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Bob Odell
State Senator
District 8

May 9, 2010

Senator Odell is Chairman of  the Ways and Means Committee, and member of the Energy, Environment and Economic Development Committee;  Finance Committee; Citizens Trade Policy Commission; State Park System Advisory Council; and Comprehensive Cancer Plan Oversight Board.

Senate District 8 towns: Acworth, Alstead, Charlestown, Claremont, Gilsum, Goshen, Langdon, Lempster, Marlow, New London, Newbury, Newport, Roxbury, Stoddard, Sullivan, Sunapee, Sutton, Unity, Walpole, Washington and Westmoreland.

 

 

As the legislature struggles to come up with revenue, spending cuts and special financings to meet the budget gap of $220 million projected by the Governor, revenue fell dramatically in April. That only worsens the situation.

The drop in anticipated revenue in April surprised many of us, and it may be an indicator that a rebound in state revenue is further off than the Governor and others had predicted. To see the severity of the situation one only needs to compare the $41.8 million shortfall in revenue last month with the Governorís anticipated fall-off in the entire next fiscal year of just $31 million.

In other words, the shortfall last month exceeds the shortfall predicated for the next fiscal year that begins on July 1. That means that the search for new revenue and more cuts in spending will not be over when we finish up on the current revisions to the budget before we adjourn in three weeks.

What happened in April? The revenue plan called for income of $283 million and we took in $241 million leaving us with the $41.8 deficit. That is short of the goal by 15 percent.

Aprilís numbers mean that the state is down $98 million for the year with two months left. That is more than the Governor anticipated when he brought his new budget financing plan forward. If this is a trend, much more serious work lies ahead.

On a percentage basis it is clear where the problems were in April: business taxes were off by 25 percent, meals and rooms by 5 percent, interest and dividends by 27 percent, communications tax by 16 percent and the lottery by 15 percent.

April is when we get our annual share of the money from the master settlement agreement with the major tobacco companies. The budget called for $49.4 million but we received only $44.2 million. The payments to the states are based upon tobacco sales nationally. Sales have fallen by 10 percent and thus the proceeds are about 10 percent below the budget plan.

Is April just an anomaly or an indicator that the revenue picture for New Hampshire state government will continue to be grim? With our rainy day fund almost completely drawn down and new bonding not fiscally prudent, then where do we go?

How do you face up to an even worse situation in the next biennium when there will not be the federal one-time monies that helped us get through the current year?

Those questions weigh heavily on the minds of lawmakers as we face an important package of budget cuts and new revenue options.

* * *

The House is working on a $182 million package of cuts and new revenue. Additional money would come from an increase in the fee to get married that would bring in $800,000 of revenue annually. There would be a tax at the time of death on estates over $2 million for $10 million of revenue and a tax on the generation of electricity for $4.5 million.

The price of the weekly Market Bulletin published by the agriculture department will go up $3 for a yearís subscription. That will bring in $12,000 of added revenue and shows how minor are some of the proposed changes.

On the other side of the ledger, the repeal of the campsite meals and rooms tax and the repeal of the LLC tax will take away $19.5 million in revenue next year.

Once the House takes action, there will be long hours of debate and negotiation with the Senate. Agreement is needed to get the budget at least looking a little more balanced.

* * *

We all are proud of our local firefighters who are always there to save lives and protect property. Claremont can take special pride in the recognition given to two of its firefighters, Capt. Alan Chamberlain and Lt. Brian Rapp, who were recognized as New Hampshire Heroes at a ceremony on the State House plaza and a reception in the Executive Council Chambers.

The annual Hero Awards Program is a project of the New Hampshire Union Leader and sponsored by Citizens Bank. Nominees have "exhibited extraordinary bravery risking their own lives to save or attempt to save someone else."

Alan and Brian certainly earned their heroes awards. In February of last year, they crawled on their hands and knees through thick black smoke in a burning building to reach an unconscious woman in an upper floor apartment. They were able to scoop her up and carry her out to waiting EMTs. Her dog, too, was rescued and both survived.

It was exciting to sit with City Manager, Guy Santagate, and firefighting colleagues and friends and family of Alan and Brian, as they received their award from Governor Lynch. Congratulations to Alan and Brian and thanks to every firefighter and first responder for all they do to keep us safe and secure.

* * *

It may have rained hard but it was still worth it to walk in the 4th annual "Steppin Up to End Violence" event to benefit Turning Points Network. Turning Points is our areaís agency working to prevent domestic and sexual violence. They also work with children to prevent bullying. Turning Points does great work and a morningís walk is the least we can do to support them.

 

Bob Odell
State Senator
New Hampshire State House
107 North Main Street
Concord, NH 03301-4951

Telephone:  603-271-6733
Email:  rpojr@aol.com

 

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