The halls of the State House were very quiet last Thursday on my only day in Concord during the week. But there was one meeting going on that was an early indicator of much more activity in the capitol this fall.
The meeting was the organizing session for the Commission Exploring Monetizing Certain State Assets, Enterprises and Resources that is tasked with the job of finding $60 million of property the state can sell or lease or otherwise get money for by next June 30. The goal of monetizing some state assets was part of the $295 million budget fix that the legislature passed in a special session on June 9.
Proposals for the privatization of the Liquor Commission, or the sale of our annual $40 million plus share of the Master Settlement Agreement in which tobacco companies pay money into a fund that in turn sends money to participating states, have been raised. But mostly, people think in terms of sales of land and buildings.
By law, the commission must report back with its recommendations by the first of the year. The reality is that identifying $60 million of state assets to sell, making arrangements to make the sales, and finding buyers with cash to buy the properties between now and the end of June is a very big job. Many feel it just cannot be done and thus the revenue for the current annual budget will be off by up to $60 million on this item alone.The legislature each session creates dozens of similar study committees and commissions. Sometimes the objective of the legislation sponsor is to simply create a process to look into some aspect of state government. That was the case when I introduced a study commission bill in 2005 to look at our state parks system. The report of that commission has had a far reaching impact on how we look at our state parks and it fostered the creation of the State Parks System Advisory Council, helped encourage the legislature to fund millions of dollars of state investment in upgrading our parks, and had the Division of Parks and Recreation create a 10-year strategic plan. Other times, the legislature creates a study committee instead of passing a piece of legislation. Senator Lou D’Allesandro sponsored, and I was a co-sponsor, of legislation to determine how reasonable compensation is set for business owners in New Hampshire. We felt it was good legislation and would have removed much uncertainty for business owners and reduced the need for the more than 4,000 audits conducted each year by the Department of Revenue Administration.
This fall may be a good trial run for me as we prepare for the budget battles of 2011. I have been appointed as one of three Senate members of a 12-member Commission to Study Business Taxes. Part of our work must be completed by December 1 of this year and other parts by November 1 of 2012.
While we say we are "business friendly," there are some parts of our state tax regime that are far from friendly to businesses. It is appropriate that we take a look at our current tax structure and determine if changes are needed.
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Congratulations to the organizers, volunteers and sponsors of the 86th annual New London
Hospital Days. When I was honored to be a member of the board of New London Hospital it was fun to march in the parade, sell tickets for the midway rides and, yes, do my turn on the dunking stool.
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Contact: ken.s+sunacom.com (replace "+" with "@")