A few years ago I wrote a column about how few Senators chose not to run for re-election. If you look through the history of the State Senate, there are usually just a handful who retire or leave to run for another office each cycle.
This year is different with nine of the Senators elected in the last election leaving voluntarily. Only one, Tom DeBlois (Manchester), is running for another office. He is seeking to fill a vacancy on the five-member Executive Council.
Two of the five Democrat Senators are leaving. I have written previously of my high regard for one of them, Senator Matt Houde (Plainfield). Amanda Merrill (Durham) served 10 years in the House and now is completing her second term in the Senate. Mandy, who has a Ph.D. from Dartmouth, has served with me on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee where we have often been allies on conservation issues. She is always prepared and shares a special distinction with some other Senators of "always being prepared by doing her homework" before committee sessions.
Life in the Senate also has moments of humor and goodwill along with the sharing of stories about family. One aspect of Mandy’s life we all shared was the success of her son, Sam Fuld, who plays for the Tampa Bay Rays. He was injured and has not been traveling with the team lately.
Recently Senator Merrill said she was flying to Tampa Bay to see her son and family. But her husband had already left as Sam had asked him to throw pitches to him so he could practice his swing. They were not going to do it in the backyard. They were going to practice in Tropicana Park as the Rays were away. One can understand a dad being very excited about throwing practice pitches to his son in a major league ballpark.
Senator Merrill has made her contribution to the Senate and the legislature over the past two decades. Her focus will change but all of us who served with her are appreciative of her service to the state.
Each week this summer I will highlight one of the retiring Senators to give readers an appreciation of the uniqueness, talent and experience of those who serve there.
The state’s fiscal year ended on June 30. We do a two year budget so June 30 ended the first year of the biennial cycle.
While the legislature deserves some of the criticism it gets, it is tough to find fault with the revenue projections made by the legislature in the budgeting process. The current budget was prepared and finalized from the spending side only after the Senate Finance Committee had received revenue projections from the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees.
I have served on the Senate Ways and Means Committee since I have been in the Senate and have chaired the committee for the past three terms. I cite that experience to let readers know that from my perspective the legislative process for revenue estimating is very, very good.
The only exception over the last decade was when the severity of the recession took an unexpected toll on several key revenue streams.
The June 30 numbers from an unaudited basis for the last 12 months is positive. Business taxes, our largest source of revenue, exceeded goal by $10 million. Other key taxes including the meals and rooms tax and real estate transfer tax exceeded the budget plan. Our enterprise businesses, the Liquor Commission and Lottery Commission, revenues were off about 5 percent each.
The largest shortfall in terms of revenue under goal was the tobacco tax. Instead of producing planned income of $223.5 million, revenue was $212 million, $11.5 million under goal or about 5.1 percent. Some readers will remember the debate over the 10 cent per pack tax reduction that was touted as a means to increase revenue. Results show that for the first year of the biennium the state lost revenue rather than gaining revenue.
The big cloud over revenue for the year just ended is our tax on hospital revenue. The goal was to take-in $97 million but some hospitals have held their annual payments back. Hospitals are required to complete their annual filings in the next few days and make their payments. The cash needs to be received within 60 days in order to be counted for the last fiscal year.
In summary, if the hospitals that have not paid their tax do so at anticipated levels, the state will have raised $7.5 million over the fiscal year 2012 plan of $2.189 billion. That surplus would be very helpful to the state in many ways. It also points to the accuracy of budget estimators as the $7.5 million is less than half of one percent off the budget goal. Very accurate, to say to least.
The annual Old Home Days and local community summer celebrations are well underway. I attended the Grantham 4th of July parade and Judy and I marched in parades in Weare and Bradford on Saturday. Great community spirit was in evidence in each town and there were no frowns along the parade routes … only smiles … and that makes it all worthwhile. The rest of the summer will be filled with similar fun events.