August 4, 2008
Senator Odell is Chairman of Ways and Means, a
member of the Energy, Environment and Economic Development
Committee, and the Finance Committee.
Local farmers' markets fun, doing great
Standing in line, I counted eight people ahead of me. We were patiently waiting to purchase vegetables, especially tomatoes, from a vendor at the Newport Farmers' Market on a recent Friday afternoon. The woman behind me said the vendor had sold his 125 pounds of tomatoes the prior week in an hour and fifteen minutes. Business was sure brisk while I was there.
Last Thursday, the Greater Chamber of Commerce had a business after hours event at the Claremont Farmers' Market. I picked up some old fashioned, freshly made biscuits. The lady from Beryl Mt. View Farm in South Acworth told me how long I could keep them if I did not want to freeze them. The farmers' markets are fun to visit and to buy from people who have produced the products.
I called Lorraine Merrill, our Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food, on Friday to get her take on how New Hampshire's farmers' markets are doing. Her response, "they are doing great." Governor Lynch, in fact, has proclaimed this week to be New Hampshire Eat Local Week. His proclamation notes that "eating more New Hampshire grown foods helps preserve the New Hampshire way of life we cherish" as well as encourages growth of local businesses and workforces, generates added income. He also stated that "knowing where your food comes from and the farmer who grew it adds to our eating pleasure and contributes to better personal health."
Fifteen years ago there were twelve farmers' markets in New Hampshire. This summer there are more than seventy. Commissioner Merrill suggests that "vendors are reporting marked increases in traffic, sales are up … some say by 75%." She credits much growth in farmers' markets to consumers, fans of locally grown and produced foods, "citizens who value good, fresh, quality foods produced by neighbors and local businesses." This would be a good week to stop by the Newbury, Claremont, Newport or other farmers' markets.
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This is the sixth year I have served on the Senate Ways and Means Committee so I try to keep an eye on the revenues of state government. Two reports hit my desk last week. One report is a special annual edition of Monthly Revenue Focus with the added words "preliminary accrual -unaudited" Those words would suggest a bit of skepticism would be appropriate in reviewing the report but the report is usually very close to what the numbers will look like in September when the annual audit is completed.
The report shows revenue for the fiscal year 2008 that ended on June 30th and matches that revenue against revenue projections for the same period. For fiscal year 2008, state revenue totaled $2.343 billion which was below budget by $71.8 million or about 3%. The shortfall was caused primarily by business taxes, tobacco tax and real estate transfer tax producing less than what legislators put into the budget. Business taxes and the tobacco tax actually produced more revenue than the prior year; the real estate transfer tax produced less than the prior year.
The meals and rooms tax generated 2% more than the prior year but failed to meet budget projections. Same with liquor store profits. Lottery profits fell below budget and produced about 5% less revenue than the prior year. Budget projections that were overly optimistic created a budget gap that was met by bonding some operating costs and reducing expenditures.
The second report was the revenue report for July, the first month of the new fiscal year (2009). The budget for July had $93.5 million of revenue and receipts were just $400,000 above the goal. That is much better than falling way behind as we have in recent months. July is not a big revenue month. The next big one will be September when we take an especially close look at business tax revenue.
Thirty states had budget shortfalls for fiscal years ending in June. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in California is laying off thousands of state employees, some states are using up their "rainy day" funds and others are looking for quick cash with proposals to lease lotteries, turnpikes and bridges. Governor David Patterson of New York raised that possibility for the Brooklyn Bridge. New Hampshire, for now, is in much better shape than many other states.
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Two annual events signal to me that we have reached midsummer. Friday night it was the Preview Party at the Mount Sunapee Resort to launch the 75th annual Craftsmen's Fair. Thousands will come to our area to attend the fair helping the overall economy. And for the craftsmen, this is a major source of revenue for many of them including some who live in the area. Congratulations to Beverly Wolf of Newbury who is president of the board of trustees of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen.
The other annual milestone over the weekend was the annual New London Hospital Days including a four day series of events and activities. Driven by dozens of volunteers, the Hospital Days brings together year round residents with summer folks who share a couple of summer days together simply doing things that are fun. Having avoided time on the stool at the dunking tank, I had plenty of fun selling tickets for midway rides to kids, parents and especially grandparents. Everyone seemed young and happy for a few hours.
New Hampshire State House
107 North Main Street
Concord, NH 03301-4951