The Senate Finance Committee has been hard at work for the last several weeks, working on the 2016-17 budget proposal that came over from the House and we are fast approaching our deadline to submit a final budget for consideration to the full Senate.
At this point, we've heard from all the departments and agencies and have a good sense of the problems and pitfalls in the budget the House of Representatives presented. A brief synopsis follows.
The House budget proposal appropriated $11.2 billion in total funds for the next biennium (as compared to the governor's budget of $11.5 billion.)
The House and governor budget proposals seem to be in agreement on approximately 35 departments — having little to no change. Some of those items include:
• Accepting the governor's proposal to cut funding for both bridge and road aid grants to municipalities in half.
• Fully funding the governor's recommendation for Office of Veterans Services and funding the new 25 bed unit at the N.H. Veterans Home.
• Accepting the governor's proposal to consolidate the Board of Nursing and the Real Estate Commission with the Joint Board.
• Accepting a variety of new and increased fees (e.g., vanity plate fee; Homeland Security Assessment; child support fee to name a few).
Some of the changes that the House did not agree with the governor on and made changes to include:
• Eliminating $93+ million in taxes and fees that the governor put into her budget;
• Allowing the sunset of The New Hampshire Health Protection Plan per current law.
• Eliminating the governor's proposal for a state Chief Operating Officer.
• Eliminating ServiceLink; significantly reducing Meals on Wheels and emergency shelter funding.
• Transferring $52.1 million from the Renewable Energy Fund to the general fund.
• Depleting the Rainy Day Fund ($9.3 million) for general fund spending.
• Greatly reducing funding for drug and alcohol prevention and treatment as well as tourism promotion.
Last week the Senate Finance Committee held the public hearing on the 2016/2017 budget in Concord and, as you might imagine, it was a packed house. An estimated 700+ New Hampshire citizens showed up to express their concerns about the budget proposed by the House. After nine hours of testimony, the public hearing ended at approximately 12:30 a.m.
Three-hundred seventy-four men, women, and youth signed in to speak. They included mothers and fathers, business people, advocacy groups, college students, and the developmentally disabled. Most of the testimony was in support of programs like Meals on Wheels, ServiceLink, developmental disabilities, mental health, substance abuse, and emergency shelters. Folks were frustrated, angry, and scared about the potential impacts from the House budget, but through all the testimony, comments were thoughtful and respectful.
With the public hearing behind us and having heard from the departments, we begin the process of putting the Senate's mark on the budget. As we have in the past, we will build a budget that is based on realistic revenues and lives within the state's means.
However, we do face challenges going into this budget that will force us to spend $123 million to $143 million more because of three issues (unexpected increase in spending due to the federal Affordable Care Act and the governor's settlement of the mental health and Medicaid Enhancement Tax lawsuits.)
We recognize that hard choices need to be made, and we will have much the same priorities as we had in our last budget. The Senate will craft a budget that works hard to protect the state's taxpayers and our most vulnerable citizens.
While we will continue to focus on those priorities, we will also work to re-establish the state's rainy day fund and reduce business taxes. We must create a better business climate for small and large business owners in the state.
I am confident that by working together, we will produce a responsible budget that lives within our means, with no new taxes and assures that our most vulnerable citizens and our taxpayers remain a top priority.
On a separate note, I'd like to share some good news with you — because of your calls, letters, and emails to the governor, funding has been restored to the nursing homes. When you doubt that your voice doesn't make a difference, here is a perfect example of where it has!
I am extremely pleased that the governor understood the importance of following the law and making nursing homes a priority. Unfortunately, she has not restored the $5.1 million to the home health agencies. I remain hopeful that she will do the right thing and restore the original funding to the home health care lines per the law.
(A Republican from Meredith, Jeanie Forrester represents District 2 in the N.H. Senate.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 May 2015 09:58
Why was 21-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sentenced to die in a state so generally opposed to capital punishment? A recent Boston Globe poll found that only 19 percent of Massachusetts residents wanted the Boston Marathon bomber put to death. The state hasn't seen an execution since 1947.
That sentence happened because national politics took the matter out of local hands. The federal government forced a death penalty trial. Only those open to a death sentence were allowed to serve on the jury. That made the jury members unrepresentative of the local population and the outcome preordained.
The sentence has eroded a sense of unity — the notion that a community can stand up to an awful crime without compromising its moral objection to capital punishment. And it goes against national trends.
Americans' support for the death penalty has sharply declined. Not long ago, about 80 percent of the American public favored it. A poll last year found 52 percent preferring life behind bars over execution.
Even some conservative states, such as Nebraska, are witnessing serious moves to end the death penalty. Opposition takes several forms: That capital punishment offends the pro-life ethic — as forcefully stated by Pope Francis. That executing someone who was wrongly convicted is an unspeakable horror. That the drawn-out and expensive appeals process typically following a death sentence serves no one, including the victims.
A discomfiting oddity of capital punishment is that whether and how it is applied depend on the place. The flamboyant cruelties of the Islamic State's beheadings and the antiseptic lethal injections in death penalty states seem variations of the same thing.
In 2008, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled the electric chair unconstitutional. The current debate includes the shortage of drugs for lethal injections. These are discussions one shouldn't want to have.
Many Americans, Bostonians included, remain adamant that criminals like Tsarnaev need to be eliminated, without much concern for the means. "I don't think there's any punishment too great for him," Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said after the sentencing.
And some who generally oppose the death penalty say they would make an exception in the case of terrorism. They describe the Tsarnaev brothers' rampage as more an act of war than a multiple murder.
We must question, though, whether by defining a heinous crime as a politically inspired act, we are further inflating already-grandiose misfits into historic figures. Fears that executing Tsarnaev will elevate the former college student into martyr status are not unfounded.
That his twisted admirers might respond with violence should not be a concern in meting out justice. Let that be said. But how much more diminished Tsarnaev would be if he were simply stored behind bars with the serial rapists and the holdup men.
The gruesome pomp that would surround a Tsarnaev execution could further move the marathon bombing focus from the crime and its victims to the criminal. That helps explain why some of the affected families have opposed a death sentence.
Bill and Denise Richard, whose 8-year-old son was murdered and whose 7-year-old daughter lost a leg in the bombing, have been among them. "For us," they wrote, "the story of Marathon Monday 2013 should not be defined by the actions or beliefs of the defendant, but by the resiliency of the human spirit and the rallying cries of this great city."
In sum, they don't want Tsarnaev made more important than he is.
The marathon's finish line, once a place to leave flowers, now evokes more complicated emotions. But the society that suffered the carnage did not have a say in the sentencing. That is one consolation for those Bostonians pained by the outcome.
(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)
Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 May 2015 10:15
Right, left, center, young, old, male or female, you can't take an "informed" position on a subject unless you know the facts. That's called, pragmatism. Sadly, it seems that many people base their positions or decisions solely on emotion. While having empathy for the plight of others is, or should be, an essential part of life, without pragmatism empathy may only prolong the struggle that needs to be overcome.
Today, the nation struggles as people label police departments as racists, and chant, black lives matter. The protests against the police have been orchestrated from coast to coast. In some of those protests, the marchers blatantly call for the killing of police. And, since those marches, we have seen a number of policemen ambushed and murdered in cold blood.
We have also seen mayors of major cities turn their backs on their minority white police forces . . . one mayor even going so far as to tell the department to stand down and give the protesters the "freedom to destroy". And, as we view on television the protests in cities across the countries, we can't help but notice the protesters carrying professionally made signs. That simple fact indicating the protests were not spontaneous, but funded, planned, and orchestrated.
The Justice Department and the FBI provide statistics on violent crimes committed in cities across the country, and provide a ranking of the worst offenders. The reports provide a breakdown of burglaries, rapes, murders, break-ins, etc. However, the reports do not necessarily provide the context, the background that fostered the crimes. For example, there may be a high murder rate in a major city but the statistics don't show that the high murder rate was the result of drug gangs fighting each other over "turf", or if the person(s) murdered were members of drug gangs or innocent bystanders who were caught in the crossfire.
Interestingly, we could not find a government website that provided statistical information on the killing of police officers. There is a website, that does keep track of police deaths they classify as in the line of duty: Officer Down Memorial Page. (http://www.odmp.org/search/year?year=2014) For the last five years, this site claims that 742 officers have died "in the line of duty", an average of slightly more than 148 per year. Of that number, a yearly average of 52.4 have been either shot or stabbed, and another 8.2 officers have died as a result of injuries or illnesses caused in the 911 terrorist attacks. The remaining average annual 87.8 deaths were the result of a number of other conditions . . . hit by an automobile, a motorcycle or automobile accident, or an on the job related illness, etc.
In order to truly define the problems in need of a solution, not only do we need statistical information, we need information on "context". For example, just recently in Houston, Texas, a policeman shot and killed two men. Statistically, that is what happened and, in a statistical report you could not tell if the shooting was justified or not. However, if we provide some context to that statistic, here is what we would know: Just recently, in Houston, Texas, a policeman shot and killed two men who were armed with assault rifles. The two had shot and wounded another police officer and had the intent to kill a number of people attending a cartoon drawing event that was offensive to Muslims.
Not only are we short on statistics, we are short on context. People, even, or especially, our elected leaders have become too impatient to wait for the facts . . . to acquire the information necessary to make a pragmatic, informed decision. That results in not only scapegoating the police departments, it gives license to citizens to riot and destroy, and creates a mob rule mentality.
Take a moment and think about our life, limb, and property if there were no police force here to keep the peace. Who would come to your rescue if you were threatened? Who would seek out and arrest the person who torched and burned your automobile? Who would bother to see who threw a brick through your window? Who would answer the alarm when your house was broken into? And who would be first on the scene when you were in an accident? And who would . . . ? And who would . . . ? And who would . . . ?
Life is a series of bell curves. In every profession or chosen field of endeavor, there are some who are exceptional. Most do a solid and decent job. At at the other end of that curve are some who just don't measure up to an acceptable level. We shouldn't make emotional decisions and decide to use a broad brush to paint an entire department or an entire profession based on what may well be a contextual void, or one unacceptable act by one individual. What company, or what individual could survive if they were to be judged only as worthy as the worst of them?
Patience! Context! Pragmatism! They make for a better life.
(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)
Last Updated on Monday, 18 May 2015 09:54
There were seven waterfront sales on Lake Winnipesaukee in April, 2015 at an average of $1,112,286 and a median price point of $900,000. That brings the total to 27 transactions on the lake thus far this year at an average sales price of $893,148 compared to the same 27 sales last year but with a higher average of $1,254,636.
The entry level sale last month was at 26 Deepwater Point in Moultonborough. This 1965 vintage, three bedroom, two bath, 1,285 square foot ranch style cottage sits on a third acre lot with 150' of sandy frontage. The cottage has a knotty pine interior, wood floors, a wood burning fireplace, a screened porch, and lakeside deck. The cottage is located at the very tip of Deepwater Point with spectacular views of undeveloped waterfront. Pretty nice! This home was listed at $559,000 and sold for $524,000 after 192 days on the market. The current tax assessed value is $583,100.
The median price point representative is at 9 Oakwood Road in Wolfeboro. And what a property it is! This circa 1907 vintage, 4,200 square foot, seven bed, four bath seasonal home is called "Stonehenge of Wolfeboro" and sits on 26.9 acres (three lots of record) with 400 feet of frontage on South Wolfeboro Bay. This classic summer retreat was restored to its past glory and features a two story great room with fieldstone fireplace and wrap around balcony, natural bead board walls, and hardwood flooring. The kitchen has been updated to modern standards and there is a formal dining room for entertaining. The exterior is finished in cedar shakes with lots of stonework...hence the name, Stonehenge. The former owners added a tennis court, pitch and putting greens, and volley ball and badminton courts. You truly take a step back to simpler times here. This home was listed in June of 2012 at $1.495 million, was relisted in May of 2014 at $1.295, and sold for $900,000 after 681 days on the market. The current tax assessed value is $1.31 million. Tennis, anyone?
The highest sale for the month was at 37 Four Seasons Drive in Alton which is just minutes to downtown Wolfeboro. This 6,000 square foot residence was built in 2006 and has five bedrooms, seven baths, a gourmet kitchen with stainless appliances including a Thermador range and convection oven, center island, granite counters and breakfast nook. There's a first floor master suite, two additional guest suites upstairs, living room with gas fireplace, formal dining room, home theater room, exercise room, sunroom, covered porch, and, of course, a wine cellar. Outside you'll find a wonderfully landscaped world with stone patios, walls, lawns, circular driveway and 125' of frontage with truly fabulous sunset views. There's a three car garage for the toys and separate barn with a heated workshop. This home was first listed at $2.2 million, was reduced to $1.925 million, and sold for $1.735 million after 481 days on the market. It is currently assessed at $1,857,900. I wonder if they are looking for a grounds keeper?
There were two sales on little sister Winnisquam in April. A 1950 vintage, 1,517 square foot cape style home with three bedrooms, two baths, on a third acre lot at 12 Hill Road in Tilton found a new owner. This home isn't exactly on the water, but it has a ten foot right of way to the lake with a dock. Kind of a cheap way to get on the lake. This home was originally listed at $299,900, reduced to $279,900, and sold for $255,000 after 249 days on the market. The current tax assessment is $195,000.
The other Winnisquam sale was on the Gold Coast at 514 Shore Drive in Laconia. This is a 2,644 square foot contemporary style home with four bedrooms and three baths. The home was constructed in 1969 and is in impeccable condition. It was designed with an open concept layout for great entertaining space and to be bright and sunny. The real selling feature here was the wonderfully large 2.28 acre lot situated on a point of land that provides great privacy. The property has 392' of westerly facing frontage providing stunning sunset views, a U shaped dock, plus a perched beach. This home was listed in September of 2013 for $1.15 million, brought back on the market in February of this year at $989,000, and sold for $875,000 after a total of 447 days on the market. It is assessed at $914,800.
Pease feel free to visitwww.lakesregionhome.comto learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others.
Data compiled using the NNEREN MLS system as of 5/15/15.
Roy Sanborn is a sales associate at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012
Last Updated on Friday, 15 May 2015 08:35
At a recent White House science fair celebrating inventors, a Girl Scout who helped design a Lego-powered page-turning device asked President Obama what he had ever thought up or prototyped. Stumbling for an answer, he replied: "I came up with things like, you know, health care."
Ah, yes. "Health care." Remember when the president's signature Obamacare health insurance exchanges were going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, the remote control, jogger strollers, Siri, the Keurig coffee maker, driverless cars and Legos all rolled into one?
The miraculous, efficient, cost-saving, innovative 21st-century government-run "marketplaces" were supposed to put the "affordable" in Obama's Affordable Care Act. Know-it-all bureaucrats were going to show private companies how to set up better websites (gigglesnort), implement better marketing and outreach (guffaw), provide superior customer service (belly laugh), and eliminate waste, fraud and abuse (LOLOLOL).
You will be shocked beyond belief, I'm sure, to learn that Obamacare exchanges across the country are instead bleeding money, seeking more taxpayer bailouts and turning everything they touch to chicken poop.
Wait, that's not fair to chicken poop, which can at least be composted.
"Almost half of Obamacare exchanges face financial struggles in the future," The Washington Post reported last week. The news comes despite $5 billion in federal taxpayer subsidies for IT vendors, call centers and all the infrastructure and manpower needed to prop up the showcase government health insurance entities. Initially, the feds ran 34 state exchanges; 16 states and the District of Columbia set up their own.
While private health insurance exchanges have operated smoothly and satisfied customers for decades, the Obamacare models are on life support. Oregon's exchange is six feet under — shuttered last year after government overseers squandered $300 million on their failed website and shady consultants who allegedly set up a phony website to trick the feds. The FBI and the U.S. HHS inspector general's office reportedly have been investigating the racket for more than a year now.
In the People's Republic of Hawaii, which has been a "trailblazer" of socialized medicine for nearly four decades, the profligate state-run exchange demanded a nearly $30 million cash infusion to remain financially viable after securing $205 million for startup costs. The Hawaii Health Connector accidentally disconnected hundreds of poor patients' accounts and squandered an estimated 8,000 hours on technological glitches and failures. Enrollment projections were severely overinflated like a reverse Tom Brady scandal. After failing to secure a bailout, Hawaii announced this week that its exchange would be shut down amid rising debt.
In Maryland, a state audit found that its health insurance exchange "improperly billed the federal government $28.4 million as former Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration struggled to launch what would become one of the most troubled websites in the nation," The Baltimore Sun reported in late March. That's in addition to the $90 million the state blew on technical problems. The state scrapped its junk website and forced enrollees to resubmit to the tortuous sign-up process all over again.
Last week, federal prosecutors subpoenaed the Massachusetts Obamacare exchange after whistleblowers there exposed what a "technological disaster" its "Health Connector" program was. Boston's Pioneer Institute senior fellow in health care, Josh Archambault, released a report on Monday detailing the "complete incompetence" of the state's health bureaucrats from day one. But taxpayers would be lucky if incompetence were the only sin.
After firing the tech boneheads of CGI, the same company behind the federal healthcare.gov meltdown, Massachusetts officials "appear to have lied to the federal government to cover up mistakes" made by both the state and the IT company. "In at least two instances we uncovered," Archambault revealed, what the state told the feds "was either in direct conflict with internal audits or highly improbable given what was being said in the audit and what whistleblowers said was happening at the time."
As health care analyst Phil Kerpen of the free market group American Commitment points out, Massachusetts "already had a functioning state health exchange" but "after receiving $179 million from federal taxpayers" to reconstitute it under Obamacare, "they were able to break that existing exchange beyond repair." An amazing feat.
Lesson for inventive Scouts and students wondering about what people in Washington, D.C., prototype: Government bureaucrats don't make things, kids. They break things.
(Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin is the daughter of Filipino Immigrants. She was born in Philadelphia, raised in southern New Jersey and now lives with her husband and daughter in Colorado. Her weekly column is carried by more than 100 newspapers.)
Last Updated on Thursday, 14 May 2015 09:24