The most noticeable point of contention is revenue. Republicans decided to cut business taxes rather than supporting workforce retention and training and property tax reductions, both of which are overwhelmingly the preference of Cheshire County businesses and residents. Small businesses benefit little from the tax cuts, and nobody benefits from the lack of workforce development initiatives. The tax cuts took $22 million out of the budget for FY19 and maybe up to $200 million out of the FY21 budget. It will force the state to continue its practice of partially funding its priorities, such as Children, Youth and Family services, mental health services, developmental disabilities, and kindergarten. There is no increase for the University System. In my opinion the tax cuts assure funds won’t be available to fund unmet needs in future budgets.
Some budget details offer good news for our region. School Building Aid is a bill I introduced that didn’t make it out of committee. However, the amount I proposed for FY18 was sufficient to fund the only project approved by the state Board of Education, Hinsdale Elementary School. I worked with Superintendent Woolridge and the Hinsdale School Board, as well as Commissioner Edelblut, to sell the project. It is in the budget, $2.25 million, which will match a bond approved by Hinsdale voters this past March. The Alcohol and Drug Treatment Fund increase I proposed was 5% of Alcohol Tax profits. The Governor and legislature asked for 3.4%, which is what was authorized in the budget. This doubles the percent as well as the amount of funds available which is great news for treatment programs. This together, with adding mental health hospital placements for adults at NH Hospital and for children at the Sununu Center in Manchester and another mobile unit response team, provide greater capacity for addressing drug recovery and mental healthcare in NH.
Competitive funding opportunities available over the next couple years include Alcohol and Drug Treatment Funds, School Infrastructure Fund (a replacement program for school building aid focused on safety improvements), Robotics Education, Governor’s Scholarship for high school grads to attend NH colleges, and Dual and Concurrent high school student scholarships that cover the added costs of high schoolers enrolling courses for college credit (the aid applies only to enrollment in STEM-related courses, its a start).
In one bill the legislature authorizes the gambling option, Keno, in places selling alcohol and offers to fund full-day kindergarten with full-adequacy aid. The first $1,100 is guaranteed, bringing $514,000 to Senate District 10 towns. The remaining $700 toward full adequacy will only be funded if revenue generated from Keno exceeds the amount needed to fund kindergarten. Hence, the name Kenogarten because these issues are tethered to Keno, and full-adequacy aid is tied to how much Keno revenue is raised. After many discussions with school and town leaders, I voted in favor; making the deal was better than doing nothing at all. Down the road it will be easier to unbundle the two rather than starting from scratch on kindergarten. Communities have the option of opting in or out of Keno gaming.
I have additional Senate duties and professional roles to fulfill in the next couple months. I’m the Senate delegate to the Education Commission of the States, which holds a couple meetings a year, and I’m on the National Conference of State Legislatures, Commission on Student Centered Learning. I’m doing a presentation at the Society for College and University Planning annual meeting and have been asked to write a chapter in a book on town-gown planning.
There are supporters in a half dozen local communities that have offered to host summer house parties for me. Oni Saleh is interning for Kahn for Senate over the summer and will be helping us arrange these events. Let me know if there are events in your towns that you’d like me to attend over the next couple months. One big one coming up is Nelson’s 250th anniversary celebration on July 8th.
I’ve also been meeting with organizations around Cheshire County to talk about future legislation, and my list is growing. I’ll be spending time in Concord, as well, to work on these ideas.
I look forward to seeing you soon. Have a good summer and please keep in touch.