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Grant Bosse

13 things to watch for at the State House in 2013

Grant Bosse

(Alexander Cohn/ Monitor staff)

Grant Bosse (Alexander Cohn/ Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

As we look ahead to the top issues for the New Hampshire Legislature in 2013, let’s mention three from last year’s agenda that won’t matter much: redistricting, Right To Work and RGGI.

The controversial House redistricting plan got a state Supreme Court seal of approval this year, over my objections, and the Senate isn’t going to go redistrict anything for another nine years.

There weren’t enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto on Right To Work with a Republican super-majority. There won’t be enough to send it Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan’s desk next year.

And the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative will limp along into a fifth year, but don’t be surprised if RGGI revenues are again diverted to meet other spending priorities.

Meanwhile, here are 13 issues worth paying attention to in 2013:

13. Right to Know. Our law provides broad protection for open meetings and public records but never anticipated email, PDFs or cell phone cameras. The law needs a reboot to protect the right to record public meetings and require government to keeps records so that they remain open to public inspection. Rep. Mary Beth Walz of Bow has introduced legislation to let local officials shield their deliberations behind the cloak of attorney-client privilege, even if their attorney isn’t present.

12. Pensions. We’re not going to get any significant reform of the New Hampshire Retirement System, despite an unfunded liability approaching $5 billion. The public-sector unions, and the elected officials they support, do not acknowledge the problem. The question is whether the Legislature will make it worse with more pension promises we can’t afford.

11. Nanny taxes. We know that cigarette taxes will go up again. But how about soda? Or bottled water? Which other unpopular activities will some do-gooder in the Legislature decide need to be taxed, for our own good?

10. Business taxes. Everyone agreed during the last campaign that New Hampshire’s punitive business tax climate needed reform. But no one knows where to find the money to pare back the business profits tax or business enterprise tax.

9. Voter ID. New Hampshire’s new voter ID system worked well. That won’t stop Democrats from trying to repeal it. They see laws that ensure voters are who they say they are as attempts to disenfranchise poor, minority and elderly voters.

8. Capital budget. Pay attention not only to how much we borrow to build new courthouses but also whether the Legislature tries to shoehorning operational spending into the capital budget in order to make the general fund look balanced.

7. School choice scholarships. Teachers’ unions will lead the charge to repeal New Hampshire’s modest step toward school choice, arguing that a small tax credit for donations to nonprofit scholarship organizations is a threat to public schools. The absurdity of this argument will not lessen the volume with which it is delivered.

6. Education funding. New Hampshire voters aren’t likely to get an amendment that meaningfully reduces the court’s meddling in education funding decisions. Meanwhile, the formulas by which the state determines the cost of an adequate education, raises that money, and distributes it to towns are all in need of updating.

5. Gambling. The governor’s budget will have a proposal for a single casino along the southern border. If approved, it will end up at Rockingham Park. The only question is whether there are enough votes for the idea in the House. The chamber has never supported gambling, but a sitting governor has never pushed for one.

4. LGC lawsuit. The Local Government Center has for years used revenue from its local insurance to pay for other programs. The huge cost of court-ordered refunds could cause a mess big enough to require legislative action.

3. Medicaid lawsuit. If Judge Stephen McAuliffe restores the Lynch administration Medicaid reimbursement rate cuts, does the Legislature cut them again? If the state wins, do they increase Medicaid funding anyway?

2. Medicaid expansion. Hassan wants to raise the income eligibility for Medicaid, and the feds are offering to pay most of the cost over the next few years. Shifting patients from private insurance to Medicaid will hit hospitals hard and increase the Granite State’s long-term health care costs.

1. The budget. The state’s two-year budget is not only the most important bill the Legislature will debate, but it will be the vehicle through which many of the state’s top issues are decided. Hassan’s first budget proposal is due by Feb. 15. As Senate majority leader, she relied on optimistic revenue estimates and increased borrowing. Can we expect a more responsible approach in 2013?

(Grant Bosse is editor of NH Watchdog, an independent news site focusing on New Hampshire public policy.)

Why is it that "independent" "watchdogs" seem always to be so right-wing ? Just another way for the right to hijack the lexicon, so that it appears that anyone who disagrees is not "independent". Bogus.

Every point Grant makes is subject to reinterpretation in the context of facts rather than ideology. Here are 2 examples: 1. "...voters aren’t likely to get an amendment that meaningfully reduces the court’s meddling in education...." - In Republican/Conservative/Libertarian Cloudcuckooland any attempt to introduce the smallest element of fairness is called "meddling." 2. "New Hampshire’s new voter ID system worked well." - Yep! It worked exactly as intended, preventing the massive voter fraud that had exists only in the fantasies of ALEC, Teapartiers and other conservative extremists.

"But no one knows where to find the money to pare back the business profits tax or business enterprise tax." I know where we could find that money, plus the money for lowering the ridiculously high local education property taxes in towns like Pittsfield and Claremont: NH Individual Income Tax and/or NH Sales Tax.

It depends whose "ox" is being "gored". People who have much of their wealth tied up in their property want lower property taxes and that is self serving. People without kids in school and skin in the game of educating children want a break on their property taxes; again, self serving. If we shifted, for instance property taxes to an income tax and someone who is presently paying $10,000 fair taxes on the value of their property has an income of only $75,000 they would then be paying in only $3,750. I can't see how that helps fund the schools. I have found that those complaining the most about property taxes are generally those who are property rich with less income. Someone pays more in both instances, it just changes the higher payee. Now, a sales tax would be fine with me. However, food, clothing and prescription drugs would need to be exempt. If you purchase a boat, you would then pay on it; same with a car or wide screen television. I would not impact those who now do not spend on those items or can't afford to make such purposes. That is why a sales tax is the best tax. They would not pay on groceries, clothes or prescriptions, the necessities in life.

Sounds sensible. But I think we should cut in half whatever sales tax % you have in mind and apply it to income. We shouldn't continue to let certain towns in NH be tax havens for the rich while people are really struggling to pay the school taxes in towns like Claremont and Pittsfield. I'm not looking for a break on my overall taxes. And I'm not looking for school taxes to be completely equalized statewide, or for any overall increase in spending - just reforming the ways we collect and spend the same amount of overall tax revenue we collect and spend now.

I know HD, is must be frustrating for you to have to read an article that is totally opposite of what this paper usually prints. It is called the other side of the story, different points of view and a lame attempt by the CM to pretend to be unbiased.

Rabbit, I don't think the Monitor editorial page claims to be unbiased. They certainly hold opinions I rarely share. They usually express those opinions articulately and respectfully, and I'm glad for the opportunity to add my perspective. Dan, If you can't tell the difference between me and Granite Grok, you've obviously read neither. I'm curious as to which points I've made in the above column you think are incorrect. Or do you simply object to those with whom you disagree having an opportunity to speak?

Oh believe me Grant . . . I've read the Monitor for about six years. Especially during the past two years when I shared a spot on the BOC with you. And I'm an occasional reader of the Grok - mostly when I want a good laugh. But they've become tedious lately because they've predictably become a 24/7 more guns at all costs NRA mouthpiece over the past few weeks. You may be to the left of the Grok . . . but that's like saying you're the skinny kid at fat camp. No pun intended.

I can't believe you put this guy on your staff. If I wanted to read GraniteGrok I'd go to GraniteGrok!

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