Today, we stand at a critical juncture. Our country's economy continues to strengthen — and in many respects, New Hampshire remains ahead of the curve.
In December, our unemployment rate dropped to 4 percent, the seventh lowest in the country and the lowest in New England, and our private sector has recovered all of the jobs lost in the recession.
We lead the nation in many measures, and our economic potential is strong, but respected economists and public policy experts say there are warning signs ahead: Our population is aging, and in-migration is slowing.
Our ability to address these trends as quickly as we might like is impeded by a number of challenges — the recession, tax law changes and resulting loss in revenue, and lawsuits that needed to be addressed in order for us to move forward.
But we must build on the bipartisan progress of the last two years with responsible, strategic investments in order to keep our economy moving in the right direction.
To achieve that goal, I have presented a fiscally responsible, balanced budget to the Legislature for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 — with no income or sales tax.
It is a budget that helps expand opportunity for middle-class families, supports job-creating businesses, encourages innovation and aims to attract and retain more young people here in New Hampshire.
It keeps total spending increases to 6.4 percent, well below the historical average, and it is balanced honestly and responsibly, assuming conservative revenue growth and transitioning away from budgeting gimmicks that mislead the public about what we can truly afford to do.
To help develop an even stronger workforce and hold down the cost of higher education, this budget increases funds for our university and community college systems, with our community colleges indicating that they will be able to once again lower tuition.
The budget also increases state aid to local schools, advances efforts to modernize STEM education, invests in business incubators, increases travel and tourism promotion, and will help us develop a workforce recruitment strategy.
We also know that our businesses need a healthy workforce in order to grow and thrive. Last year, we came together across party lines to pass a historic health care expansion plan that is helping to reduce health care cost-shifting onto families and businesses, strengthen the health of our workforce and boost our economy.
Because of our expansion plan, more than 34,000 hard-working Granite Staters now have the health and economic security that comes with quality, affordable health coverage, and this budget provides for the reauthorization of our bipartisan expansion plan.
The budget also maintains our state's commitment to revitalizing mental health services and strengthens treatment and prevention efforts to address the state's serious heroin and opioid challenges.
And to help set the stage for a new generation of economic growth, the capital budget includes funding for the environmental and engineering work required to move forward with bringing commuter rail from Boston to Nashua and Manchester – a critical project that will support our businesses and help keep young people in our state.
To invest in these priorities, this budget focuses on making state government more innovative and efficient, merging state agencies and creating the position of a chief operating officer to work across state agencies to drive process and efficiency improvements.
And this proposal makes modest adjustments to ensure sufficient revenue to make strategic investments, including increasing the cigarette tax, closing tax loopholes, and allowing Keno and self-service lottery terminals.
It also increases the vehicle registration fee to address our Highway Fund challenges, which, if we take no further action, will leave us with the untenable choice of leaving our roads unplowed, cutting state police, or eliminating aid to fix local roads and bridges.
The revenue changes included in this proposal will not diminish New Hampshire's standing as having one of the lowest tax burdens in the nation, and my commitment to veto a sales or income tax remains firm.
The young people and innovative businesses we hope to attract and keep here in New Hampshire appreciate our low-tax environment, which we must maintain. They are also looking for good schools, affordable higher education, modern transportation options, workforce opportunities, and safe, healthy communities, and they will not sacrifice these priorities, which will drive our economic growth for decades to come.
As we work to finalize this budget together, it will as always require difficult choices and shared sacrifices. And it will require building on the ideas and perspectives of Democrats, Republicans and independents to reach new solutions.
I stand ready to work with any member of either party who is willing to bring constructive, long-term ideas to the table so we can continue investing in critical priorities. Together, we can expand middle-class opportunity, support job-creating businesses, encourage innovation and keep our economy moving forward. Together, New Hampshire will thrive.
(Democrat Maggie Hassan of Exeter is serving her second term as governor of New Hampshire.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 February 2015 09:19
There were just five waterfront transactions on Winnipesaukee in January at an average sales price of $1.084 million and median price point of $899,000. The highest sale of the new year so far was at 76 Veasey Shore in Meredith. This custom, shingle clad New England "cottage" was built in 2006 and has 4,202 square feet of amazing, high quality living space. There are four ensuites including the first floor master with its own fireplace, four and a half baths, a wonderful chef's kitchen with high end appliances, an elegant living room with coffered ceilings and wainscoting, and a second floor upstairs family room. The oversize windows bring in the amazing views of the lake and make the house sunny and bright. Outside there is a wonderful porch and patio from which to survey the lake, the 237 feet of frontage, and the lush landscaping that make this 5 acre estate so special and private. At the water's edge there's a large U-Shaped dock and on the way down the drive there's a detached three car garage with guest quarters above. Plenty of space for all the toys and guests. This home was first offered back in 2009 for $2,999,999 and was relisted this year by Nicole Watkins of Berkshire BHHS Verani Realty in Moultonborough for $2.149 million and sold in 113 days for $2.119 million. The property is currently assessed at $1.785 million.
Next down on the dollar scale is the home at 72 Varney Point Road Left in Gilford. This 2446 square foot, three bedroom, three bath contemporary home was built in 1998. It features beautiful cherry floors and lots of built-ins, a remodeled kitchen with granite countertop and stainless appliances, a great living room with beamed ceilings and fireplace with gas insert, library, and a second floor office. Of course there are great long range views from this location. The home sits on a third acre lot with 100' of frontage and a U-shaped dock accommodating three boats. This property was listed at $1.479 million and sold for $1.25 million after 152 days on the market. It is currently assessed for $1,231,900. This property was listed by Melanie Roy Tripp of Coldwell Banker RB in Laconia.
The median price sale was represented by 33 Lovejoy Lane in Meredith. This home has 4,646 square feet of living space, three bedrooms (plus plenty of additional sleeping spaces), three and a half baths and was built in 1987. There's a large living room with a gas fireplace, a family room with bar area and pool table, a first floor master with cathedral ceilings and a fireplace, a tasteful eat in kitchen plus a separate summer kitchen. Outside there are expansive views from the large deck, 147' of waterfront, a perched beach, thirty foot dock, and swim raft. This home was first offered back in 2011 at $1.49 million. It was re-listed in 2013 for $1.078 million, reduced to $899,000, and sold for $899,000. The current tax assessed value is $1.019 million. This property was listed by Henry Buletti of Meredith Neck Realty.
There were no waterfront sales on Winnisquam in January.
Pease feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. This report was prepared using the NNEREN MLS system as of 2/10/15. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012.
Last Updated on Friday, 13 February 2015 08:26
"Snake-oil" peddlers of dubious credibility have been with us for a long time. Guaranteeing to cure anything from "colds to cancer," they once sold preparations containing opium or morphine dissolved in alcohol. State and federal legislation has since cleaned up the business so it is not quit as dangerous but quackery continued today. Hour-long infomercials try to sell us magnetic bracelets, unneeded, high-priced "miracle" diet supplements, and whatnot. A lot of this is no different than miracle "elixers" sold at 19th Century "medicine shows." But, some modern medical quackery is dangerous, especially the anti-vaccination movement.
The current "anti-vaxxer" movement is gaining momentum and is threatening pubic heath. What is ironic is this movement has a large number of followers among educated, middle-class Americans who certainly mean well. Even so, their conspiratorial, unscientific beliefs and trusting quacks, they are endangering not only their own kids but also others. The anti-vaccination movement relies on fear, misinformation and discredited research, such as one article in the Lancet linking vaccines to autism whose author admitted falsification
They also make a number of logical fallacies: Some point out how "Big Pharma" is evil. No doubt, these companies make obscene profits and there is also no doubt that they are a major reason for over-prescribing. But even if this is true, it does not follow that they do not make things that work and that are often needed. Other point out how Big Pharma is "in bed" with the FDA and CDC. This is probably also true but this does not mean that there are not good medicines that get approved. Others point out that sometimes vaccinated people still get sick. This is also true but when they do contract a disease, it is often milder.
Unfortunately, some have recently sought to make this a political issue. Those who vaccinate and those who don't come from all political persuasions and many opponents of vaccines are actually liberals. But, as soon as President Obama publicly supported vaccination, immediately, right-wing politicians like DOCTOR Rand Paul came out against vaccination. Other conservatives blame President Obama for the recent measles outbreak. According to these people, the measles arrived with refugee children from Central America allowed to stay for humanitarian reasons.
A subset of this movement encourages people to go to chiropractors to improve their immune systems even though there is absolutely no peer reviewed medical research that backs this up. There is certainly nothing wrong with chiropractic. As long as chiropractors stick to what they are good at — the muscular/skeletal system — they can be wonderful healers. When, however, they claim they can prevent disease better than vaccines, they cross the line and if their own association will not control them, who will?
Some doctors are refusing to keep children as patients if their parents will not vaccinate. One even reports such parents to his state's Child Protective Services. There are some kids who cannot take vaccines because of medical issues and these doctors do not want to endanger these kids. Other doctors have to be careful with anti-vaxxers because they want to give the child SOME care.
Some opponents of vaccination see it as a matter of "parental rights." But, like any right, parental rights have reasonable limits especially if the parents' decisions endanger the child or others. For example, if your religion teaches that you should not seek certain types of medical treatment, you can, as an adult, make that decision for yourself but not for a minor child. Parents have been prosecuted for denying children medical care. Perhaps "opting out" for your kids (unless there is a valid medical reason) goes too far.
Many of us "Boomers" are grateful our parents got us shots so we did not get the diseases that killed or disabled their generation and our grandparents' generation. Smallpox has been eradicated worldwide. Polio, measles, whooping cough, and other childhood diseases, once common, were nearly eliminated in this country before the current anti-vaccination movement. We are living longer and better because of vaccines and antibiotics.
(Scott Cracraft is a resident of Gilford. He is not a physician or microbiologist but has a opinion on most things.)
Last Updated on Monday, 09 February 2015 09:34
As of February 1, 2015 there were 781 single family residential homes on the market in the twelve Lakes Region communities covered in this report. The median asking price was $249,900 which means that some 390 homes were priced below that number making for a lot of affordable available homes. This inventory level represents about a nine month supply of inventory on the market.
OK! It has been cold enough and snowy enough. I like the cold weather, but not this cold and not this much snow. When you are selling homes in the winter it can be tough. Sometimes we deal with homes that aren't shoveled or plowed out. Sometimes houses have been winterized and have no heat on so it feels like it is twenty degrees colder inside than out. At least those showings are quick. Septic inspections are always fun this time of year, too! There's nothing like having to use a jack hammer to get through frozen ground to make sure the septic system is working.
Trying to keep a house cozy and warm when it has been this cold can be expensive even with the reduced oil prices. We New Englanders tend to be frugal (or some say cheap) and try to save money by heating with wood or pellet stoves. There are some other simple steps that you can take to help reduce your heating cost. Here are a few I found on the internet. Some you have heard of before and some you may have not.
From an article published by the BBC News, I found that you can stay warmer by using tin foil. No, you don't wrap yourself in tin foil, but you put it behind your hot water or steam radiators so that heat is reflected out into the room rather than out through the wall. Seems like a good idea, unless you don't have radiators. In those circumstances try wrapping yourself (shiny side in.)
Also, don't block radiators or heating vents with furniture. You want to heat the room not the velvet sofa. You can also put a shelf on the wall above the radiator so heat is directed out into the room rather that straight up to the ceiling. This is really effective when there is a radiator below a window. Instead of the warm air getting trapped between the curtain and window it is directed inward.
Speaking of curtains, the article also said to hang heavy curtains on your windows. The heavier, the better. Now that's really not a secret or something new. This harkens back to the days when animal hides were used on doors and windows. Some folks around here might have some deer hides from this past hunting season that might work well though using them may also get you divorced. But curtains really will cut down on drafts and losing heat out your windows. Window curtains with thermal linings are the best. It also helps to use that clear plastic film that you buy at the hardware store that you install using double sided tape and shrink to a tight fit with a hair dryer. One article said that you could use clear plastic shower curtains over windows to cut down on draft and let the light in. I would not recommend this choice if you are selling your home. That's way too much to try to explain to any prospective buyer.
I also learned a new term this week that I hadn't heard of before. Did you ever hear of a "Draught Excluder?" Sounds like a bouncer in an English pub. Well, I know you've seen them before. You probably tripped over them. Some also call them "Sausage Dogs." You know, they are the long cloth tubes filled with stuffing that you put at the bottom of a door to keep the draft out. Often, these are decorated with a head and tail to look like a dachshund. They do help.
Other recommendations to stay warm include common sense things such as closing off rooms you don't use, using ceiling fans to push the warm air down, dressing warmly, adding an extra layer of insulation in the attic, putting rugs on bare floors, and even burning candles, although I am not sure how much candlepower it takes to make a huge difference. My favorite tip, however, harkens back to the 60's rock group, Three Dog Night, whose name ostensibly is of Australian origin and refers to how many dogs you need to curl up with on the coldest night in order to stay warm. That would be three. Yup, wanna stay warm on a cold night? Cuddle with your pups. Works for me...
Pease feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. This report was prepared using the NNEREN MLS system as of 2/1/15. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012
Last Updated on Friday, 06 February 2015 07:52
Recently, President Obama proposed making the first two years of community college "free" for all students. Maintain a "C" average, make reasonable progress toward a college credential, and the federal government will pay 75 percent of your tuition with the states picking up the rest.
The president's proposal isn't the first. Tennessee, Illinois (Chicago), Michigan (Kalamazoo), and Georgia have already launched zero tuition initiatives, while others are planned in Minnesota, Mississippi, Oregon, and New Mexico.
All these programs share common challenges, including how to pay for them... e.g., with new taxes, cutting offsetting benefits, lottery income, and/or donations... and how much they will cost given the likelihood of higher enrollments.
Some think the concept of free tuition is un-American and smacks of socialism. Others are open to the idea of free tuition but feel that states are better laboratories for testing what works best.
This latter group has a valid concern. First, Obama's proposal may never be approved by Congress. Second, the diversity and complexity of our higher education system makes it difficult to see how zero tuition will help or hurt a state, especially one as unique as New Hampshire.
Some Higher Education Facts and How They Relate to New Hampshire
Tuition isn't the total amount students and/or their parents pay for college. So "free" tuition does not mean a free college education. In New Hampshire, community college students pay about $6,500 for tuition and fees and an equal amount for books, transportation, food, and other expenditures. That's two to three times more than students pay in nearly all other states.
All colleges are subsidized by direct appropriations, tax benefits, student access to state and federal scholarships, and/or subsidized loans. That includes non-profits, as well as "for profit" institutions. The issue is not whether to subsidize, but how much. In New Hampshire, the subsidy for state colleges and universities is very small compared to other states, whether measured by the amount we spend per $1,000 of personal income, or per capita state appropriations, where we rank dead last among the 50 states.
Enrollment numbers are misleading because only half of all college students actually graduate and the time they take to graduate is longer. A key issue is whether zero tuition will increase the number and rate of completions. In New Hampshire, there is plenty of room for improvement. The six year graduation rates are 20 percent for community colleges and 40 percent for our 4-year universities, among the worst in the nation.
Numerous studies show that more education produces higher taxes and lower unemployment. A congressional study a few years ago estimated that each year approximately 170,000 highly qualified high school seniors were not going to college, many for financial reasons. Unfortunately the report never calculated the lost tax revenues. It's staggering. We are not talking billions, but trillions of lost taxes over the working lives of these individuals. In a nutshell, that's why more education beyond a high school diploma is fiscally beneficial for both the individual and the state.
Unfortunately New Hampshire is extremely unfriendly when it comes to paying for higher education. Our residents pay more for a college education than nearly all other states. An unintended consequence is our state leads the nation in average student debt, $32,795 in 2013 according to the Project on Student Debt.
What zero tuition means for New Hampshire
There aren't many win/win deals in life, but "zero tuition" can be one of them.
First, students and their parents will be better off economically, especially as the savings reduce student debt. The average savings nation-wide are $3,800 under the Obama proposal. But New Hampshire is well above the average, so individual savings will be closer to $6,500, with the federal government picking up $4,875 of the tab for each student.
However these savings will only be realized by students if they stay on a two-year time table for an Associate Degree and a four-year time table for a Bachelor's Degree. Total costs and student debt escalate once extra years are added. Any zero tuition plan must impose deadlines regarding degree completion.
Second, our state will be better off from a strictly fiscal perspective as we create a more skilled and educated population, one that has higher levels of employment and pays more taxes. New Hampshire's ability to compete will improve as we make our state more attractive to young knowledge workers. Lowering the price of a community college education to zero is a first step. Only Vermont charges a higher tuition. The other 48 states have a huge price advantage. In California, tuition and fees average $1,000. In Texas, a student at Austin's Community College currently pays about $2,000 versus $6,500 for a New Hampshire student. Closer to home, in Massachusetts, the tuition (and general fee) is about $2,000 per year. In Maine, annual tuition is about $1,700.
Zero tuition for New Hampshire's community colleges will help keep young people in our state. We need to retain and import budding entrepreneurs, not export them. The same goes for other knowledge workers. Right now our students are leaving the state in record numbers to attend schools elsewhere.
Tailoring the Obama Option and Other Proposals to New Hampshire's Needs
New Hampshire can do nothing and lose students or become a "college friendly state." That choice won't disappear if the Republican Congress kills the Obama proposal. Other states will implement zero-based plans, paying for them with lottery or other revenues. They know the value of being college friendly.
New Hampshire can become "college friendly" by establishing a zero tuition program for its community college students and by reducing tuition and fees at our 4-year public universities, which frankly are over-priced compared to other state systems.
As a first step, our leaders need to determine the likely number of students who will enroll, the staff needed to teach and retain them, the funding source, and the amount of funding the program will need given likely higher enrollments, student eligibility, acceptable grades, completion times, and other issues.
Zero tuition is not a "free ride". Zero tuition means our state would return to a place where students are paying 25-to-30 percent of their out-of-pocket costs for a college education. Together let's fashion a program that makes New Hampshire a college friendly state, one that will enrich us in many ways while giving a helping hand to college students who want nothing more than a chance at the American Dream.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 February 2015 11:23