Jeff Feingold is
Editor of NH Business Review's print and
on-line editions. He has
been a business journalist for more than 25 years, and recognized
by the Small Business Administration as National
Small Business Journalist of the Year.
New Hampshire may actually have to activate the Emergency Broadcast System if the disconnect between illusion and reality reaches any higher levels, at least when it comes to understanding how the state budget works.
To catch a glimpse, consider the righteous indignation of one Rep. Gene Chandler of Bartlett, former speaker of the House and a man who you'd think would understand such things.
Bartlett -- who's chair of the House Transportation Committee -- was angered by a the proposal of the state Department of Transportation to limit plowing of some state roads between 9 p.m. and 4 p.m. (essentially to limit overtime costs) and to allow snow to build up between five and seven inches before sending out crews to plow certain roads.
Sounds pretty bad, doesn't it?
Turns out the DOT is trying to make do with an 11.5 percent budget cut. The cut included a loss of 42 employees and a 25 percent reduction in its sand and salt budget. It'll get better next year and the year after that, folks, with a further 11 percent cut in '12 and another 13 percent in '13.
In fact, Chandler told the Conway Daily Sun, "What DOT is proposing is unacceptable," adding that he himself was "formulating a plan and there are other people around the state who I've been talking to. This is nothing different than the school board having to cut its budget and announcing it'll cut football first; it's what gets the biggest uprise."
To which Chandler adds: "What they're proposing will have a tremendous negative impact on the ski business and tourism in this state. People have always come to New Hampshire because they knew they could get here from there. I could see us losing skiers and tourists to Vermont and Maine if this new policy happens."
Says Chandler: "We need to change their priorities."
Point taken. But what about the roads that go unpaved or the bridges that go unrepaired, many of them in the southern part of the state -- far away from Chandler's domain -- in order to plow the roads for skiers more? Is that the school cricket team?
An intriguing point is raised about the knee-jerk reaction by politicians -- legislative leadership in particular -- to the layoffs and service cuts by hospitals after the state extracted $115m a year in payments.
First, they've essentially been in an absolute tizzy over how the hospitals reacted to the cuts -- even though almost all of the hospitals predicted that the effect of such cuts would be service and employment reductions.
In fact, the legislative leadership has gone into a full "how dare they?" response, actually implying with absolutely no evidence that the cuts -- $230 million over two years -- could be absorbed with essentially no effect on services or employment.
To quote Senate President Peter Bragdon as he offered a rationale for the funding cuts: "Everybody had to make some difficult decisions. We did just like businesses and families across the state have over the years."
He added, rather defensively: "There's nothing that says that patient services have to be affected."
So let's get this straight: The state and any other family or business in New Hampshire has the absolute right to decide how to allocate their limited, and sometimes shrinking, resources. Except, of course, hospitals, which -- apparently according to Senate President Bragdon -- have some kind of obligation to provide services and employ people even when their revenues are cut by $230 million over two years.
Sounds like a neat trick.
Well, whaddaya know. Speaker William O'Brien wasn't kidding when he made all those seemingly specious claims about voter fraud in New Hampshire. In fact, it seems like he had firsthand knowledge.
As Maine newspapers have reported, O'Brien's son Brendan, a recent graduate of Bates College in Lewiston, voted in New Hampshire in 2008 and then voted in Maine in 2009, But in 2010, he ran for the District 73 seat representing Lewiston in the Maine House, only to drop out a month later. By November, he voted in the New Hampshire 2010 general election.
Those reports indicate Brendan registered in Maine using his college address but maintained his New Hampshire registration. (BTW: He's still registered to vote in both states, according to the AP.)
Guess you could chalk it up to those wacky voting antics of "foolish" college kids, couldn't you Mr. Speaker?
One other aspect: It turns out that Brendan's mother -- and William's wife -- Roxanne O'Brien, serves as a supervisor of the checklist in Mont Vernon, the town where the 2010 vote by a former Maine Republican House candidate was cast.
Kelly Ayotte: Citing costs, the state's junior U.S. senator calls on the federal government to reconsider its pending new nutritional standards for school lunches.
Rick Perry: The Texas governor gears up to thrown his hat in the 2012 presidential ring with a stop in New Hampshire.
Andrew Hosmer: The Laconia resident becomes the third Democrat announcing his hopes to unseat first-term Republican Congressman Frank Guinta.
Michele Bachmann: The Minnesota congresswoman and presidential hopeful decides to scrap a visit to New Hampshire the week of Aug. 14.
Doug Scamman: The former speaker of the New Hampshire House returns to public life, or something like it, with his appointment to the state Lottery Commission.
It's been making the rounds...
• When it comes to the parade of actual and potential candidates lining up to challenge Frank Guinta, do they really smell blood, or are they just imagining it?
• So when Mitt Romney endorses right to work in New Hampshire, who does that actually help?
• Anything to be read by the apparent lack of financial support among House Republicans for the state GOP's rickety finances?
• Now Michelle Bachmann says she's visiting New Hampshire in September. What are the odds that's her last trip here until after the Iowa caucus?