N.H. policy research center to disband, cites lack of funds

Associated Press
Friday, February 23, 2018

An independent, nonpartisan organization in New Hampshire that pursued research on public school funding, the health of the state retirement system, and the pros and cons of casinos said Friday it’s disbanding after more than two decades due to a lack of money.

The New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies said it will wind down its operations over the next two months and find a home for its research archive.

“Reliable, unbiased information and analysis is essential for shaping good public policy,” said Donna Sytek, a longtime center board member and Republican former Speaker of the House. “The closing of the center is a loss of a trusted, neutral resource – not only for policymakers, but for all of us who care about making good decisions for New Hampshire.”

Eric Herr, board chairman, said the state is small, “and we’ve been unable to expand the pool of donors who are willing and able to support our work going forward.”

“Factual information is essential to maintaining a free society,” said attorney Kate Hanna, center board member, former state representative, and former counsel to Democratic governor John Lynch. “Unfortunately, it isn’t free. It takes a great deal of work by people with integrity to produce the type of information that democracy needs.”

The center was created in 1996 through the efforts of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation; the Business & Industry Association of New Hampshire; the New Hampshire Municipal Association; Chubb Life Insurance Company of America; and the University of New Hampshire.

The center’s longtime executive director, Steve Norton, stepped down last August. In December 2015, the center’s economist, Dennis Delay, one of the most respected policy analysts in the state, died from a lung condition. That same year, the center’s deputy director Dan Barrick left for a position at New Hampshire Public Radio, where he continues to work.

The center currently lists only office manager Cathleen Arredondo and economist Greg Bird on its staff page.

Some of its initial research projects focused on New Hampshire public school funding, the state budget process, the flow of federal funds to the state, and the implementation of a new form of local governance known as “Senate Bill 2.”

The center also researched such subjects as state corrections system effectiveness, Medicaid expansion and the aging of the state’s population.