My Turn: Why I voted against the lead paint bill

For the Monitor
Wednesday, January 10, 2018

New Hampshire now has what I call “The Myth.” It permeates just about everything we do in the Legislature. It is why I voted against the lead paint bill.

The Myth says that New Hampshire can solve problems without spending any money.

Removing lead paint from apartments is expensive. Expecting landlords to shoulder these costs is unreasonable. Landlords are already operating with slim profit margins. Many are just covering their costs.

Landlords who spend the money to remove lead paint will pass those costs on to their tenants through higher rents. That will make an existing housing problem worse. Some landlords will just walk away from their buildings, causing additional shortages.

This is a public health problem that the public should solve. The consequences of this problem are borne by all of us. Children poisoned by lead cost more to educate and become less productive members of society. They are more likely to need social services as adults and have an increased likelihood of landing in jail. As mentioned in the recent editorial in this paper, for every $1 spent on reducing lead hazards society gets $17 back.

Using public money to solve a public health problem is what governments do. Governments raise money from everyone and use that money to solve problems.

Not in New Hampshire.

The lead paint bill is the latest example. Last year we passed the keno bill so that we could have kindergarten without spending any money. A couple of years ago we passed a bill so that we could expand Medicaid without spending any money.

We think we can hire prison guards without paying the prevailing wage. The same goes for nurses at the New Hampshire Hospital. We imagine we can take care of our troubled children with an insufficient number of case workers at DCYF. We believe we can maintain our state parks, rest areas, wildlife, historic buildings, colleges and universities and schools without spending any money.

The longer we believe in The Myth, the more the problems will pile up.

I voted against the lead paint bill because it perpetuated The Myth. New Hampshire needs to face its responsibilities and do what is required to solve its problems.

(Paul Henle of Concord serves Ward 2 in the N.H. House of Representatives.)