Last week seemed to fly by as dozens of legislative bits and pieces were dealt with that are part of the weekly work we do in Concord. Here are a few examples.
During the second half of each month a few other legislators and I receive a daily report of deposits of money received from our various taxes and fees. Each day for the last two weeks of the month you could feel more and more optimistic that revenue would exceed the goal for the month in our income plan.
And it happened. Revenue was $126.6 million in January surpassing our goal by $14.3 million or 13 percent. After months of falling short by small margins, or coming in at around equal to the budget estimate, January was a strong month. One hopes that January is the turnaround month and that the results reflect improving state revenue because the economy is strengthening.
Our business taxes were strong. The goal for business profits and business enterprise taxes together totaled $25.9 million or $11.3 million ahead of the January plan of $14.6 million. Those are very good numbers and extend a trend in the current fiscal year of exceeding our plan. Business tax revenue was also up over the same period last year.
The only reason the stateís overall deposits are below plan for the first seven months of the fiscal year is that some hospitals have not paid their Medicaid Enhancement Tax in full. When that revenue is combined with strong results from other revenue streams, the state could end up in a good situation when the fiscal year ends on June 30. One month, of course, cannot predict the future but it is nice to have a good one to start the new year.
In the odd numbered years after an election, the Governor gives an inaugural address in January after being sworn into office. Governors give a State of the State Address in even numbered years. Governor Lynch gave his final address to the legislature and the people of New Hampshire last week.
There were plenty of smiles and much applause from legislators and guests who often rose from their seats in approval. Mostly it was a cheery environment but the Governor laid down some markers as he addressed his audience.
He had warned me two days before that he would emphasize that considering the national economic situation, New Hampshire was doing well. In his speech, no one could miss his point. The Governor said New Hampshire has a governmental structure and process that works and told the legislature to not "mess it up."
Toward the end of his address, the Governor sternly said "There is a harshness in the air, in the tone and nature of our communication and particularly within this building, thatís not healthy for our people or our democracy. We can disagree, without demonizing one another."
The Governor cited the example of one of his predecessors, the late Walter Peterson and his wife Dorothy, who was in the audience, as New Hampshire leaders who had always been respectful and reasonable as they went about serving the people of the state. Clearly the Governor was making a strong statement about his frustration with the tension that surrounds some of the debate and work going on in the State House.
It was the Governorís final annual speech to legislators. I have been there for his eight addresses. As he was finishing up, my mind raced for a moment as I tried to foresee who might be making their first gubernatorial inaugural address in January, 2013, less than a year away.
The Senate Internal Affairs Committee voted to send a constitutional amendment on education funding to the Senate floor. The amendment has bi-partisan support as Governor Lynch and Democrat Senator Lou DíAllesandro (Manchester) joined a majority of Republican Senators in favor.
Proponents will say this amendment, if passed, will allow the legislature to target state aid to the school districts with the greatest need and give voters a chance to weigh in on it when they go to the polls in November. Critics will suggest that if the constitutional amendment passes, future legislatures will cut back on the money the state sends to local schools when state revenues are down.
Any constitutional amendment requires a 60 percent vote of both the House and Senate and a 66 percent favorable majority when citizens vote in November. That is a very high bar but the stakes are significant, too.
And the Senate approved the new Senate redistricting plan. The Senateís plan now goes to the House, while the House plan for its redistricting is now in the Senate. It is traditional courtesy that each body approves the other bodyís redistricting plans. After legislative approval, the plans head to the Governor with uncertainty surrounding whether he will or will not sign the bills.
The best event of the week was the Newport Area Chamber of Commerce annual meeting. It was great to hear a newcomer, Todd Hjelt, executive director of the Newport Opera House, extol the virtues of living in Newport. He was followed by Steve Smith, who grew up here, seeing the same positives of living in and around Newport from his lifelong associations here. Congratulations to Steve on receiving the Chamberís Distinguished Citizen Award for 2012.
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