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Bob Odell
State Senator
District 8

November 23, 2008

Senator Odell is Chairman of  the Ways and Means Committee, a member of the Energy, Environment and Economic Development Committee, and the Finance Committee.

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.

 


On Thursday morning, Governor Lynch and his budget director, Kristyn McLeod, briefed me on the spending cuts the Governor was going to propose to the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee the next morning. I would pass along the information to the leadership in my caucus.

The reductions in spending go from $25 million at the Department of Health and Humans Services to $41 at the Midwifery Council. Some cuts, like cancelling some magazine subscriptions will not hurt; but $2.3 million or about a 1% reduction in payments to nursing homes and long term care providers will be noticed. And that reduction has a doubling effect. The $2.3 million of state funds is matched by $2.3 in federal funds resulting in $4.6 million not going to the nursing homes and other providers.

The overall reductions equal $53.6 million. Those affect the current fiscal year which began last July and ends in June. The problem is that current projections indicate that to have a balanced budget at the end of the fiscal year another $75 to $85 million in cuts in spending will be needed if the budget is to be balanced by June 30.

The Governor brought his recommendations in the form  of Executive Orders to the Fiscal Committee. That is a body of 10 ... just 10 members out of our 424 member legislature. There are five House members and five Senate members. The Fiscal Committee came into existence years ago when the legislature met only every other year.

Rather than call the legislature back into special sessions to deal with financial matters, the Fiscal Committee was created. There are those who believe the entire legislature should be involved in major decisions like cutting tens of millions from the budget. They are going to get their chance. The Governor left the $75-$85 million needed in additional cuts to the legislature when it returns in January.

How did we get into this financial crisis? Revenues estimates were too rosy by tens of millions of dollars. And, the economic slowdown has impacted state revenue streams including business taxes, real estate transfer taxes and several others. State finances are going to be the central challenge for government over the next few years. 

* * *

Do you remember where you were on Saturday morning? I will remember where I was for a long time and I'll also remember how cold it was. I went on a tour of the Lempster Mountain Wind Farm for the New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association. 

This was a early tour as public tours are not planned until next spring. Ed Cherrian oversees the operation and hosted the tour. The farm "went commercial" on November 10 after five years of planning and nearly a year of construction. It is going through a shake-out period so that not all of the 12 turbines have been in operation at the same time.

To say the least, the turbines are huge. The towers are 250 feet high and the blades, hollow and made out of fiberglass and epoxy, are 139 feet long. The blades move slowly and need only winds of just six miles per hour to turn. There have been no bird or bat strikes to date. Each of the turbines is programmed to maximize energy production by "yawing" at the top of the tower and turning the blades.

And on Saturday morning, with 17 degree temperature and very strong wind, it was still exciting to stand and watch the blades turning and producing electricity I enjoyed being part of the tour with others from New Hampshire who believe so strongly that our future depends upon energy from wind and other renewal resources.

* * *

I went to Manchester last Tuesday to participate in the 2008 New Hampshire Volunteer Appreciation Night for the American Cancer Society. Cancer remains the number one public health challenge for the country. The presentation of the recognition awards showed the wide range of services provided to patients with cancer and their families. The Cancer Society is a band of volunteers who raise millions of dollars in New Hampshire while providing many services for patients.

Christine Nelson, of Sutton, received a prestigious Sandra Labaree Volunteer Values Award for many volunteer efforts for the Society but especially for her leadership of the annual Kearsarge-Sunapee Relay for Life fund-raiser. Yours truly was named 2008 Lawmaker of the Year for my efforts on funding the New Hampshire Cancer Plan and other smoking prevention legislative efforts. 

* * *

I wish for every family a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration. For me, it is a time to be thankful for renewed health in our family and many special acts of kindness by so many over the past few months. 

Sarah Josepha Hale is called "the Mother of the American Thanksgiving." She was from Newport and was an influential literary and public figure. For 30 years she petitioned national leaders including several Presidents to issue a proclamation for a National Day of Thanks. Finally, in 1863 at the midpoint of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln bowed to the persistence of Mrs. Hale. She may have reached out to Lincoln, a quietly spiritual man, at a very timely point as he felt the war following the battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg was turning in favor of the North. For that, he must have been very thankful.

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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