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Bob Odell
State Senator
District 8

September 8, 2009

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.

 


What happens when a family’s income falls by 16%? Or, when sales at a small business dip by that amount?

We are going to find out what happens to state government when its revenue falls 16%. July and August were the first two months of the new two year state budget and with 22 months to go in the biennium, should we be worried by our falling revenue? 

The answer to that is yes. Budget writers predicted the state would take in $205 million in the first two months. Instead, revenue was $187.5 million giving us a shortfall of $17.6 million. Very critical for revenue and spending planning for the next two years, important revenue streams were off from the same period in the prior year: business taxes off 12.6%, interest and dividends taxes were off a whopping 70%, real estate transfer tax off 19%. Tobacco revenue, due to increased taxes and steady sales, was up 41% and liquor profits were up 14% this summer over last year.

While media pundits suggest the economy has bottomed out and economic growth is ahead, it appears it will take New Hampshire some time to recover and see state revenue growth. What does that mean for the next few months? First, a substantial amount of money from business taxes should be coming in during September as businesses file their quarterly returns. These business tax filings combined with interest and dividend filings are good indicators of the strength of the economy. Secondly, if cuts in spending are going to be required, it will be easier to make them in the first few months of the biennium than farther down the road. Third, if the Governor needs legislation to implement spending cuts, the legislature will be meeting on October 28 for a veto session … a possible deadline for some tough decision making.

* * *

Legislators are regularly besieged by lobbyists representing the three race tracks in New Hampshire telling us 70% of the state’s residents support expanded gambling. We also hear from constituents about how much potential revenue is lost to Connecticut casinos by New Hampshire gamblers losing money there. Some see expanded gambling as an economic development opportunity creating temporary construction jobs and long term employment for hundreds of others.

On the other hand, there are those who suggest that the social costs of addictive gambling is too great and that expanded gambling, especially slot machine parlors, will cost the state more money than we will receive. Issues of increased crime, negative impacts on local businesses like restaurants and hotels and degradation of the state’s image all make expanded gambling undesirable, opponents say.

So, there are arguments on both sides. Legislators over the last couple of years have been given only one viable option which would give a monopoly to the state’s three race tracks, without competitive bidding, to install thousands of slot machines. Other options for full gaming casinos like those in Connecticut or having the state own and operate facilities do not get much attention. That is because the debate has largely been between the racetracks seeking slot machines and opponents of any gambling expansion.

Governor Lynch has taken a bold step and appointed a Gaming Study Commission. I am pleased to be one of two current legislators on the 15 member commission which held its first meeting on September 1. The commission will issue an interim report in December and complete its work in June, 2010. That will give legislators the opportunity to take the commission’s work and consider including its recommendations in the spring of 2011 in the next biennium budget.

This commission will make, I believe, a serious effort to come up with recommendations based on evidence from New Hampshire and other states where gambling has been introduced or expanded in recent years.

To follow the work of the commission, readers may go the website http://www.nh.gov/gsc/

* * *

Many readers across the country look to the New York Times Book Review, published as part of the paper each Sunday, as an authoritative voice on the most significant new books coming to market. There is a special distinction for the book featured each week in the cover article.

And that is where my neighbor and friend saw his new book, “The Heart of Power: Health and Politics in the Oval Office” in last Sunday’s New York Times. Jim Morone with his co-author, David Blumenthal, have written a history of health care legislation and especially attempts by presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to George W. Bush to initiate universal health insurance plans. As an indictor of the importance of his new book, the New York Times review was written by former Secretary of Labor and frequent TV commentator Robert Reich.

Jim is one of those special folks who live quiet rural lives part of the time while professionally they are recognized internationally for their work. He has been a political science professor at Brown University for 25 years and has chaired his department for the past couple of years. 

With all of his academic and professional accomplishments, most of us in Lempster … especially those who live on our unpaved Hurd Pond Road … think of Jim Morone as simply our good friend and neighbor. That’s a pretty good distinction, too.

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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