh.org/2020/08/16/is-the-pledge-deadeducation-funding-needs-more-options/
To manage money well, you first have to identify goals and priorities. When Republican’s lead in Concord (and in Washington) they use ‘the red queen effect’ to stay in power. They make everyone run as fast as they can, just to stay in place. By threatening working programs and eliminating budgets without justification, they halt economic momentum and create chaos no business would ever permit. Cutting decisions are made not on merit, but on ideology. This approach in New Hampshire boils down to breaking what is working and then telling everyone its broken, while they run to be put back in charge. A good example is the huge gas price spike in our electric bills in 2022. There was no plan for protecting us from having all our eggs in one basket. There was federal money to help us put a bandaid on the bleeding. But today, there is still no plan on energy from our Governor or the GOP leadership. They said they work on it. The only policy I have heard them express is more gas. More of the same is not a plan to avoid price spikes in the future.
I have been disheartened to watch community leaders spend their time fighting in Concord hearings where we should be debating progress, not loss of ground. These are the people we serve, not the enemy.
Teachers, police, social workers, fire fighters, environmentalists and community-based agencies are all testifying regularly in order to prevent the loss of essential New Hampshire services. Why are we fighting each other? We can maintain a lean budget without eliminating essential services in our communities. I see Democratic budgets as better for the long-term welfare of the state. We have to get wise to pledge politics because it is actually designed to take us away from good fiscal management and fast-track us on a race to the bottom. We really don’t save if our house falls down around us.
Forward-facing programs like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI nets NH income and helps us achieve energy efficiency goals) are win-win. If we pull out of RGGI we are required to continue paying our share, but we no longer receive any benefit in terms of the millions of dollars in rebate credits we receive each year. The agreement was designed to prevent chaotic decision-making and allow New Hampshire to afford strategic energy investments. However, laws were put in place forcing pennies back to every ratepayer, rather than using the money from RGGI to invest in lowering our demand (which would help lower electricity rates for everyone). So while our neighboring RGGI state partners are leaping ahead with clean energy investments, New Hampshire is squandering its rebate money to no effect. We put forth smart energy policies every year, but without a plan, the state cannot tell you where we’re investing, what we’re working on, or why we’re so far behind all the other northeast states on support for local, sustainable energy investments.
Clean energy moves us into a new economy and helps us to lower emissions. Our fossil-fuel dependence will cost us far more than any investments in clean technologies today – because it is very hard to budget for increasing weather disasters – but we will all be required to endure them and pay for them. I support clean energy being used for the applications to which they are best suited. I’m opposed to closing New England’s remaining nuclear power plants and converting them to gas because it means a significant uptick in regional emissions and an increased dependence on fossil fuels imported from out of state at just the wrong point in history. The sudden 150% spike in electric rates in 2022 was a preview of what it means to ignore the need to plan a transition towards a diverse energy portfolio. The most costly course is a disorderly transition. I keep working to avoid this eventuality for my constituents.
New Hampshire has come a long way on healthcare since the Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2010. Our legislature worked in a bi-partisan way to figure out a plan that would help insure an additional 50,000 Granite Staters via Medicaid. In 2023, we just extended that coverage for another 7 years – to stabilize our healthcare providers and facilities and of course, their patient’s care. This current budget increased funding for mental health, substance disorder treatment, and wrap around services. We are also mindful that there has been a post-pandemic exodus of healthcare professionals from New Hampshire hospitals and medical facilities. Health care is a good place to be reminded of how we take systems for granted, until we have broken what is working. Systems are not the problem. Every man for himself does not yield better outcomes.
Maybe its my business background or my pragmatic nature, but I’m in favor of solving the actual problems in our state. One of those problems is our aging population. The demographics of New Hampshire are graying and our inability to attract young families to locate here and assume the jobs of the future will increasingly leave us unable to meet workforce and elder care demands. That is why the needs of workers and families should be a a higher priority. Out of state bills like ‘Right to Work’ are threatening to weaken the concept of collective bargaining and safety in the workplace. It is not about saving workers from the horror of union dues. It is about weakening a union’s ability to fight back when big companies want to take advantage of employees and increase profits by cutting employee benefits.
Unions contribute to a healthy economy by protecting the rights of individuals. Healthy union states have higher wages even for non-union jobs. Competitive wages drive businesses and promote job growth, or as my husband who had his own company says, ‘You can save a lot of money in business if you close the doors, but that is not the point.’
It’s time we worked on 21st century family issues like paid family leave and realistic day care options that contribute to the overall health of our communities. Helping families balance their obligations to work and family with full-day kindergarten and/after school programs also support the reality of the two-parents-working household. A living wage promotes greater security, higher productivity and drives demand. As we continue to cut the benefits of workers and refuse to pass a living minimum wage, we deny the many benefits of a reasonably compensated workforce that was the norm when we were coming up in the wage-earner economy. The lack of affordable mixed use housing in the state is also a reason young people don’t come or stay in New Hampshire.
Probably the biggest driver of ineffective laws is the effect of money on our legislatures. In recent years, even New Hampshire’s legislature has been infiltrated by outside groups writing the bills they want us to pass and taking us further from a New Hampshire agenda. Groups like American’s For Prosperity are spending large amounts of money to push national bills that serve their sponsors (Koch Industries). Koch also finances ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) an organization founded to design bills that are introduced in many states at once – to change the legal landscape on everything from ‘School Choice’, to ‘Stand your Ground’, to ‘Right to Work’. This year, republican Rep. Ullery asked the NH Board of Ethics in the Legislature whether it would be OK to create a trust fund to hold funding from ALEC that helped pay legislators to attend their conferences about what they want to see NH lawmakers pass. The ethics board said NO. Allowing sponsors to pay legislators to influence them is against ethics rules. Why didn’t this legislator get that?
AFP also produces their own publications that are distributed to the mailboxes of legislators across the country from ‘The Heartland Institute’ that gives lawmakers misinformation that is helpful to their businesses. My favorite is the pseudo-science they put out that refutes that our planet is warming.
We can protect New Hampshire from outside influence through our campaign finance laws. But we have to elect law makers who understand that we’re here to serve New Hampshire, not big business.
Long established checks and balances have come under unprecedented attack in recent years. I believe we need to elect people who understand how to revive our democracy and who are not beholden to outside groups. Getting the money out of our elections is a good start. But we must also act in good faith in Concord in order to restore trust in government, from the bottom up. We need honesty, integrity and a willingness to learn what works and what ails us, in order to find better solutions. Its not good enough to play politics-as-usual. We deserve better.
I helped design and deliver training around the state in 2014 on how to pass a warrant article on the issue of Getting the Money out of Politics. That state effort of regular people committed to having New Hampshire become the 17th state to pass a bill agreeing that Citizens United in 2010 (that decided Corporations are people), coupled with Buckley v. Valeo in 1976 (Money equals Speech) had opened the flood gates to corruption in our politics.
The warrant article effort went well – 70 in the first round – but that only gave us the backing to approach the NH Senate and work the issue from there. In the preceding years, all 6 of them, various versions of the bill stating simply that New Hampshire agrees that money is taking its toll and we are in favor of overturning these negative decisions, cannot get through the process without being killed at some point. Isn’t that strange?
When we spend our time focused on taking policies backwards, there’s an opportunity cost. We lose the chance to make good decisions for the next generation, today. I ran when I realized that NH was focused, far too often, on missing out on today’s opportunities, by focusing on relitigating the past.
John and I have 4 grown children between us and 9 grandchildren ranging from college-age to Pre-K (Paige, Aaron, Tyler, CJ, Reagan, KJ, Taylor, Makenna & Hannah), we recently had our first great grandchild, and so it goes! One of our granddaughter, Tyler, just entered the Air Force Academy in July of 2023, just like her father before her. My husband served as a US air force captain for 8 years flying F111’s and his mom, and my dad, both served in WWII. My dad’s brothers (5) served, and one brother, Frankie, was killed in action.
John’s two eldest children served as Air Force officers and both raised families in the military, moving every few years. We understand US values, US history and what it means to serve. We are concerned with the regressive movement that has coopted our political system, undermining the Democratic values for which our families served.
We’re witnessing the erosion of long-tested American principles that strengthen democratic liberty and the happiness that comes of protected personal freedoms. There’s a kind of perversion of these principles into something that serves the few and denigrates those who traditionally earned our praise. This embrace of idol worship over decency and compassion for our fellow-man is not without consequence in our history and toll on our place in the world.
Seeing current legislatures around the nation presenting bill after bill to criminalize women and their doctors is not the American I grew up in. It’s a stab at modernity, ignoring the facts that access to birth control and sex education lower abortion rates and contribute to a first-world medical system. Roe v. Wade understood that the legal precedent had to cover the rights of the people who would be effected by the law, not those who sought to control the bodies of others. How do we give lip-service to the idea of freedom when we’re slashing individual rights established for 5 decades? Guess this is what Confusions meant by: May you live in interesting times!
This constant assault on women’s rights to make their own decisions on such personal matters is ideological; it betrays a regressive longing to put women back in their place and re-litigate settled law. The overturning of Dobbs was founded in religious dogma, not legal precedent. That precedent was set with Roe in 1973.
The founders designed the separation of church and state with good reason and yet there is a major push to redefine the US as nation governed by a hard-right religiosity reminiscent of that used by Hitler, and Putin, to hide cruelty. My position is the American position: religious freedom is our right; imposing your religious views on others, is unAmerican. Women, who already head up 2/3rd’s of American households as single parents, can be trusted to make their own economic, life, and healthcare decisions.
We’re having a similar regression on racial justice as well. Hate crimes are up. Bullying the ‘other’ is up. People who have felt part of this great nation for decades are being victimized because of how they look. This turning of our culture away from accepting new citizens is also unAmerican. The federal government has failed to pass immigration laws. How we treat the least among us says so much about the character, or lack of character, of our nation. We are a nation of immigrants, and that includes everyone, unless we are Native American.
We cannot create a bright future if we keep entrusting decisions to those whose only vision is of a past that never was. I believe it is our duty to set an example, tackle the real issues, and stop playing politics with peoples lives.
I am not expecting to change the world by serving as your state representative. But I do expect to sponsor and help pass laws for New Hampshire that help you and your family love the place you live. I am committed to supporting common-sense, stability and reliability in a time of too much chaos. I hope I can count on your support.