A Report to the Cities and Towns of Senate District 4
Legislative Accomplishments, January-June 2013
The legislative session for 2013 is a remarkable example of bipartisan collaboration. I began this session focused on job creation and economic growth through creating economic opportunity and supporting business growth and innovation, and committed to passing a fiscally responsible balanced budget that meets the needs of the citizens and businesses of our state. My priority was to work in cooperation with Governor Hassan and my State Senate and House colleagues to advance these goals.
I am proud to share the highlights of the past six months with you from the State Senate’s perspective.
The Budget for FY 2014-2015
This budget is a significant step forward for the priorities that are critical for creating jobs, strengthening the economy, and improving the health and safety of the people of New Hampshire. This bipartisan, fiscally responsible balanced budget passed both the House and Senate by the largest margins since 2001 – the State Senate vote was a 24-0 unanimous vote.
After the deep cuts and radical ideology of the last legislature, we came together to develop a fiscally responsible bipartisan budget that puts New Hampshire back on track and helps set the foundation to build a more innovative economic future. The overwhelming bipartisan support for the priorities in this budget – caring for our most vulnerable, supporting public safety, making education more affordable and preserving our natural resources – demonstrates that our shared values as Granite Staters are far more significant than our differences, and that strong leadership from our Governor and commitment to working together yields real results.
The bipartisan budget includes many provisions outlined in Governor Hassan’s “Innovate NH” jobs plan, such as significantly restoring funding for the University and Community College systems to allow them to freeze tuition, as well as investing in measures to support businesses by strengthening economic development investment, increasing travel and tourism promotion, and improving trade assistance for businesses.
The budget plan also invests in priorities needed to improve the health and wellbeing of New Hampshire’s people and communities. It will allow the state to move forward with implementing its ten-year mental health plan, provides funding to eliminate the waitlist for people with developmental disabilities, restores the Children in Need of Services (CHINS) program, fully funds the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), increases aid to cities and towns, and strengthens public safety by adding additional state troopers, maintaining drug task force teams, and funding the Cold Case Unit.
Budgets are about choices. In this bipartisan budget, we have chosen to invest in a future of economic growth while taking care of those who need help the most, all while not raising taxes or fees.
Maintaining our high quality of life depends not only on seizing the promise of innovation to build on our economic success, but also making sure that our citizens have every opportunity to live full, productive lives. That’s why this bipartisan budget makes significant progress on the priorities that are critical for keeping New Hampshire one of the safest, healthiest, and most livable states in the nation.
Increased Aid to Local Communities
· Corrected an error in the education aid formula, saving the citizens of one third of our cities and towns from potentially higher tax bills (SB 40)
· Increased meals and room distribution by $5 million in FY 15 (HB 1 & HB 2)
· Returned a portion of vital records fee back to cities and towns (HB 1 & HB 2)
· Fully funded delayed and deferred water & sewer projects (HB 1 & HB 2)
· Increased adequate education grants to cities and towns by nearly $4 million over the biennium (HB 1 & HB 2)
· Restored flood control payments to cities and towns (HB 1 & HB 2)
· Saved taxpayers dollars by funding county nursing homes reimbursements (HB 1 & HB 2)
Other Legislative Accomplishments
In addition to a fiscally responsible balanced budget, there were many other legislative successes, including:
· Research and Development Tax Credit (SB 1) Doubled the state's research and development tax credit and extended it permanently. By doubling funding for the R&D tax credit, we can help more businesses develop in New Hampshire and their new products that can lead to growth and job creation. Making the credit permanent will also help businesses who might need the credit down the road to plan ahead. Increasing funding for the research-and-development tax credit also sends a message to entrepreneurs and businesses considering where to locate that the State of New Hampshire will continue to work with them to encourage innovation and invest in our economic future.
· Creating a “Pathway to Work” (SB 143) Expands the New Hampshire Working program by creating an innovative, no cost program called “Pathway to Work” designed to encourage and enable unemployed workers to create their own jobs by starting their own small businesses. Senate Bill 143 provides the pathway to our unemployed participants to work with our state’s Small Business Development Center to engage in entrepreneurial training, business counseling, and technical assistance. This will allow them to have access to resources and training needed to establish a business and become self-employed.
· Updating New Hampshire Corporations Act (SB 41) Provides much-needed updates to the New Hampshire Corporations Act that will help spur economic development, create jobs and make New Hampshire an even more desirable place to do business. SB 41 was the result of collaborative work between the business industry and Senate and House leaders from both parties. Providing important updates to the laws that govern how corporations domicile, do business and dissolve in New Hampshire, the measure was lauded as a win for New Hampshire’s business community.
· Local Auto Dealer’s Protections Bill (SB 126) Provides important protections for our local small businesses to ensure that they are treated fairly by automobile manufacturers and can continue to grow and thrive in our communities. Auto dealers and their affiliated businesses are a vital part of our state economy; in fact, they represent 24 percent of total retail sales in New Hampshire. Auto dealers also employ more than 14,400 people in good-paying jobs with an average wage of $49,000. These small businesses are pillars of local communities, sustaining local youth activities, civic enterprises, and charities. They deserve fair treatment and support from this Legislature.
· Group Net Metering (SB 98) This legislation was brought to my attention by businesses, developers, and municipalities who wanted to lower their energy costs. Group Net Metering will allow our businesses, developers, and municipalities to produce their own energy and reduce their cost with the added bonus of producing renewable energy. Not only will we be able to support businesses in lowering their energy cost, this legislation will encourage businesses to stay in NH, new businesses to move to NH resulting in jobs and economic growth. Economic developers will have a positive and financially feasible story to tell potential businesses. And by providing municipalities to lower their energy costs this legislation will result in lowering taxes for the people who reside in their towns.
Senate District 4 Notes
I filed legislation to help taxpayers in Barrington, Dover, Rollinsford, and Somersworth. Working with local officials, Governor Hassan, and senate colleagues, I made the case that communities were not receiving their fair share under the cap on education adequacy grants. The budget raises the cap to 108%, which means substantial increases over the next two years for District 4 Communities. Projections are for an even larger increase in 2015, and I will continue to advocate a complete lifting of the cap in the next budget.
District 4 communities were under the threat of new mandates from the Environmental Protection Agency to decrease nitrogen levels in treated wastewater to .3 mg/liter. This would have burdened Dover, for example, with potentially an additional $30 million in costs beyond what the city had already agreed was needed to reduce levels to .8 mg/liter. I filed SB 110 to direct the Department of Environmental Services to conduct new scientific studies to address questions about the adequacy of the science used to inform EPA about nitrogen levels in the Great Bay. In the committee process in the Senate, all parties were encouraged to work towards a memorandum of understanding to address the issue. When a good compromise was reached, the EPA agreed to delay permitting for Dover’s wastewater treatment plant to provide for new studies and a better plan to address the needed improvements in the Great Bay. Aside from saving local taxpayers in Dover and other communities tens of millions of dollars, this action points the way towards a cooperative partnership among District 4 communities, DES, and EPA.
By coming together and putting partisan politics aside we set a bipartisan tone for the 2013 Legislative Session that focused on addressing problems with common sense solutions.
It is an honor and a pleasure to serve the people of Senate District 4. I look forward to representing your interests in Concord both now and in the new legislative session that will begin in January of 2014.