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Bob Odell
State Senator
District 8

October 10, 2010 
(* updated 10-17-10)

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.

 

It is impossible to run and hide from the TV and radio ads and the direct mail pieces from the candidates for office this year. And the state’s budgets, past and future, are in the forefront of most of the advertising messages.

For eight years I have been on the Senate Finance Committee and Ways and Means Committee so I have seen much of what has taken place in the last few budgets. The campaign ads bring out some of the truths and realities of what happened. Often, at the same time, the ads highlight suspicious bits and pieces or employ a percentage figure to prove a point as candidates try to get your vote.

The 2010 campaign does not need one more commentator to make observations on this year’s political advertising. I can report on how much revenue has flowed into the state general fund and education trust fund in the first three months of the current fiscal year.

* Through September 30, in the first quarter of the new fiscal year, the state took in $380.7 million while the budget plan called for revenue of $378.6 million. That means the state is ahead of plan by 2.1 percent.

Paragraph above corrected 10-17-10 to: "Through September 30, in the first quarter of the new fiscal year, the state took in $380.7 million while the budget plan called for revenue of $378.6 million. That means the state is ahead of plan by 0.6 percent."

The first point to note is how close the budget plan was to the actual revenue. The revenue plan is the estimate by income source of how much money will come in each month. The legislature estimates the amount of money that will come from each revenue source each year. Those figures are put into the budget and the Department of Administrative Services creates a plan of monthly revenue projections that together equal the total budget. DAS takes into consideration high income months when, for example, business tax estimates and payments are due. They also use historical data to make their monthly projections.

Budget watchers make judgments on how well the state is doing by tracking revenue against the DAS’ month by month revenue plan. That is why being within 2 percent of projections, thankfully this quarter on the positive side, shows how close the estimates can be.

* A second point to consider is that overall revenue for this last quarter is up over the same quarter in fiscal year 2010, $380.7 million to $377.6 million, for an increase of 3.1 percent. That is a small positive but small is better than a decline.

Paragraph above corrected 10-17-10 to: "A second point to consider is that overall revenue for this last quarter is up over the same quarter in fiscal year 2010, $380.7 million to $377.6 million, for an increase of 0.8 percent. That is a small positive but small is better than a decline."

And third, of concern, our largest source of revenue, business taxes (profits and enterprise taxes) were lower in the first quarter this year than last year, $102.5 million to $103.4 million, for a decrease of just under one percent. But the fact those taxes did not grow at even the level of total revenue says the economy is not recovering at the rate we all would like.

The detailed budget figures are generally not of much interest to most folks. But in just three months, legislators and citizens alike, will be eager to hear the budget address by the Governor. He must lay out by February 15 his plan for how we will close what is a projected gap of several hundred million dollars between our revenue estimates and spending plans for the new biennium that starts next July.

* * *

Gubernatorial candidates have been going back and forth on Senate Bill 500 which created a law intended to improve the chances for prisoners to succeed when released back into the community. It was believed by legislators that successful implementation of close and strict supervision would reduce the rate of parole and probation violations.

I wrote about this bill last spring as it was moving through the legislature. I pointed out that Corrections Commission William Wrenn had come to my office for a one-on-one discussion of the merits of Senate Bill 500 and the successful track record found in other states with similar programs. And, of course, there was the potential of saving millions of dollars by safely reducing our prison population.

Now in the heated battles of election year politics, the entire concept of the bill is questioned along with its implementation. I remember discussions on the bill in my caucus and the voice vote on the Senate floor to approve the bill without any dissention. I also recall Senator Jack Barnes (Raymond) walking up to the Senate Clerk’s counter to have his opposition recorded … he was the only one.

The visibility of the current debate over Senate Bill 500 is front page news, but there is no news coverage of the new law passed earlier this year to prevent bullying and increase pupil safety in our public schools. At a small meeting at the Goshen Lempster School last week issues of its implementation and possible new costs of putting the tenets of the new law in place were raised.

Barrett Christina, a staff attorney with the New Hampshire School Boards Association, pointed out that many bills which become law face difficulties in implementation. He offered a draft policy that schools might use to comply with the new anti-bullying law. What seemed so clear during the legislative process turns into uncertainty and questions when the state or a local school has to implement a new law. That is especially true when new laws encompass major policy changes and thus the attention that Senate Bill 500 has drawn as the state tries to address the costs of our parole and probation policies.

 

 

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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