Though signs of economic recovery continue to sprout up – increased rates of job creation in some sectors, greater stability in the real estate market, and modest upticks in tax collections – the recession still casts a lingering shadow over municipal governments in New Hampshire and the rest of the country. Among the biggest challenges facing cities and towns as they emerge from the downturn of the past five years are reductions in state aid to municipal budgets and continued high demand for public services.
This paper seeks to present the data behind municipal budgets, lay out the trends behind local spending, and link some of those changes to broader trends in state and federal assistance. The data contained covers 2011 and builds on our previous annual reports on local budgets, showing that the trends of the recent past have not changed much: The recession has reshaped some fundamental aspects of municipal finance in New Hampshire.
Please let us know what you think of this year's report and maps, and email email@example.com with any suggestions.
In addition, the interactive map below displays differences in basic municipal financing information, including a comparison to statewide averages for each city and town. (Click on a city or town for detailed info.)
2012 Property Tax Rates by Municipality
Map Colors show 2012 Property Tax Rates for each municipality in New Hampshire.
0 to $14 per $1,000 valuation | $14 to $20 per $1,000 valuation | $20 to $25 per $1,000 valuation | $25 to $40 per $1,000 valuation
Center Director Steve Norton and Economist Dennis Delay presented the Center's updated model on the potential impacts of expanded gambling on New Hampshire to the House Ways and Means Committee, January 16, 2013. A copy of that presentation is available at here.
Dennis Delay, Center Economist and New Hampshire Forecast Manager for the New England Economic Partnership, noted that New Hampshire’s job recovery continues, but has been a disappointment.
“In prior recoveries, New Hampshire’s rate of job growth often substantially outstripped employment expansion in New England and the nation. That is not occurring now,” said Delay, an economist at the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies and NEEP’s New Hampshire Forecast Chair.
“Job growth in the New Hampshire recovery remains slow,” Delay noted. “New Hampshire had 650,000 nonfarm jobs in 2008, as the recession began taking hold, and the state will not see that many jobs again until the last quarter of 2014.”
Our most recent research finds that variation in prices paid by health insurance companies to hospitals in New Hampshire are not explained by differences in the quality of care, the complexity of the population served, payer mix, levels of market competition or the penetration of managed care
The share of a hospital’s revenues that were public was the single best predictor of the level of cost-shifting per private pay discharge
Insurance prices are slightly correlated with cost-shift per private payer. As the amount of cost shifted increases, so does the price of hospital services to insurance companies.
The state’s unemployment rate stood at 5 percent in April 2012, well below the 8.1 national rate
But job growth in the recovery remains slow. New Hampshire had 650,000 nonfarm jobs in 2008, as the recession began taking hold, and the state will not see that many jobs again until the second quarter of 2014.
New Hampshire is moving into Town Meeting season, when local budgets will be debated and decided upon by citizens. The NH Center for Public Policy Studies provides an updated analysis of the financing of local government operations from a statewide perspective. The report (available here) also provides examples of the data the Center has collected on each city and town in the state. In addition, the interactive map below displays differences in basic municipal financing information, including a comparison to statewide averages for each city and town. (Click on a city or town for detailed info.)
The Center has developed this updated snapshot to provide general background on U.S. healthcare spending, with detail for New Hampshire where available. It shows how much we spend, what services the funds are spent on, and how much of the spending comes directly from consumers.
The Smart Manufacturing/High Technology (SMHT) sector, which includes all of New Hampshire’s approximately 2,100 manufacturing companies as well as more than 1,600 high technology companies, is the engine of the state’s economy.
The Center examines the health industry practice known as "cost-shifting"–charging certain patient populations more than the actual cost of their care so as to cover the cost of providing treatment to uninsured patients or Medicare and Medicaid patients whose expenses are not completely covered by the government.
Until now there was no easily accessible data that would allow an analysis of municipal expenditures or the financing of the municipal services these expenditures represent. This report – and the associated data on the Center’s website – are designed to fill that gap
Calling a $500 million a “likely starting point” the NH Center for Public Policy Studies presents further scenarios – improved revenue collection due to a pick-up in the economy and a likely 5% cut in spending – in which the hole NH budget writers will have to fill shrinks to $132 million.
Building a new school is a hefty financial undertaking, especially for small districts that lack large tax bases. For more than half a century, New Hampshire has helped local school districts pay for new construction through the School Building Aid program.
But in recent years, the program’s cost has increased at a rate far exceeding the rest of the state budget, raising concerns about how to maintain this service to local school districts. Requests from districts will exceed $50 million a year in the coming biennium, up from $25 million in FY2003.
In this report, the Center provides a brief history of New Hampshire's School Building Aid program, a review of its policy goals, an examination of how it has doled out money to school districts in recent years, and suggestions for policy reforms.
There are plenty of ways to think about how New Hampshire’s economy will fare in the coming year. To help provide some fodder for that discussion, the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies has gathered these five charts -- each of them a snapshot of where the state stands today, and an indication of what to keep an eye on in 2011.
After the Great Recession (December 2007 to June 2009), New Hampshire is half way back to regaining all of the jobs lost in the downturn. The Granite State lost 4.5% of its jobs at the lowest point of the recession, and has gained more than half of those lost jobs back. As of September 2010 the New Hampshire jobs base was 2% below the previous peak of December 2007
The question “What is New Hampshire?” has never been more timely than it is right now. Every state across the country has experienced significant economic change, and with it has come serious impacts on the status quo. The face of New Hampshire is changing considerably, the implications of which are not well understood. Whether looking at demographics, the underlying state economy, the state budget, or politics and place, New Hampshire is a state in flux. Critical policy questions are raised by these changes.
This work was commissioned by New Futures to explore the available data of alcohol and other drug related services paid for through the state’s Medicaid program. This report establishes a baseline of information so that policymakers and other stakeholders can understand the scope of services accessed by the Medicaid population with AOD issues. This understanding can help policymakers and advocates develop cost-effective strategies for services to treat these chronic and life-threatening conditions.
After the Great Recession, New Hampshire is “stumbling towards the light” but still at a faster pace than either the regional or national average. New Hampshire’s job base declined by about 4.5%, but has recovered somewhat – as of March 2010 New Hampshire has 3% fewer jobs than in December 2007.
In the summer of 2009, Governor John Lynch established the New Hampshire Gaming Study Commission. The Commission was tasked with undertaking a “thorough and comprehensive review of various models for expanded gaming” in New Hampshire.
The Commission retained the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies to conduct technical research and analysis for its review. Our first report, A Brief Report on Gambling in New Hampshire, was published in December, 2009. In this second report, the Center documents the development of a series of inter-related models that analyze the impacts of expanded gambling in New Hampshire.
The Commission requested that we develop a model that supports a “prudent calculation” of the costs and benefits of expanded gambling. Any models were to be based on an understanding of the variation in geography, size and type of expansion, and its impact on state revenues, substitution, economic development, crime, and any offsetting expenditures associated with the social or behavioral implications of expanded gambling.
Our models are based on balanced assumptions about the amount of capital investment, the size and type of facility, facility location, population and income levels, and the potential action of other states (i.e. Massachusetts) to produce a series of estimates of the revenues to the state, economic development implications, and the financial costs of social impacts associated with gambling.
Steve Norton’s April 11, 2010 appearance on WMUR’s "New Hampshire's Business" in which he talks about 5 myths of NH. Here are the set of powerpoint slides used in that segment. Link at: http://bit.ly/aURVli
New Hampshire Town Finance Detail, 2001 to 2008 : Behind the Numbers
Excel Spreadsheet and Dataset [This detailed look at town finances for the years 2001 and 2008 was developed in partnership with New Hampshire Public Radio for the 2010 Town Meeting website. For each town we show municipal appropriations by major category (general government, police, fire, highways, local schools, etc.) and major sources of revenue, including property taxes, licensing fees and receipts, and state and Federal contributions to the municipality. We have included a column showing appropriations and revenue per person, adjusted for inflation.]
This paper provides an overview of the currently available data on access to dental services and the availability of dental providers across the state. This report will also review, to the extent possible, the implications of workforce on those with Medicaid coverage and the uninsured and will raise questions regarding whether the current dental workforce providing care for this population is sufficient to meet the state’s needs.
In summer of 2009, Governor John Lynch established the New Hampshire Gaming Study Commission. The Gaming Study Commission was tasked with undertaking a “thorough and comprehensive review of various models for expanded gaming” in New Hampshire. This analysis was to include an assessment of the current status of gambling in New Hampshire, a review of various models of expanded gambling, and a review of the revenue generation capacity, community impacts (including social and economic implications), and regulatory needs of such a change.
This paper combines information on appropriations and revenues at the four levels of government in New Hampshire – state, county, town and local education – and is designed to give a comprehensive picture of public services in the state, a profile of where the burden of funding these services lies, and how it is changing over time.
At town meetings, voters confront local budgets strained by lost state revenue
By BEN LEUBSDORF
Monday, March 11, 2013
When voters across New Hampshire head to the polls today or attend town and school district meetings this month, they’ll grapple with local budgets that have been strained in recent years by the loss of revenue from the state government.
The state suspended its revenue-sharing program in 2009, and that money doesn’t look likely to come back any time soon. The state’s subsidy for local teacher, firefighter and police officer pension costs was eliminated two years ago. Catastrophic aid and building aid programs for local school districts have been cut or suspended in recent years, as have state grants that help pay for wastewater treatment plants and other infrastructure projects.
In 2007, the state sent an average of $106 per person to municipal governments. In 2011, that figure was $88 per person, according to the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies.
Local budgets, especially at the municipal level, are relying more on property taxes and less on revenue from the state government – and there’s no reason to expect that dynamic to change much in the near future.
“Short of either a real robust turnaround in the economy or an across-the-aisle agreement on new revenue, there doesn’t appear to be enough money” to fully restore state aid programs, said Daniel Barrick, the center’s deputy director. “The idea that we’re about to go back to prerecession levels of state aid is probably not realistic at this point.”
Cuts and consequences
Town meeting season, when most local governments set their annual budgets by popular vote, is under way. Towns and school districts that use the SB 2 form of annual meeting will vote on their budgets today, and traditional town meetings begin in earnest tonight, though some have already been held.
Five or more years ago, those local budgets drew on any number of state programs for revenue: the local portion of the rooms-and-meals tax, pension subsidies, various block grants and targeted aid programs. Today, some of those spigots have been shut off, and others are less generous.
∎ Revenue sharing was suspended in 2009 for two years, and that suspension was renewed for another two years in 2011. Gov. Maggie Hassan’s proposed state budget for the next biennium would suspend it yet again.
∎ Local governments are supposed to receive 40 percent of the revenue collected by the state’s rooms-and-meals tax, but the total amount sent to local governments has been frozen since fiscal 2009.
∎ The state used to cover 35 percent of the employer cost of pension payments by towns, cities and school districts for teachers, firefighters and police officers. That subsidy was reduced in 2009 and eliminated two years later.
∎ Grants to assist with pollution control, landfill closures and other environmental problems have shrunk, as has so-called “catastrophic aid” for special education expenses and building aid for local school facilities.
Not everything has been cut. The largest single state aid program, adequacy grants to local schools, has been essentially flat since 2009. More than $1 billion still flows to local governments from the state every year in the form of education aid, highway grants and more.
Downshifting is hardly a new process, noted Bow Town Manager David Stack.
“This has been happening slowly but surely not just for the last year or two, but for the last 10 or 15 years,” he said.
But in the last state budget, passed in 2011, some $110.9 million less was earmarked for local aid than had been spent in the previous biennium, a reduction of 4.7 percent, according to the legislative budget assistant’s office.
The New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies in December issued its latest report on how cities and towns in New Hampshire pay their bills. The recession’s impact was clear: per-capita state aid to municipal governments fell 4.5 percent between 2007 and 2011, from $106 per person to $88 per person. (Per-capita state aid to local schools was flat, at $436 a year, over the same period.)
The center found per-capita municipal spending was essentially flat over the same four years.
“I think what’s really going on is two things at the same time,” said Dennis Delay, the center’s economist. “There’s upward pressure on property tax rates because of decreased state support, and at the same time, in terms of overall spending, the cities, towns and school districts have tried to hold the line as best they can.”
The recession and housing crisis increased political pressure to hold down local tax rates. And at annual town meetings, such pressure can be direct and effective.
“You do the best you can, and nobody likes to raise taxes,” said Laura Buono, Hillsboro’s town administrator, who until last year held the same job in Warner. “The downshifting certainly presents us with additional challenges on top of the recession, on top of fuel prices. . . . In my experience, we’ve been doing our best to reduce the budget and not raise taxes, but sometimes you can’t avoid it.”
In Pembroke, three full-time government positions have been eliminated since 2009, and a full-time job in the clerk’s office has been reduced to part time, according to Town Administrator David Jodoin.
“Last few years, it’s all come down to making cuts in the budget,” he said.
Jodoin added, “It’s great that the state can balance their budget, but it’s being balanced on the local taxpayers. . . . It gets harder and harder each year.”
Some relief coming?
School districts, cities and towns are also feeling the effects of an increase, effective July 1, in employer contribution rates set by the New Hampshire Retirement System, the state’s public-employee pension system. Those rates were increased to help address the fund’s multibillion-dollar unfunded liability, and have caused benefit costs to spike in many places, including Pembroke.
“Everything else has stayed pretty much in line,” Jodoin said. “It’s been a big hit in a lot of communities, especially on the school district side.”
Hassan, a Democrat, said Feb. 14 that her proposed two-year state budget “begins restoring funding for our local communities,” though it doesn’t bring back revenue sharing or the pension-cost subsidy. She would send more rooms-and-meals revenue to local communities, increase some infrastructure grant programs and keep education adequacy grants steady. Her budget also increases catastrophic aid to schools and, in the second year of the biennium, fully funds the building aid formula.
But the Legislature may cut the funding that was included in Hassan’s budget proposal – her budget relies on $80 million in revenue from a casino license, and the House has traditionally been hostile to proposals for expanded gambling. The Democratic-controlled House is now working on its version of the state budget, and will hand it off to the Republican-controlled Senate in April.
In Boscawen, more money for wastewater-treatment infrastructure would be welcomed. The town finished the first two phases of a sewer project using a combination of federal, state and local funding, but the rest is on hold for now, said Town Administrator Michael Wright.
“Every time we have tried to look at going forward with phases three and four of our infrastructure, we cannot get enough money together, because the state share – which is, like, 10 percent – is not there,” Wright said. “And that’s too much money for us to cover.”
Dennis Delay, New Hampshire forecast manager for the New England Economic Partnership, says at the current rate of growth, the state will have regained all of the jobs lost in the recession by mid-2014.
A recent updated study by the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies showed municipal budgets during the past decade of 2001-2010 rose slightly more than the pace of inflation, but faced new budgetary challenges as the recession took hold, property values dropped and state revenue sharing decreased.
"Cities and towns in New Hampshire continue to face tremendous financial pressure from the lingering effects of the recession," said Steve Norton, executive director of the center. "While the state is probably looking at a somewhat bumpy exit out of the recession, it's going to take one to two more budget cycles for local communities to recover."
Study: As state funding dwindles, reliance on property taxes increases
By JAKE BERRY Staff Writer
CONCORD – The economic recession and dwindling state aid are causing New Hampshire taxpayers to fund a larger portion of their municipal and school budgets through local property taxes, according to a study released this week.
Officials said the drop in financial support from Concord has forced them to make difficult decisions about spending at the local level.
Public Policy Center Appoints Three New Board Members
Former manufacturing executive Jim Putnam, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation president Richard Ober and former software company executive Eric Herr were recently elected to the board of directors of the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies. The Center is a nonprofit public policy research organization based in Concord.
Lawmakers this week return to the debate over whether to allow expanded gambling in New Hampshire. The question has taken on new relevance this year since Massachusetts legalized casinos just three months ago. The question facing legislators: Now that Massachusetts has acted, what should we do?
The Center for Public Policy Studies has analyzed the potential impact of expanded gambling in New Hampshire, as well as the effect that new casinos in Massachusetts will have on our state - both in terms of lost revenue and the costs associated with pathological gamblers who live in New Hampshire.
Gambling proponents have cited our work, specifically our finding that a large casino development in Salem could yield $50 million in annual state revenue. But any argument that focuses solely on the bottom line misses the complex set of assumptions that must shape any specific gambling policy.
PITTSFIELD, N.H. — Karen Eastman has worked at the same small manufacturing company for 18 years and makes a solid living stitching sleeves for firefighter coats, but the economy is still her foremost concern heading into this state’s presidential primary voting next week.
“For now I’m O.K.,” she said, “but you just don’t know what could happen.”
Although New Hampshire has one of the healthiest economies in the country — with the lowest poverty rate of any state and the fourth-lowest unemployment rate, at 5.2 percent — polls and interviews suggest voters are still deeply nervous about the nation’s fiscal health and the rising cost of groceries, health care and other staples, even if they are working and relatively secure.
The high anxiety — in a state where the jobless rate is much lower than some other early nominating states, including South Carolina (9.9 percent), Florida (10.0 percent) and Nevada (13.0 percent) — portends just how dominant an issue the economy will be in the presidential campaign. It also suggests trouble here for President Obama, who won New Hampshire in 2008 with 54 percent of the vote but may face an uphill battle this year even as the state’s economy shows signs of improving further.
“I hear a lot of people that voted for him the first time around that say they’re really not keen on him this time,” said Margo Weeks, a nurse from Gilford who said she would probably vote for former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts on Tuesday. She voted for Senator John McCain in 2008.
Mr. Romney’s business background and two decades in the private sector are crucial to her support, she said. “I’m worried about the cost of living going up and up; that’s what really bothers me,” she said. “I make decent money, but to put gas in your car, buy your groceries — I mean, it is unbelievable.”
New Hampshire was in a better position than most states to weather the economic crisis because of its diversified economy, its relatively low cost of doing business in an otherwise expensive region, and a cautious approach by its banks to the subprime lending practices that wreaked havoc in other states, said Dennis C. Delay, an economist with the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies. The state lost 4.5 percent of its jobs from December 2007 to early 2010, Mr. Delay said, compared with a 6.5 percent loss nationally.
Even so, there were 38,660 people out of work here in November, the latest month for which data is available, compared with some 30,000 before the national economic crisis began in the fall of 2008. Mrs. Eastman’s husband is one of them; his job at a textile mill went to China two years ago, she said.
The state has lost more than 14,000 manufacturing jobs since 2005, its construction industry is still flagging, and hospitals began laying off workers after the state legislature sharply cut Medicaid reimbursements last year.
“Nobody here thinks, ‘Oh well, at least things are better in New Hampshire than they are in New Jersey,’ ” said Charlie Arlinghaus, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, a conservative research organization in Concord. “Everybody is just worried.”
A poll released last week by CNN and Time magazine found that 47 percent of likely Republican primary voters here said the economy would be “extremely important” to their vote, a far greater portion than those who named foreign affairs (28 percent) or moral issues (13 percent). The poll of 543 likely voters had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.
Sheila Dickerson, 57, an independent voter, has worked at Globe Manufacturing, a company that has made turnout gear for firefighters here since 1901, for almost 25 years. She said she felt confident she could hang on to her job until retirement but worried what would happen afterward. She is leaning toward voting for Representative Ron Paul of Texas on Tuesday, she said, because “his thing is about straightening out the overspending that government’s doing.”
Of Mr. Obama, she said, “I feel he doesn’t really care about America.” She voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2008.
Jim Roche, president of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire, said members of his group were “very cautiously optimistic” about an economic turnaround. Still, he added, in a recent survey, 79 percent said they did not plan to add employees in 2012. “There’s just a fair amount of uncertainty that most people recognize,” he said, “both domestically and internationally, that makes them very nervous and frankly reluctant to commit to hiring new people.”
Rob Freese, a senior vice president at Globe, said he had ruled out supporting Mr. Romney because the health care law he signed in Massachusetts had raised costs for businesses, something he did not want to happen in New Hampshire.
“On 380 employees, it’s over $1 million a year that we’re paying in health insurance rates,” Mr. Freese said. “Just this year, we paid for a 30 percent increase in our premiums. It’s all supposed to be getting better, and yet it certainly doesn’t feel that way.”
New Hampshire also has some of the highest property tax rates in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan research group, and they are rising because of the drop in real estate values. Garry Haworth, a retired chemist who was volunteering at a phone bank for Mr. Obama in Manchester on Tuesday, said his property taxes had increased 10 percent last year.
“Most of the people I know who probably could afford to retire don’t dare,” said Mr. Haworth, who voted for Mrs. Clinton in 2008.
Still, Mr. Haworth said he wanted to give Mr. Obama’s policies a chance to work, as did Lucy Natkiel, a small-business owner from Hill who said the Republican candidates were not offering solutions that could get through Congress.
“I think it’s unrealistic to expect it to turn around and return to boom times in a short period of time,” Ms. Natkiel said.
Mary Lynn Edwards, an independent voter who supports Mr. Obama, said it was impossible not to worry about the national economy even if New Hampshire’s was relatively stable.
“I do realize we’re in a better position than most states,” she said, “but it affects every single one of us.”
Like Iowa’s, New Hampshire’s economy among the nation’s strongest
By Yahoo! News
By Zachary Roth and Daniel Gross
With the Republican presidential nominating fight moving from the frigid chill of the Midwest to the, uh, frigid chill of Northeast, the struggling economy remains a major theme. Which is ironic, given that the first two contests take place in states that, while hardly booming, are doing far better than the country as a whole.
As the country's attention turns to the Granite State in advance of Tuesday's primary, New Hampshire stands out for its ability to avoid the worst of the Great Recession and its aftermath. Still, as is the case everywhere, unemployment in late 2011 was significantly higher than it was in late 2007. And two years into the fitful national recovery, there's evidence that the state's growth is flagging.
"We feel the same kind of lethargy in the economy that other places do," Dennis Delay, an economist at the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, a Concord-based think tank, said in an interview. "Maybe not as severely, but we certainly do feel it."
Iowa's economic health is easily explained. The Hawkeye State's economy relies disproportionately on the agriculture industry, which has been booming thanks to rampant growth outside U.S. borders. Candidates may hammer on heartland, all-American values, but the value of Iowa's farm land and farm products are driven by non-American forces. As tens of millions of people throughout the world join the consuming class and eat better, they are pushing up demand, and prices, for grain, corn, and pork. Exporting directly, or producing commodities that are sold into global markets--coal, oil, timber, grains--has been one surefire way to prosper and avoid high unemployment in the post-bust economy. Another is to produce the sort of heavy, expensive machines that are also in demand globally:gas turbines, airplanes, farm equipment. Iowa does both.
But New Hampshire does neither. There's a third way, though. Cities and regions that have been tethered to historically recession-proof industries like health care, education and technology--instead of boom-bust industries like real estate, finance, and gambling--and that enjoy favorable demographics have also done well in recent years. And just as Iowa enjoys some natural advantages in its fertile farmland, New Hampshire has benefited from its own historic resources.
A small state, New Hampshire nonetheless has an outsize higher-education sector, with 26 colleges or universities, led by the University of New Hampshire in Durham (14,600 students), and Dartmouth College in Hanover (6,300 students). Only eight states have a higher percentage of residents with a college degree than New Hampshire, which means the state's workforce is comparatively well-prepared for 21st century jobs.
That has proved a boon to the state's technology sector. Dynamic Network Services, or "Dyn," a Manchester-based internet infrastructure company, which specializes in domain name systems and email delivery, exemplifies the trend. Dyn has increased its staff count by a third to a half each year since 2007, its chief executive, Jeremy Hitchcock, told Yahoo. It currently employs around 110 people, and is advertising for nine more positions.
Hitchcock--who, along with a partner, founded Dyn as a college student in 1998--sees no slowdown ahead. "Our numbers for next year are significantly higher than this year," he said. "We're going to keep adding people and keep adding customers."
Hitchcock thinks New Hampshire's tech boom has played a role in the state's relative success as the rest of the nation struggles. "There is a good amount of technology that's going on in the state that's kept us relatively insulated from higher unemployment rates," he said.
Like Iowa, New Hampshire was spared the harshest effects of the housing bust, because it didn't have a major boom in the first place. That's in part because the state learned from history, according to Delay, of the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies. In the late '80s and early '90s, the state lost about 10 percent of its jobs after New England was hit with a severe regional recession-- driven in part by an over-expansion of the real-estate sector. As a result, lenders were more conservative in the last decade. "We didn't do the kind of outlandish Las Vegas, Florida, Southern California-type building, because the community banks were a lot more cautious," Delay said.
The low poverty rate allows New Hampshire to get by with fewer services, and lower taxes, than its northeast neighbors. The state has no income or sales tax, though it does have some of the highest property taxes in the country.
That leads to another advantage New Hampshire enjoys. Low- or no-tax states that are adjacent to highly-populated, higher-tax states tend to reap benefits. New Hampshire cultivates a flinty self-reliance--"Live Free or Die" is its motto--and defines itself in opposition to its more liberal neighbors. Vermont has a socialist senator and universal health care, while Massachusetts has long been a bastion of liberal politics and higher taxes.
Yet New Hampshire's southeastern corner, where much of the population resides in cities like Manchester, Nashua, Concord, and Portsmouth, is in some ways an extension of the greater Boston area. Over the last decade, a host of affluent young professionals from flourishing metropolitan Boston--only about 30 miles from New Hampshire's southern border--has flocked to New Hampshire, attracted by the lower cost of living and the improved quality of life. Dyn, the Manchester-based tech company, was founded in a dorm room at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, in Massachusetts. The state recently got its first Trader Joe's--that ultimate marker of bourgeois-bohemian culture-- in Nashua after a branch of the upscale grocery chain relocated from about 10 miles down the road, in Tyngsborough, Mass.
New Hampshire may be doing better than most other states--between November 2010 and November 2011, it added 9,300 jobs, from 625,800 to 635,100--but there's still cause for concern. Though low by national standards, the state's unemployment rate is about two percentage points higher than it was in late 2007. Housing bust or no, the number of construction jobs has slipped by 29 percent in the past four years, and the number of manufacturing jobs has fallen by 13 percent. Forty-one percent of the state's unemployed have been out of work for 6 months or more.
"A 5 percent unemployment rate may seem great in other parts of the country, but we're used to seeing unemployment at about 3.5 percent in a normal functioning economy," Delay said.
The state's recovery actually looks to be proceeding even slower than that of the country as a whole. According to Commerce Department numbers, New Hampshire's economy grew at a rate of just 1.3 percent in 2010, the last year for which figures are available--half the rate of the national economy. Since May, New Hampshire's jobless rate has risen by almost half a percentage point, even as the national rate has dropped.
Demographics, too, could pose a challenge. Since 2008, New Hampshire's population has essentially been flat, as young people abandon the state, and the existing population ages. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of Granite Staters 65 and over jumped by 20 percent, while the number below 18 dropped by more than 8 percent.
New Hampshire clearly relishes its role in national politics--it is the first primary state, and Dixville Notch, a tiny hamlet in the state's rustic far north, kicks off the ritual of presidential voting every four years. And the spending by politicians and the media who follow them plainly provides a form of stimulus to the state's restaurants, hotels, and radio and television stations. Still, some locals say they believe politics is also inhibiting growth. Like virtually every other state, New Hampshire has been grappling with persistent state budget deficits, adding to the sense of caution in the business sector.
As Mowry put it: "With the uncertainty in Washington and in Concord, they're not quite sure what the politicians are going to do."
Zachary Roth is a senior national affairs reporter for Yahoo News. Follow him on Twitter @zackroth.
N.H. economy moving forward -- but at a snail's pace
by Bob Sanders
New Hampshire Business Review
Despite what they're saying on the campaign trail about where the U.S. economy is going, the New Hampshire economy seems to be headed in the right direction. The question, however, is how long is it going to take to finally regain its solid footing? And will it continue to slowly improve or take a turn -- or a double dip -- for the worse?
With the exception of the construction and government sectors, and maybe health care, the state's economy is crawling -- not marching -- toward a happier tomorrow:
• Revenues collected through the state business profits and business enterprise taxes are up 5.5 percent year to date compared to a year ago.
• Unemployment fell in November, by a tantalizingly small one-tenth of a percent, to 5.2 percent, only a half a percent below what it was last year. There has been some job gain, but it's only amounted to a few thousand jobs.
• Housing has "stabilized" -- the word coming off the lips of New Hampshire Association of Realtors President Tom Riley's lips -- with both annual growth in sales and decline in value in the single digits.
• Both bankruptcies (down 12.9 percent) and foreclosures (down 8.5 percent) have receded from their record levels in New Hampshire. But the new business created in that void has increased by an anemic 1.5 percent through October.
The numbers, said Dennis Delay, an economist with the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, show the state's economy is "skating on thin ice."
Delay said he expects the state's job growth -- which has been at a dismal 1.5 percent this year -- to stay at the same level for the next three years. If so, it would take until the second quarter of 2013 to regain all of the jobs lost in the recession, he said.
So with possible trouble ahead, and certain trouble behind, Applied Economic Research President Russ Thibeault's description of the economy as "boring" might be the most hopeful adjective you can find.
But that doesn't necessarily bother Rob Freese, senior vice president of Globe Manufacturing in Pittsfield. "Flat is good, though it makes me sick to say it as a sales and marketing guy."
Globe sells protective clothing for firefighters, and in this age of austerity, the government - only a few years ago an alleged "stimulator" - is now seen as "a drag on the economy," in the words of Delay.
Government cutbacks haven't meant fewer orders for fire suits, however. They have meant fewer massive road projects, shiny new schools and layoffs at the state, county and local government level.
There has been talk of a retail surge, a housing spurt, perhaps even the possibility that small businesses will begin hiring again, but statistics haven't caught up with such sunny hopes, as seen in the results of some recent surveys of businesses by both the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire and NHBR.
The BIA, which surveyed some 300 businesspeople, found that 15 percent of respondents expected to hire more staff in 2012, while 5 percent said they will cut back. Some 43 percent said they expected increased revenues in the coming year, with 19 percent expecting declines. The BIA described the overall response as "cautiously optimistic."
Likewise, NHBR's newly released survey of its readers -- conducted in early December, with some 150 respondents -- also showed some slight caution on the part of participants, who were primarily involved in small businesses.
Some 30 percent said they plan on taking on additional staff, and 5 percent plan said they would cut their workforce. More than half planned to expand in other ways. Some 68 percent expected some revenue growth, and 54 percent saw some increase in the bottom line.
"Things are coming back," said Deb Brewer, owner of CrystalVision Inc., a Web application development firm in Portsmouth, who responded to the survey. She said her company had to cut their workforce from a dozen to five during the recession, but now she has plans to add an employee.
Similarly, Graphicast - a casting firm in Jaffrey - was "hammered just like everyone else," starting in the fall of 2008, but now "we are pretty back to normal, even something better than normal," said President Val Zanchuck, another survey respondent.
Zanchuck said he was able to maintain the same workforce (though at a lower pay, thanks to salary cuts and furloughs) because his customers used him to develop molds for new products, even if they weren't able to use them yet.
Now, with a full and well-trained staff intact and the economy on the rebound, Graphicast is geared up to start putting those molds to use.
Despite such sunlit stories, there are still dark clouds on the horizon, especially from Europe.
It was the international market that sustained the New Hampshire economy during the dark days. In 2010, for example, the state's exports increased by 41.7 percent -- the biggest increase in the nation.
The good news is that exports continued to grow in 2011. The bad news is that they have only risen by 4.3 percent. And even though most of those exports went to Mexico, Canada and Asia, the European crisis might be one reason for the slowdown, both directly and indirectly, said Dawn Wivell, the former New Hampshire foreign trade guru who is now a consultant with Firebrand International.
The weak dollar helped fuel some of those overseas sales, she said. But now that the euro has fallen even more, that will make U.S. goods less competitive.
Globe Manufacturing in Pittsfield - which had also sustained itself though increased exports during the lean years - has also seen more hesitation in its overseas partners, even though it has few sales to Europe because of high tariff barriers.
But whether it really cut into trade "depends on the dynamics, on where the Europeans put their money," said Rob Freese of Globe Manufacturing.
The New Hampshire High Tech Council is particularly concerned about exports, which accounts for almost all of the sector's sales, said Fred Kocher, the council's president.
"If the European market slows down, so will we," he said.
Housing and construction
Other factors could undermine the recovery as well. While the housing market has stabilized, several news reports suggest another wave of nationwide foreclosures is coming, larger than the one already experienced.
However, in New Hampshire all of the foreclosure and delinquency statistics seem to be going downward, though at various degrees.
Year to date, 2011 foreclosures are 8.5 percent below the 2010 pace, auction notices are down 14 percent year over year, and delinquency rates have gone down for five quarters in a row.
In New Hampshire, housing sales have been up - but only 1.2 percent through November - and the median price has declined by 5.6 percent year to date, although Realtors President Riley said that things have picked up "substantially" in the last 60 days. (In November, however, home sales declined slightly compared to last year, by 2.5 percent, according to the association's statistics.)
Riley also found that commercial real estate is moving a bit more quickly. "They are not busting down the door, but they are walking through the door. Last year, the traffic was nearly nonexistent," he said.
This activity hasn't led to much new construction - building permits have been only slightly higher in 2011 than 2010, while the number of construction jobs fell by 600. But there has been an uptick in remodeling, reported Greg Rehm, president of Liberty Hill Construction, Bedford.
"They are going great on my end," he said, noting that his firm has hired a new carpenter and opened a new showroom. Not only are sales up 36 percent, he said, the average project size has doubled.
While some projects have been lost to financing snags, "those who can are grabbing some of the low interest rates," Rehm said.
Still, Rehm said he still sees too many former builders of new homes competing against his company for remodeling jobs. And if construction is sluggish in New Hampshire, one of the better-off states, that is not good news for the lumber industry.
"As long as housing limps along, lumber limps along," said Jasen Stock, executive director of the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association. The price of logs is up, but that's because the ground has been so muddy few loggers can get them out of the woods. Thus mills have to pay more to get wood to make lumber they have to charge less for -- not a great situation.
Tourism and retail
It isn't as if the rural tourism industry is blooming in these rains either, though there has been some modest growth in that sector as well.
"We are not breaking any records, but we are back to where they were," said Mike Somers, president of the New Hampshire Lodging & Restaurant Association.
In the winter of 2011, tourists spent 4.2 percent more, and in the spring spending rose 5.2 percent, according to the travel barometer put together by the state Division of Travel and Tourism.
Rooms and meals tax income is virtually unchanged year to date through October, but the occupancy rate is up to 59.1 percent, from 55.8 percent in 2010, and the average daily stay and revenue per room is up 3.7 and 9.8 percent respectively, according to the barometer.
"We had a better year than last year," said John Augustine, owner of Dexter's Inn. The Sunapee bed and breakfast survived the recession with heavy discounting, but Augustine is now optimistic enough to build a heated outdoor pavilion for events and more parking for its cross-country skiing facility.
Sales at The Common Man Family of Restaurants are up 4 percent this year, said CEO Jason Lyon, "and given the economy, we are certainly going to take it."
Lyon, however, said he was worried about the lack of snow (as of mid-December) and was hoping that diners start to relax a bit more, and order the whole bottle of wine, not just a cocktail.
"They are a little more frugal with their money, more conscious of their decisions," Lyon said.
Local statistics are particularly hard to come by in the retail industry, which of course recently concluded its peak season.
The midnight openings on Black Friday appeared to have gotten things off to a good start, said Nancy Kyle, president of the Retail Merchants Association of New Hampshire.
"I think there is a pent-up demand for shopping," she said. "Buy local" is the biggest new trend in the industry, she said, benefiting Main Street, and perhaps hurting the malls, though Deb Stone, area marketing director for Simon Property Group, said that the parking lots were filled at the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester and the Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua.
"Compared to last year, this is excellent," she said. "But it's not the heyday, by any means."
Health care is perhaps the most unsettling sector of the economy, and not just because of the uncertainty over the future of health care reform and the continued rise in health insurance premiums. (Indeed, in both the BIA and NHBR surveys, health care was cited as respondents' biggest concern, aside from the state of the economy itself. )
Now there is the additional worry about the local health care industry itself - once one of the few secure sectors in a shaky economy. On the one hand, New Hampshire's population is aging, and the need for additional health care resources is obvious. On the other hand, there is a movement among both political parties to cut spending in health care.
According to the New Hampshire Hospital Association, state Medicaid cuts have resulted in 1,100 fewer hospital employees since June, due to layoffs, attrition and early retirement,. But, according to the Department of Employment of Security, the health care sector added 1,900 jobs in that time, with 800 of the new positions coming from hospitals.
Some of that may be due to some administrative expansion to prepare for health reform or growth in the more profitable aspects of the health care industry not related to Medicaid - such as sports medicine, sleep therapy or private home care. And some of the job reductions may not have found their way to the statistics yet.
However you look at the health care jobs numbers, the people who were laid off "certainly feel like they lost their jobs," said Steve Ahnen, president of the hospital association.
And given the whole controversy over health care funding, Ahnen said, the future of his industry "is very, very unstable."
There were fewer bankruptcy filings in New Hampshire last month than at any point since January 2009, according to data released yesterday by the federal bankruptcy court in Manchester.
The 338 bankruptcy filings in November are 90 fewer than were posted in November 2010. Twenty-four of the filings were by businesses, which is the lowest monthly total this year.
"It's just another indicator that maybe the current conditions are improving a little bit," said Dennis Delay, an economist with the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies.
Russ Thibeault, president of Applied Economic Research in Laconia, said "it fits a pattern where things aren't getting a lot worse anymore."
"I think the main thing is a lot of businesses have figured out how to survive in a lousy economy and those who haven't have already filed," he said. "That holds for households as well."
The drop in bankruptcies isn't specific to New Hampshire. According to a recent report from the American Bankruptcy Institute, the number of bankruptcy filings nationally dropped 8 percent in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. George Vannah, clerk of the bankruptcy court in Manchester, said he recently received emails from his counterparts in Rhode Island and Massachusetts asking if he had also noticed a decline in the number of filings in recent months.
Republican leaders in the New Hampshire House put out statements yesterday linking the decline to their work in the Legislature this year. House Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Stepanek said "we are already seeing the fruits of our labor."
"As we continue along this path of economic vitality, we should see not only a reduction in bankruptcy filings but also an increase in private-sector jobs and new businesses forming or migrating to New Hampshire," he said.
Reports last week showed the national unemployment rate dipped to 8.6 percent, the lowest level in 32 months. New Hampshire's unemployment rate has consistently been one of the lowest in the nation during the downturn, coming in at 5.3 percent in October.
House Speaker Bill O'Brien said "the smaller number of bankruptcies is a great sign for our economy."
"There is still a tremendous amount of work to do to make New Hampshire the magnet for job growth it deserves to be," he said.
PORTSMOUTH — It's not over til it's over, and the state and the country are still struggling to emerge from the recession — but several economic experts said the 8.6 percent national unemployment rate for November is heartening.
"I think, overall, we can say this is positive news," said economist Ross Gittell of the Whittemore School of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire. "This is not what economists predicted. It's better than we expected, so let's recognize that."
In October, the unemployment rate was 9 percent.
Meanwhile, Matt Katz, regional manager for staffing firm Robert Half International, said he's surprised it's taken so long for the number to drop.
"Today's news doesn't surprise me at all," said Katz, who oversees an area from the north shore of Massachusetts to the Seacoast region and Portland, Maine. "We're seeing an increased demand for help in both the temporary and permanent placement market, mostly for the degreed sector."
For instance, Katz said there is more demand for trained accountants than there are qualified workers in his region, and for workers in administrative services and human resources.
"A lot of people laid off their HR staff, so they're having to ramp up again," he said.
But Gittell said the good news needs to be tempered with the bad. The good news is that employers added 120,000 jobs nationally in November, which is in addition to 100,000 jobs in October, which "is not gangbusters, but is better than adding no jobs."
But the unemployment numbers for November also reflect workers who have simply dropped out of the labor force altogether.
"They're not looking for work anymore; they've used up their unemployment benefits and they're discouraged," Gittell said.
In November, about 315,000 people dropped out of the work force, leaving the percentage of Americans working at 64 percent, down from 64.2 percent in October. "That's a concern right now," Gittell said.
Unemployment figures for New Hampshire and other states will not be released for another several weeks. However, both Gittell and Dennis Delay, an economist with the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy, said the state jobless number may not drop as much as the national figure, but still remain relatively low.
In October, the New Hampshire unemployment rate was 5.3 percent, 3.7 percent lower than the national average. But Delay said he sees some trends in the state that may contribute to layoffs in the months to come.
For one, there's the fallout from the state cuts to Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals, which has caused a wave of layoffs at New Hampshire hospitals.
"That's having an impact," Delay said.
In a related blow, the state received about $50 million less than expected from hospitals in tax payments in November, leaving officials scrambling.
"They're delaying payments and recalculating what they owe the state," Delay said of the hospitals.
As a result, Delay expects November employment rates could reflect a bit of a drop in both health care and public sector jobs.
But Katz predicts a drop in the New Hampshire unemployment rate that will mirror the national figure — but mainly from new hires.
"We're so busy it's beginning to remind me of 2006," he said. "Of course, there's going to be more temporary placements than permanent ones. But in past recoveries, the (temporary jobs) sector has grown first. In my eyes, this time around the permanent sector is keeping pace."
Katz said he is very optimistic.
"I've seen the best of times and the worst of times, and what I'm seeing is recovery mode," he said. "The first quarter of 2012 looks good. The New Hampshire market is booming."
A Regional Approach to Public Policy in New Hampshire
Dec. 2, 2011
by STEVE NORTON AND DANIEL BARRICK
The people of NH have long cherished the notions of strong local identity and governance. With our annual town meetings, sprawling Legislature, and town-run police and fire departments and select boards, policymaking is often a homegrown affair here.
At the same time, New Hampshire has a well-defined statewide image: “Live Free or Die.” “Tax-Free New Hampshire.” These are just two examples of the well-defined statewide images that shape public debates and define how outsiders view us. From a policy perspective, a statewide focus often makes sense, including education funding and tax policy.
But there’s another, less frequently used, approach to public policy in NH: viewing the state as a network of distinct regions defined by geography and demographics. Many of the pressing issues likely to shape the state’s future–questions of transportation, housing, economic development and water use–play out across town and city borders. These issues often affect populations in different ways across the state. And NH’s residents face disparate challenges and opportunities depending on what part of the state they call home. An approach to policymaking that accounts for this fact will likely lead to more informed decision making.
But aside from isolated, occasional examples, NH’s regions generally play a small role in conversations about the state’s future. This is not to argue against large-scale programs. Statewide economic development, environmental or education programs can all be valuable policy tools. But a more fine-tuned regional approach can complement broader visions for NH.
Why does this matter? One example: Recent census data shows that NH is one of the wealthiest, best-educated states in the nation. But when you disaggregate data on median income and educational attainment by region, stark differences become apparent. The less likely a region is to have residents with a college degree, the lower its median wages. Shouldn’t our approach to economic development acknowledge these disparities across the state and seek to address them?
Many policy topics would benefit from this approach, some of which are discussed in the NH Center for Public Policy Studies’ recent report “What is New Hampshire?” With a declining statewide student population, conversations about school consolidation obviously require an analysis that extends across municipal boundaries. The relationship between economic development, housing, and transportation is another topic that begs for a regional analysis.
The White Mountains region, for example, saw greater population growth than any other part of the state over the past decade. Much of that increase was driven by retirees lured to amenity-rich communities such as Conway, Lincoln and Woodstock. The economy in this region is dominated by tourism: accommodation and food service, recreation, entertainment and the seasonal home market. But the White Mountains region also faces a challenge in accommodating the younger workforce that serves the tourists and retirees who fuel its economy. This is not an issue that any individual town can solve on its own. Ensuring that the region has the right mix of housing stock for those workers in coming years requires a coordinated approach from multiple communities and will benefit from the collaboration of businesses, municipal leaders and nonprofits.
How can such a regional approach best be carried out? There already exists several forums for regional action in the state. The most obvious is the network of regional planning commissions, which are charged with advising local communities on issues of transportation and planning, among others. But, like cities and towns, these agencies derive their authority from the state, often face funding challenges, and lack any policy-making power.
The state’s Executive Council is another body that divides the state into a series of regions. But the Council, too, lacks policymaking authority and was largely designed as a check on the Governor.
Regional planning commissions can help identify important issues and guide local thinking. Chambers of commerce and economic development councils can spur discussions about regional planning, and town and city leaders can reach across their own borders to work with their neighbors. But if the state truly wants to encourage a more regional perspective in its policymaking, these efforts need to be strengthened. That may mean giving the existing regional bodies more regulatory and policy-making authority, or giving them a greater voice in legislative debates, where so much of the state’s policy is designed and enacted.
MERRIMACK – They are building it. Now the question is, will they come?
By the next holiday season, area shoppers will have a sparkling new selection of stores available at the Merrimack Premium Outlets center, currently under construction off Exit 10 of the F.E. Everett Turnpike.
When it opens, likely in June, the $100 million shopping center will consist of 100 upscale clothing, home goods and other retail outlets, offering products at factory rates. But, with the general retail market still suffering under the weight of the national recession, critics may wonder if this is the time or the place to open a large scale outlet center.
Project managers and retail industry analysts alike answer in a single word: Yes.
“Outlet shopping has become more integrated into consumers’ shopping routines, which bodes well for the opening of Merrimack Premium Outlets,” said Michele Rothstein, vice president of marketing for the project developer, Premium Outlets, which has projected as much $140 million in annual sales from the center.
“Outlet shopping is a different mentality,” added Nancy Kyle, president of the Retail Merchants Association of New Hampshire, which represents 800 businesses across the state. “Outlets become a destination. … They seem to do well regardless of the economy.”
Even during a recession, these claims play out in the sales numbers.
Retail sales continue to suffer around the state and across the country, analysts said. In New Hampshire alone, several major retail stores, including Building 19 in Nashua and Lowe’s Home Improvement in Manchester, have recently closed their doors. And, across the state, the retail industry has lost about 2,000 jobs in the last year alone, according to Dennis Delay, an economist for the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy.
But, while these numbers continue to fall, industry analysts report that outlet stores have either maintained or increased sales around the country. Across the map, general retail sales rose an average of 1.4 percent from April 2010 to April 2011, according to a recent consumer tracking study by the NPD Group, an international industry company. By comparison, outlet sales jumped more 17.9 percent, more than 10 times as high, during that time period, the study concluded.
“Consumers are much more careful today with their shopping dollars,” said Jack Plunkett, president of Plunkett Research, a Houston-based market research company that focuses on the retail industry.
“They want to feel like their money is well and wisely spent. … But they also want selection, and when they can get it, they want a brand name,” he said. “An outlet mall, if it is a good mall, it’s well positioned for today’s market.”
These trends are reflected locally, according to outlet managers around the region.
Officers at the Tanger Outlets in Tilton, the closest outlet center, did not return calls for comment for this story, but stores at the Kittery Outlets in Maine have thrived during the recession, according to Lynn Smith, the center’s marketing manager.
To a one, each of the center’s 120 stores have either maintained sales or grown over the last few years, Smith said earlier this month.
Some stores, like Liz Claiborne clothing, have closed because the parent company either shut down or downsized, she said. But, in total, the outlets have maintained their yearly average of about 5 percent turnover, meaning about five or six stores close per year. And those vacancies still tend to fill quickly, Smith said.
The Kittery outlets, located just across the state border from Portsmouth, currently have two vacancies, which is about average with or without a recession, she said. By contrast, more than 9 percent of stores in traditional retail malls remain vacant, according to recent study of the country’s 80 largest markets published by Reis Inc., a New York-based real estate research company.
“You hear what’s going on around the country and we just haven’t seen a lot of that,” said Smith, of the Kittery Outlets. “People are still shopping. They’re just making smarter decisions.”
From Kittery to Tilton to North Conway, outlet shoppers generally don’t hesitate to drive a distance to find their deals, according to industry analysts and business leaders. And the Merrimack center’s location along a major traffic artery only benefits it further, they said.
Positioned strategically between Manchester and Nashua, the outlets will draw heavily from New Hampshire’s two largest population centers, according to Chris Williams, president of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce.
And with the Massachusetts border less than 20 miles away, Bay State shoppers will likely flood the area to take advantage of the absence of a state sales tax, which will drive prices down even further, Williams said.
“When you consider the proximity of Merrimack to the Massachusetts border, I think you’ll certainly see a lot of people from northern Massachusetts coming up here,” he said.
“But conversely, you’ll also have a lot of residents in the central and northern parts of the state who will now come down to Merrimack. … They’ll come from all over. This is going to have a very tremendously positive impact on our retail economy.”
Jake Berry can be reached at 594-6402 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By TED SIEFER
New Hampshire Union Leader
New U.S. Census numbers suggest more people are struggling to make ends meet in New Hampshire than the official poverty rate would lead one to believe.
New Hampshire has long had one of the lowest poverty rates in the country — in 2009, it was the lowest at 7.9 percent. However, an alternative poverty assessment released by the Census this month, the Supplemental Poverty Measure, indicates that New Hampshire's poverty rate in 2009 was 10.4 percent, higher than seven other states, including Maine and Vermont.
This information did not come as a surprise to some of the dozens of people who lined up on a recent evening at the food pantry at New Horizons for New Hampshire in Manchester, where the number of people seeking shelter and food has been steadily climbing this year.
“I think people just aren't aware what's really happening out there,” said Melissa, who came to the shelter with her daughter, a student at Memorial High School. She did not want to give her full name.
Even though her husband is working, Melissa said the family is struggling. “We still need a little extra help. I think everyone is close to the edge. All of my friends are struggling to make it week to week,” she said.
Still most livable?
The higher poverty estimate could take the sheen off one of the state's more widely touted statistics. Low poverty, coupled with the state's high median income, were key factors cited by the CQ Press when the publishing company again ranked New Hampshire the country's “Most Livable State” this year, a designation that has also been trumpeted by Gov. John Lynch.
The Supplemental Poverty Measure is meant to offer a more thorough picture of poverty in the United States, which has been measured by a set of criteria dating back more than four decades, before the implementation of many programs aimed at reducing the rate.
The SPM takes into account the value of government assistance, such as food stamps and housing subsidies, on one side of the ledger, while factoring in expenses, such as housing and out-of-pocket medical costs, on the other.
“The current measure does not take into account variation in expenses that are necessary to hold a job and to earn income — expenses that reduce disposable income,” the report notes.
The report also raises the threshold for poverty, from $22,113 a year for a two-adult, two-child family in 2010 by the official measure, to $24,343 by the SPM.
The report revealed that groups that have been the greatest beneficiaries of anti-poverty programs, notably children and African-Americans, had lower poverty rates than the official Census estimate. Poverty was higher, however, for a broad swaths of the population, in particular the elderly, married couples and those living in the West and Northeast.
Housing costs, and more
The state level data, showing a difference of 2.5 percent between the official and supplemental poverty rate in New Hampshire, came in a separate analysis.
Trudi Renwick, who heads the Census' Poverty Statistics Branch, cautioned that the state-level analysis was based on only one year's worth of data, and that poverty estimates typically rely on two to three years of data. She did note, however, that the difference in New Hampshire between the official and supplemental rate was “statistically significant.”
Public policy experts said it wasn't surprising that New Hampshire would fare worse in a measure of poverty that included the value of public assistance and local costs of living.
“When you include the cost of living in New Hampshire, for housing and utilities, you dramatically increase the number of people having difficulty making ends meet, which is really what we're talking about when we measure poverty,” said Steve Norton, the executive director of the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies. “I think New Hampshire has always fared well in measures like poverty and median income, but that can hide variations that exist with respect to both the age of populations and geography.”
Jobs, not public aid
As for the prospect of the Granite State losing its distinctive status, Charles Arlinghaus, the president of the Josiah Bartlett Center For Public Policy, a free-market think tank, said any statistic that says one state is the best is “dangerous.”
“Saying we have the lowest poverty in America, there's a temptation to say everything is fine,” Arlinghaus said. “Well no, if you're a public official, you should still look at that.”
But Arlinghaus said the answer was not to provide a greater share of public assistance, but to redouble efforts to grow the economy. “Even if we were 50th in poverty, we can still do better. We still want more jobs, good jobs,” he said.
For now the Supplemental Poverty Measure is only for research purposes; only the official poverty rate will be used to designate federal aid and for other policy decisions.
In the meantime, service providers are reporting that demand is rising. At New Horizons for New Hampshire, nights spent in the shelter have been up 12 percent this year and food pantry use is up 14 percent, according to Charlie Sherman, the center's executive director.
Sherman said he doesn't need new statistics to tell him people are struggling. “What we see now on a daily basis are people who have jobs — but they may be new jobs, with significantly less pay and benefits,” he said. “The first thing I tell them is don't apologize. You're a victim of the economy.”
"The median income of a middle class family went down $2,100 from 2001 to 2007."
Joe Biden on Thursday, October 20th, 2011 in speaking at New Hampshire’s Plymouth State University
Biden says middle income earners lost ground before the recession
Vice President Joe Biden visited a New Hampshire university Oct. 20, 2011, to promote President Barack Obama’s American Jobs Act before an audience whom he called "the 9/11 generation."
Speaking to a full house inside Plymouth State University’s lecture hall, Biden talked about the need to restore the middle class and to bring jobs back to America. He said middle-income-earning Americans have been "under siege," long before the economic recession hit.
"In the previous decade, before the current recession, the middle class was getting killed," said Biden. "During that period between 2001-07, productivity of American workers was up 20 percent, but median income of the middle class dropped by $2,100 during this time."
Did the median of middle-income households really take a $2,100 hit before the economy hit the fan? We looked into Biden’s claim to find out.
First we contacted Biden’s staff to find out which figures they were using to come to the $2,100 decrease in the median income for middle-class households.
Tobin Marcus, Biden’s deputy economic policy adviser, told us the vice president was referring to real median household income for working age households. "We’re looking at the core wage-earning households as opposed to retirees," Marcus said.
"Working age households" are typically considered houses headed by someone between the ages of 25 and 54, and the median income was chosen to represent middle income wage earners.
Biden’s office cited the Census Bureau’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement to the Current Population Surveys for year-ending data for 2000 and 2007.
We took a look at their numbers, and their calculations checked out.
To be sure, we contacted Dennis Delay, an economist with the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies and a New Hampshire State Forecast Manager for the New England Economic Partnership.
He confirmed the calculations Biden’s campaign provided.
"I looked at the data sources, and they appear to be correct, and the data calculated correctly," Delay said.
Delay then pointed us to a report by the Economic Policy Institute which used the same data. From 2000-07, the Institute said the real median income of working age households fell from $61,574 in 2000 to $59,460 in 2007—a decrease of $2,114.
The White House Task Force on the Middle Class cited a "weak labor market" and "anemic job growth of the 2000s" among some of the problems that contributed to the approximately 3.4 percent decline in the median of middle class incomes over the seven years leading up to the economic recession.
"Clearly median inflation adjusted income fell much faster during the recession (2007 to present)," Delay said. "But the fall in that indicator during a period of economic expansion (2000 to 2007) is very troubling. I don’t believe any other period of economic expansion saw a commensurate decline in median inflation adjusted income."
Vice President Biden said the median income of the middle class dropped by $2,100 from 2001-07, and the numbers check out. We rate Biden’s claim True.
Stagnant economic and job growth will linger through next year, Dennis Delay, New Hampshire forecast manager for the The New England Economic Partnership, said Thursday.
By DENIS PAISTE
New Hampshire Union Leader
MANCHESTER - Stagnant economic and job growth will linger through next year, Dennis Delay, New Hampshire forecast manager for the The New England Economic Partnership, said Thursday.
“This is an economy in danger of stalling to a point where the risks of recession, probably not for this year but into next year, have been elevated in New Hampshire,” Delay said in a telephone conference with reporters.
Ross Gittell, the partnership’s vice president and New England region forecast manager, said overall economic growth needs to hit 3 percent to see a significant decline in unemployment.
“Not until really 2013 are we going to see 3 percent in overall economic growth, and 1 percent in employment regionally to see overall unemployment come down,” Gittell said.
Both Delay and Gittell will join the New England Economic Partnership’s 2011 Fall Economic Outlook Conference Friday morning at UNH-Manchester.
New Hampshire’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.3 percent for October 2011, compared to 9 percent nationally.
“Job creation slowed in September 2011, to about 5,000 jobs per year, half the pace seen in the months of June through August of 2011,” Delay said. “Any acceleration in private-sector job creation looks to be partially offset by public sector job losses.”
Delay is also an economist with the N.H. Center for Public Policy Studies.
Delay forecasts New Hampshire job growth of 1.2 percent this year, dropping to 0.8 percent in 2012, before growing 1.3 percent in 2013, 1.8 percent in 2014 and 2.4 percent in 2015.
“The New England and New Hampshire outlook is strongly affected by factors beyond our control including the European debt crises,” Gittell said. Weak consumer confidence is another such factor, he said.
Gittell is also James R. Carter Professor of Management at the University of New Hampshire.
CONCORD, N.H. — When Republicans took control of the House and Senate from Democrats last year, they promised New Hampshire voters they would pass legislation resulting in more jobs.
But after 10 months in power, the results are inconclusive despite Republican leaders' use of the bully pulpit to claim they have already made good on that promise. The best early measure of success — the unemployment rate — has instead risen due partly to as many as 1,000 university, government and hospital layoffs attributable to the Republican-passed state budget. Several hundred more are taking buyouts or retiring early rather than being laid off, according to the state, university system and hospital association, which are keeping track of the budget's impact on workers.
House Republican Leader D.J. Bettencourt, who regularly emails reporters comments on a variety of subjects, was quick to claim credit when the state's jobless rate hit 4.9 percent in April, down from 5.5 percent when Republicans took control in January.
"It appears we are starting to bear the fruit of our hard work in the New Hampshire Legislature," Bettencourt said in May.
After a steady decline from a peak of 6.7 percent in January 2010, when Democrats were still in charge, the jobless rate hit a low of 4.8 percent in May, but then started rising again.
When the rate returned to 4.9 percent in June, Republican House Speaker William O'Brien called it a one-time jump while government was scaled back "to the appropriate size" through budget cuts. But the rate has continued to climb and was 5.4 percent in September.
At the request of The Associated Press, House and Senate leaders produced 55 law changes they say are evidence they created an environment conducive to businesses creating jobs.
Businesses give mixed reviews to the law changes with at least one notable exception of a broadly applied law modifying how much small business owners can claim as income before facing business taxes. The law sets $50,000 as the amount business owners can pay themselves as income without justifying it to the state if they are audited.
Most of the other laws are applied much more narrowly.
Two potentially significant changes don't take effect until 2013 and 2014 respectively. One lets businesses offset losses against future profits; the other doubles the time businesses can apply the losses.
Tim Sink, president of the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, it is premature to assess the impact. He credits the GOP with not raising taxes on business to pay for state spending in the state budget and instead making deep spending cuts.
"It sends a message that we're going to live within our means," he said.
David Juvet, senior vice president of the New Hampshire Business and Industry Association, agrees there was a heightened awareness of business concerns, but he said not all the changes were positive. He cited a $230 million budget cut affecting hospitals that has resulted in layoffs and other cost-cutting measures. Juvet expects higher private insurance rates will make up the difference.
"It affects every business in the state that chooses to provide health care to employees," he said.
Many of the new laws affect regulations for specific and sometimes small groups, such as eliminating an unenforced requirement for restaurants to shape and color the butter substitute oleomargarine to distinguish it from butter and margarine. Oleomargarine, butter and margarine are labeled according to their ingredients. Some have Democratic sponsors and many passed with bipartisan support with little opposition.
One eliminates an unenforced provision on filing fees by political candidates.
"How does that create jobs?" questioned House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli. Norelli, who was House speaker during last four years when Democrats were in charge, said many of the bills on the GOP list are so-called housekeeping measures that come up every year to clean up outdated and conflicting laws.
Dennis Delay, an economist with the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, said it is difficult to say if jobs will be added since there isn't a lot of analysis on the new laws' potential impact.
"Most are targeted to industries that are a small part of the New Hampshire economy," he said.
For example, one allows street vendors to sell miniature flags and flowers.
"That's certainly a reduction in regulation, but it doesn't affect the broad retail economy," he said.
Republicans kept their campaign promise to end a surcharge on motor vehicle registrations ranging from $30 to $75 to put more money in business owners' and consumers' pockets. But the loss of the $90 million the surcharge would have raised for highway projects over the two-year life of their budget also has drawn criticism from the construction industry.
"I think that's going to hurt the whole economy. Companies looking to relocate here look for a good transportation system," said Gary Abbott of the Associated General Contractors of New Hampshire.
On the other hand, the New Hampshire Grocers Association won a 10-cent per pack cut in the cigarette tax it said would increase sales at border convenience stores since surrounding states charge higher prices.
"It is more business-friendly than in the past," association president John Dumais said of the GOP Legislature.
Soon after New Hampshire lowered its tax manufacturers raised wholesale prices 9 cents per pack putting in doubt whether the higher revenues would be realized. Through October, state tobacco revenues lagged almost $3.5 million behind projections.
Unlike their House counterparts, Senate Republican leaders maintained a lower profile.
"We haven't tried to be flashy. We haven't tried to be partisan," said Senate Republican Leader Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro.
Bradley is given credit for shepherding into law significant changes to regulations governing construction along the state's rivers and lakes. Without the changes, shoreland construction would have come to a halt.
"If there weren't a few big homes being built on the lake, the building industry would be totally in the tank," said Bradley.
Joe Skiffington, owner of Skiffington Homes in Center Harbor, said the law not only allowed him to hold onto his existing workers, but allowed him to add four people. He started work on two houses because of the change and hoped to start more.
Skiffington credits Bradley, but also the state, the home builders association and Democrats who worked on the bill.
"I wouldn't give credit to either side. I'd give credit to both," he said.
Trying to define ‘New Hampshire Advantage’ is elusive
By ASHLEY SMITH
In the mid-1990s, a British company called Shel-tec was looking for a home in the United States.
Company officials were leaning toward Maryland until they came across a New Hampshire booth at a trade show touting all the open land and airport access at Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth.
When Shel-tec executives traveled to Pease to learn more about the site, said Fred Kocher, president of the New Hampshire High Technology Council, they were surprised to find themselves across the table from the governor, the president of the University of New Hampshire and the chairman of the Pease Development Authority.
“They were all in the same room and said, What do you need?” Kocher said. “The company was blown away.”
Kocher said that kind of access to government officials and resources is the “New Hampshire Advantage.” It’s the reason Shel-tec, now known as Lonza Biologics, decided to locate in New Hampshire, eventually becoming one of Seacoast’s largest employers.
Not everyone would agree with Kocher’s definition, though.
The “New Hampshire Advantage” is a term that’s thrown around a lot in this state, particularly during public policy debates. But it isn’t easy to define. It seems there’s no real agreement on what it means.
Some folks say it relates to the state’s business climate; others to the lack of a sales or income tax. One person might argue the “New Hampshire Advantage” is related to the quality of life, while another might say it has more to do with the structure of our government.
Some say it’s what we are; others what we aren’t.
Dennis Delay, an economist with the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, said the common public perception is that the New Hampshire advantage refers to our low tax burden and high quality of life.
While that’s true to an extent, Delay said, he believes the state’s best advantage is the large citizen Legislature.
“In order to get things done and change things, you have to convince 425 people,” Delay said. “We spend a lot of time thinking about things before we do them.”
Peter Francese, a well-known state demographer, has a different idea.
“The ‘New Hampshire Advantage’ is the fact that we have an extremely highly educated workforce,” he said. “The workforce in New Hampshire, if not the most productive, is one of the most productive in the country.”
The term “New Hampshire Advantage” was coined in the mid-1990s by then-Gov. Steve Merrill. Current Gov. John Lynch likes to use it to promote the state as a great place to live, work and do business.
A nonprofit advocacy group has been created around the term. The New Hampshire Advantage Coalition urges elected officials to keep taxes low by keeping spending low.
The group is based on the idea that New Hampshire’s low tax burden creates an advantage over other states.
The term is often used in state politics to argue one side or another in public policy debates. When a controversial bill surfaces – no matter what it’s about – expect to hear opponents saying it “threatens the ‘New Hampshire Advantage.’ ”
Charlie Arlinghaus, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, believes the term refers to the economic and financial advantages of locating a business in New Hampshire.
The advantage began in the early 1970s when then-Gov. Walter Peterson initiated a change in the state’s tax structure, Arlinghaus said.
“At the time, there was a disadvantage to being in New Hampshire because if you were in a capital-intensive business, this wasn’t a good place to be,” Arlinghaus said.
With the restructuring, New Hampshire shifted its focus to taxing successful businesses, not start-ups struggling to survive. The state abolished 13 capital taxes and introduced the simpler profits-based tax structure that’s still in place.
Tom Daly, president of Manchester-based Dynamic Network Services and chairman of the New Hampshire High Tech Council, also mentions the state’s business-friendly tax climate in describing the “New Hampshire Advantage.”
But he said the state’s location and geographic amenities play a role, too.
“We’re an hour from Boston, an hour from the seacoast, an hour from hiking, an hour from Vermont,” Daly said. “It’s certainly not any one thing.”
Most people, despite how they define the term, agree that it’s open to interpretation.
“Different people use it differently,” Arlinghaus said.
Pop quiz. Whose population has grown more in the last 10 years? Canterbury's or Loudon's? Which town has a higher percentage of college graduates, Concord or Henniker? And whose poverty rate is lower: Bow's or Sanborton's?
And for extra credit: Are there more native-born Granite Staters or transplants?
You can find the answers (tie, Henniker, Sanbornton, transplants) and more from new interactive maps created from census data by the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies. The Concord-based non-profit is using its website, nhpolicy.org, to deliver analyzed census data a couple of ways this year.
There is a traditional 120-page report that drills down on most everything from property taxes to charitable giving to annual hospital admissions per region. And new this year is a series of maps that lets user click on their towns and see how they compare to their neighbors.
Choose Concord, and you'll see the city has a higher percentage of college graduates than the state average, but a median household income that's lower. The median age is just under the state average, too: 38.7 versus the state's 41.1. Next door in Canterbury, the percentage of college graduates is higher and so are the paychecks. And if you thought Bow had it good, you're right: more than half the population has a college degree or higher and the median household income is $97,000.
Dennis Delay, an economist with the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, hopes people will use the information a few ways. The maps make it fun and easy to learn something quickly about your town. The report, he hopes, will give local and state leaders, policy makers and budget writers something more reliable than anecdotes and speculation to work with.
"Our mission as an organization is about providing better data to people so they can make more informed choices," Delay said. To that end, he has taken the report and the maps on the road for presentations to local leaders and hopes to get his usual calls from town officials as they write budgets for town meeting season.
Delay thinks the state's reliance on property taxes for revenue will be a particularly hot topic this year. With the real estate market crashing, property values have declined and will likely continue in that direction, Delay said. That will force cities and towns to cut budgets drastically or increase the property tax rate significantly - or both - to hold even, Delay said. Delay said his organization does not advocate for or against the property tax, but rather looks at what it means for different parts of the state.
Concord has more tax-exempt property (17.4 percent) than any place in the state except for Durham, where there is the university and nonprofits, Delay said. So residents here have a higher property tax burden. On the other hand, the property tax is working better for towns in the White Mountains or Lakes Region, where many out-of-staters own second homes. Those towns are essentially exporting their tax burden out of the state, he said.
"We are entering period now where people are going to look at the property tax really closely," Delay said.
That 120-page report looks at other demographic data as closely.
Concord has about as many Democrats as Republicans, with about 30 percent each. The remaining 40 percent of registered voters are undeclared.
Violent crime and property crime in Concord are higher than the state average, but Concord spends less per person on police and fire services than the state average. (It's $320 a person in Concord and $331 statewide.)
Similarly, Concord spends less per person on health and welfare than the state average ($22 versus $25) and has more hospital admissions per 1,000 people than the state average (113 versus 101.)
The greater Concord area does better than the state average when it comes to charitable giving ($2,853 per taxpayer versus $2,711) but it can't hold a candle to the Dartmouth and Lake Sunapee region, which gives $5,618 per taxpayer.
Put together and analyzed, this kind information helps local and state leaders see where tax dollars come from and where they can be best spent. For example, the data shows a correlation between higher education, better wages, and more investment in local communities, Delay said.
And it shows the other side. Franklin, Belmont and Pittsfield have among the lowest percentage of college graduates in the greater Concord area. They've also got the lowest median household income and the highest poverty rates.
At last count, 38,810 New Hampshire residents were listed as unemployed in August. That is 4,630 fewer people than a year earlier but still 10,590 more than in August 2008, just before the nation’s economy dipped sharply.
By MICHAEL COUSINEAU
New Hampshire Sunday News
CONCORD - Martha Bouley, caught up in mass state-employee layoffs in June, has fallen behind on her mortgage and carries a tote bag of resumes, ready to talk to anybody with a job lead.
Robert Dion, looking for a way to pay his mortgage at age 68, can’t find a job offering more than $12 an hour.
And Donald Robichaud, whose household income already had taken a hit, searched for work without his 14-year-old, rusting car because it flunked state inspection.
“My nose is just above water,” Robichaud said while puffing on a cigarette outside the state Department of Employment Security office on Thursday.
These are the voices of the jobless.
By last count, 38,810 New Hampshire residents were listed as unemployed in August. That is 4,630 fewer people than a year earlier but still 10,590 more than in August 2008, just before the nation’s economy dipped sharply.
Concord economist Dennis Delay cited state figures showing 12,000 more non-farm jobs in the state in August compared with the same time last year.
“When the economy’s really humming, you might see twice as much,” said Delay, who works at the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies.
On Friday, the federal government announced the U.S. jobless rate for September remained unchanged from August’s 9.1 percent rate. New Hampshire’s unemployment rate measured 5.3 percent in August. The state’s September rate will be released Oct. 18.
Amy Innarelli, a staffing specialist at Monroe Staffing in Manchester, hosted an open house at the Concord unemployment office looking to fill 20 to 25 jobs.
“The economy has picked up,” she said. “Staffing agencies ... are busier these days.”
But that hasn’t helped Bouley, who was laid off from her data entry job at the state Division of Motor Vehicles.
“So many people are looking,” she said. “Just so many people out with the economy.”
The Pembroke resident has applied to at least 30 to 40 companies and landed eight interviews but no job offers.
“I have no (health) insurance,” she said. “I can’t afford it.”
She’s grateful the state had hired her back for 17 hours a week, but “it’s not going to cover the bills.”
People laid off this year are eligible for fewer weeks of unemployment compensation than in past years.
During parts of 2009 and 2010, people could collect up to 86 weeks of unemployment. That was scaled back as the state’s unemployment rate dropped, according to Anita Josten, research analyst at the state’s Economic and Labor Market Information Bureau. Today, people can collect up to 60 weeks.
Dion, who lost his full-time job a month ago at the Brinks armored car company, said he’s seeing job openings, but the pay is much lower than his previous pay.
“Because there’s a lot of unemployed people ... they can hire ’em” for lower pay, the North Sutton resident said.
Robichaud said he can’t afford to work for $10 an hour, either. He’s waiting for his first job interview since losing his job at an electronics firm in Manchester on March 31.
“It’s mentally stressful every day,” said the Northwood resident. “Every day, what’s going to happen to me today?”
He cautioned workers frustrated at their current jobs and thinking about looking elsewhere.
“They better think twice before complaining about the job they have,” Robichaud said. “They should cope with it, deal with it. If they take that chance, they’re putting themselves at a bad risk.”
Monica, a Concord nurse with 35 years’ experience who gave only her first name, has been without work for more than a year. She’s had two interviews but no job offers.
“The more experience you have, the worse off you are,” she said. “They want to hire some idiot at the lowest possible rate to do your job.”
She took in a roommate to help with the mortgage payments. “We’ve already sold everything of value,” she said.
Monica wondered how badly her layoff has hurt her excellent credit score. “I can’t even be brave enough to look it up,” she said.
New Hampshire’s Unease Even With Low Jobless Rate Fuels Debate
By John McCormick
Most states would look enviously at a 5.3 percent unemployment rate. By New Hampshire’s standards, times are still tough.
“Everybody is nervous,” said Charlie Arlinghaus, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, a free-market research group based in Concord.“Everybody is not sure if things are getting better or getting worse, and they feel like we need to do better than we are doing now.”
That such anxiety permeates even a state where the jobless rate is less than half that of other battlegrounds like Nevada, South Carolina and Florida underscores how thoroughly the economy is eclipsing other issues in the presidential campaign.
So far, that’s helped former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who has made New Hampshire the cornerstone of his bid for the Republican nomination and dominates polls in the state, the site of the party’s first primary.
Concern about the economy will be raised at a debate tomorrow sponsored by Bloomberg News and the Washington Post at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. The debate, featuring Romney and seven other Republican presidential candidates, will be the first of the 2012 campaign to focus solely on the economy. The session will be broadcast on Bloomberg Television, Bloomberg Radio, WBIN-TV in New Hampshire and on Bloomberg.com and WashingtonPost.com.
New Hampshire’s August unemployment rate of 5.3 percent was almost 4 points below the national average of 9.1 percent. Only North Dakota, Nebraska and South Dakota had lower rates.
Among the five states now scheduled to start the Republican nominating season, New Hampshire has the lowest jobless rate. Iowa, where the caucuses will begin the process in December or early January, had the eighth-lowest rate in the nation for August, at 6.1 percent.
Republicans are more likely to confront greater economic anxiety in South Carolina, Nevada and Florida, where the August rates were 11.1 percent, 13.4 percent and 10.7 percent.
“We have done fairly well weathering the recession,” said Adrienne Rupp, vice president of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire. “We are hearing from businesses that they are seeing more activity and thinking about starting to hire employees.”
Still, New Hampshire’s unemployment rate has ticked up in recent months, from 4.8 percent in May. Before mid-2008, the state’s rate was typically around 3.5 percent.
And it lost about 16,000 jobs to China from 2001 through 2008, proportionally more than any other state, according to a study by the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute.
“We didn’t get hit as hard,” said Dennis Delay, an economist at the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, a nonpartisan research group based in Concord. “But relative to New Hampshire’s historical rate of unemployment, it’s still higher than we are used to seeing.”
It’s too high for Steve Millett’s liking.
“It’s not looking very good right now,” said Millett, 41, a telephone company lineman from the town of Jefferson who was shopping over the weekend at the Mall of New Hampshire. “People are pinching pennies and business is slower.”
Arlinghaus of the Bartlett Center said New Hampshire voters may be less volatile than those in more economically troubled states.
“There is possibly less anger here than there is in some places, but I think some of that has to do with the Tea Party movement not being a new thing here,” he said. “The notion of government reform and economic issues has always been strong here, so it doesn’t seem as different from previous years. These issues have been at the forefront in New Hampshire for decades.”
Monique Lindquist, 39, a hospital human resources worker who lives in Goffstown, said she frequently sees the damage unemployment has done to job applicants.
“I see other people who have been looking for work a long time,” she said.
New Hampshire’s population, now 1.3 million, grew 6.5 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to census data. That was less than the national gain of 9.7 percent. Yet Delay, the economist, said the state benefits from tens of thousands of commuters who live in New Hampshire and travel to jobs in the Boston area.
There are only about 30 publicly traded companies domiciled in the state, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. They had a combined market value of $7.3 billion at the end of trading Oct. 7, less than that of Hormel Foods Corp. (HRL) of Minnesota.
Delay said smaller companies are attracted to the state’s educated workers and relatively low costs, which he said includes one of the lowest tax burdens in the nation. New Hampshire’s state and local tax burden is about 8 percent of income, ranking it 44th in the U.S., according to the Washington-based Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan research group.
“The manufacturers that we still have here have adapted,” he said. “We don’t have large physical plants and large companies that are located here.”
The state’s companies, such as Lisbon-based New England Wire Technologies, tend to make components that go into things, rather than final products, Delay said.
“It makes you a little lighter on your feet,” he said of the state’s diversified economy, which also includes business services, education and tourism.
Many of those who work in that low-tax, diversified economy have shown an affinity for Romney, from neighboring Massachusetts. His backers say Romney’s business experience, which includes working as the head of the private-equity firm Bain Capital LLC, gives him a boost.
“They know Romney,” said Tom Rath, a former New Hampshire attorney general and a supporter. “They like his background and feel he is credible.”
A Granite State Poll, sponsored by WMUR-TV and conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, that was released Oct. 7 showed Romney leading among the state’s Republicans, with support from 37 percent; businessman Herman Cain came in second with 12 percent. The poll, conducted Sept. 26 through Oct. 6, had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.3 percentage points.
Rath said New Hampshire’s unemployment rate “looks better than it feels,” adding that there are many “underemployed” workers in the state.
“What you have here is a high degree of angst,” he said. “There is a great concern here that this president, for whatever reason, has not been able to direct this economy in a positive direction.”
‘Kind of Stalled’
President Barack Obama won New Hampshire and its four electoral votes in 2008, although his popularity has fallen since then.
Two-thirds of New Hampshire adults disapprove of Obama’s job performance on the economy, according to a Sept. 25-29 poll by American Research Group Inc., of Manchester. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
David Fink, 47, a welder who lives in Manchester, said the depressed housing market has kept him from refinancing his home because he doesn’t have enough equity and it isn’t worth as much as it used to be.
“It seems kind of stalled,” he said of the housing market. “It keeps me from doing the things I would like to do.”
The social and economic implications of an aging population are profound. In a rapidly aging state like New Hampshire, where lawmakers continually squeeze hospitals, nursing homes and Medicaid payments, the implications could be profoundly depressing. Unless public officials start thinking now about how to provide and pay for health care and other public services, the needs of elderly residents threaten to overwhelm the state.
If that sounds alarmist, consider the demographic facts presented by the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies in a new report that warns of a “silver tsunami.” The number of New Hampshire residents over age 65 is expected to almost double over the next 20 years, to nearly half a million people. By 2030, they will represent a third of the state's total population. In Grafton County, 33 percent of residents will be over 65, according to projections; in Sullivan County, 36 percent will be.
New Hampshire isn't alone. Vermont's older adult population is also growing at a rapid pace. The trend, common throughout New England, is a consequence of sluggish population growth, declining birth rates and, of course, the aging of the now-inaptly-named baby boomers, the oldest of whom have turned 65. In less than 10 years, the number of people entering the labor pool across New England will be smaller than the number retiring.
Vermont, at least, appears to be thinking about the demographic shift. For example, some years ago it instituted a program aimed at lowering the cost of chronic diseases, which afflict the elderly in particular. Is New Hampshire making any preparations?
Among other things, the increasing elderly population will have a major impact on Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor and disabled, which represents a sizeable share of the budget. Today, the majority of Medicaid payments, split between the state and federal government, help those under age 65; by 2030, however, more than half of all state Medicaid spending will go toward poor and disabled residents over 65 -- people who have more, and more expensive, medical needs. Expenditures associated with long-term care, a costly service, will increase dramatically. That's bad news not only for the state but also for the counties, which bear the brunt of nursing home expenses.
New Hampshire's Medicaid program is already under stress: State reimbursement rates are among the lowest in the country, and the Legislature routinely picks away at the program. The Center for Public Policy Studies poses the critical question: What will happen to Medicaid as New Hampshire's population ages?
If the management of Medicaid presents one challenge, the increased use of Medicare, the federal insurance program for the elderly, presents another. As more people come to rely on Medicare, hospitals stand to lose money, because Medicare reimbursements, like Medicaid reimbursements, are lower than private insurance payments. Hospitals such as Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center will either have to lower their costs or shift more expenses to private insurers or both. In other words, expect premiums to keep rising as the population ages, warns the Center for Public Policy Studies. You can also expect a shortage of physicians and caregivers, unless changes are made to medical education and recruitment.
Just how the federal Affordable Care Act plays into all this isn't clear. But lawmakers and taxpayers had better plan for the silver tsunami, which will wash over almost every aspect of state government, including corrections. If the social contract is to be honored, as it must, the demographic changes won't be cheap. And everyone may have to face the fact that more of society's resources will be expended on the elderly than invested in the young. That’s a worrisome trend indeed.
New Hampshire, along with the rest of the country, will face a tough economy with limited job opportunities for years, according to Dennis Delay, one of the state’s leading economists.
“At this point, the economy’s on pretty thin ice,” Delay said. “It has stalled out, for all intents and purposes. You can see that in the job statistics; we haven’t added a lot of jobs in the past few months, nationally or locally.”
LACONIA — The latest statistical profile of the state drawn by the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies highlights differences among regions, placing the Lakes Region alongside the Great North Woods and White Mountains as the more aged and less affluent regions of the state.
The report divides the state into nine regions from north to south — the Great North Woods, White Mountains, Lakes Region, Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee, Monadnock, Seacoast, Greater Concord, Greater Manchester and Greater Nashua.
The Lakes Region consists of the 11 municipalities of Belknap County and 22 others in Grafton and Carroll counties. Between 2000 and 2010 the population grew from 123,288 to 132,169, or by 7.2-percent, more than the pace of 6.5-percent set by the state.
While the population of the entire state is aging, the Lakes Region is aging at a relatively faster pace. The number of those younger than 18 shrank 8.7-percent, from 29,214 to 26,662, the third highest percentage decrease among the nine regions, to represent a fifth of the regional population, nearly even with regions to the north and less than regions to the south.
The average age of the population reached 45.6 years, about a year above the median age for the state and the number aged 65 and older amounts to 16.6-percent of the population, a share exceeded only by the two northernmost regions — the Great North Woods and White Mountains.
Weekly wages of $681.47 and adjusted gross income (per taxpayer) of $52,897 in the Lakes Region are 20-percent and 11-percent below the state average respectively and above those only of the two northern regions. Likewise, the 10-percent poverty rate is the third highest among the regions, exceeded only by the two regions to the north. And, only the Great North Woods and White Mountains, have a smaller portion of college graduates than the 26-percent of the Lakes Region's population.
Despite the similarities with its northern neighbors, the Lakes Region differs in one significant respect by have the fourth highest property values, measured by dollars per acre, among the nine regions. But, the gap between the $28,886 per acre in the Lakes Region and the $82,219 in the Seacoast, which ranks behind Manchester and Nashua, merely highlights the disparity between the southern and northern parts of the state. The relatively high property values reflect the number of seasonal properties, which represent 29-percent of the of the housing inventory in the Lakes Region.
Report warns of care costs with older NH population
By DAVID BROOKS Staff Writer
An army of aging baby boomers coupled with New Hampshire’s recent inability to attract young people is creating a “silver tsunami” that will send the state’s portion of health-care costs through the roof within a decade or so, a new report warns.
“We are in our economic prime right now. Now is the time to be thinking about this, not when we’re in it,” said Steve Norton, executive director of the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies and author of the report titled “Silver Tsunami: Aging and the Health-Care System.”
“Our goal is to accelerate the rate at which people are having these conversations,” he said at a Wednesday morning press conference. “If we do not start grappling with the question of long-term care management, and a complex set of political and financial relations that exist now, we are going to be in a very difficult situation 10 years from now.”
By coincidence, the report was released the day after the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that private health-insurance rates around the country went up 9 percent in one year. A shift of more people onto Medicare, the federal health insurance for the elderly, could accelerate this problem because it would reduce the number of private customers who can absorb costs.
A shift to Medicare will also be a financial problem for most New Hampshire hospitals, including the two in Nashua, because Medicare pays less that the actual cost for most treatments. Hospitals cover part of that loss through charges to private insurance.
“Silver Tsunami” says the graying of New Hampshire’s population – a trend that has been going on for two decades and seems unlikely to change soon – will place a variety of strains on the state budget. For example, it noted that the number of elderly inmates in prisons and jails “will more than double” in 20 years.
“It’s possible that the increase ... will require the construction of a ‘nursing home behind walls.’ How should that factor into larger conversations about correction reform in New Hampshire?” it asks.
It also points to another issue: New Hampshire’s health-care workers reflect the general population, meaning they are also relatively old and facing retirement, leading to questions about how to staff the increased health-care needs of the elderly.
The biggest cost increase from an older population will involve health care, since state governments must pay a portion of Medicare costs.
Norton had no specific recommendations to battle the problem, aside from a few items such as research-and-development tax credit for businesses to create jobs, and support for public education because good schools attract younger families. At the press conference, he said demographic pressure almost certainly means that new methods must be invented to deliver the same level of health care for less money.
The report’s forecast appears least alarming for Hillsborough County, because the home of Nashua and Manchester is expected to do better than most of the state in attracting or keeping young, working adults.
Even here, however, the percentage of population older than 65 is expected to almost double in the next two decades, from 12 percent to 21 percent. Age 65 is when people are eligible to switch from private health insurance to Medicare, which uses up state and federal funds.
The percentages will be much starker elsewhere. Notably Carroll County, which includes the town of Conway and retirement communities in the Mount Washington Valley, will have almost 49 percent of its population age 65 or higher. In the North Country, at least a third of the population will be eligible for Medicare, the federal health-care insurance.
Because Hillsborough County has more than a third of New Hampshire’s total population, however, even smaller percentages of elderly here translate into lots of people.
“In percentage terms, it’s not so bad for Hillsborough County, but in just sheer numbers, that is where most of the aging people are going to live,” he said.
Long-term care is an unusual cost for New Hampshire because it is handled by counties, rather than the state or municipal governments, through the county nursing home and other factors.
The demographic trends shaping New Hampshire’s future include our relative lack of children – New Hampshire has one of the highest percentages of white people in the country and one of the highest average incomes, white American families and well-off families tend to have relatively few children – and our relatively high percentage of baby boomers, those in the 45 to 65 age bracket who will be retiring soon.
Baby boomers tend to be relatively well off and are more likely to have private health insurance through long-established connections with employers.
Norton said the issue needed to be faced because New Hampshire’s status could shift, just as it did starting in the 1980s.
“New Hampshire was a benefactor of ‘the Massachusetts Miracle,’ the technology boom. We went from being well below the national median for income to being well above it. It could go the other way if we don’t have the things that have made us an economically fertile place,” he said.
For information: Steve Norton, executive director, 226-2500, email@example.com. Link to PDF version of report available above.
Coming in 2020: New Hampshire’s “Silver Tsunami”
CONCORD, N,H, September 28, 2011 -- Some forces of social and economic change, such as recessions, are readily apparent once they happen, but are hard to predict. Others are more subtle and harder to detect. An aging population, an example of the latter, is a slow-moving but profound engine of change that will reshape New Hampshire over the coming decade.
By the year 2020, New Hampshire’s shift towards an increasingly older population will reach a peak. And by 2030, nearly half a million Granite Staters will be over the age of 65, representing almost one-third of the population. This trend will influence nearly every critical policy debate, perhaps none more so than health care. Released today, the Center’s latest report, “New Hampshire’s Silver Tsunami,” analyzes the potential impacts of this demographic shift on the state’s health care systems.
According to the report’s findings, the move towards an older population in New Hampshire will:
reshape the state’s private insurance market
force a reassessment of the public long-term-care system
put increased pressure on the state’s health care providers
exacerbate existing problems in recruiting and retaining a health care workforce.
Though many of the potential impacts of this shift are missing from the current public policy conversation, there is still time for policymakers to address them. But, as the Center’s report finds, doing so will require a coordinated effort from elected officials, health care leaders, and others.
At the heart of this analysis is a projection of health care spending by the major payers (Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance) that can be attributed solely to the aging of the state population.
We also explore how an aging population may impact the state’s workforce and the state budget. An aging population will likely place new financial pressures on Medicaid, a shift that will have a big impact on future state finances.
However, many other areas of state government will be affected by New Hampshire’s aging population and its impact on health care, including the Department of Corrections and the Department of Administrative Services. Among the impacts of this change on the state’s health care system:
Medicaid’s financial focus will shift. Currently, Medicaid allocates 25 percent of its total medical spending to those over 65. Assuming no significant changes to the services provided to that population, that percentage will increase to more than 50 percent by 2030. As the population ages, the share of Medicaid expenses associated with long-term-care will increase very quickly.
Aging will affect New Hampshire’s regions in very different ways. Demographic trends across the state vary considerably. Therefore, the impact of aging on the health care system needs to be understood differently from region to region. Current population projections indicate that the share Coos County’s over-65 population, for example, will grow by 38 percent by 2030. This shift towards an older population would seem to strain the region’s health care system. However, it may actually stabilize the financing of the system. As Coos County’s population ages, an increasing share of residents will be eligible for Medicare, which provides cost-based reimbursement to Androscoggin Valley Hospital, a critical-access hospital. In contrast, Carroll County, in which much of the aging of the population is driven by retirees migrating to the region, will likely experience a different effect.
Aging will play an increasing role in state budget policy.The aging of the population will have a profound impact on many areas of the state budget, including the purchase of health insurance for state employees and retirees, as well as for the state’s prison population. One example: In less than 20 years, the number of elderly inmates will more than double. The state, and its taxpayers, will be responsible for paying for their health needs. It’s possible the increase in this segment of the prison population will require the construction of a “nursing home behind walls.” How should that factor into larger conversations about corrections reform?
Do not forget the aging workforce. New Hampshire physicians are already significantly older than the nationwide physician population. And as the share of the population that is not working increases, it will raise concerns about who will take care of this aged population. What role should this trend play in New Hampshire’s long-range economic development plans?
Free copies of the report are available from the Center's website www.nhpolicy.org.
Studies warn of revenue loss without expanded gambling
New Hampshire would see revenues head south if it does not follow Massachusetts into the world of expanded gambling, according to two reports aired Tuesday.
By TOM FAHEY
State House Bureau Chief
CONCORD — New Hampshire would see revenues head south if it does not follow Massachusetts into the world of expanded gambling, according to two reports aired Tuesday.
A House Ways and Means subcommittee working on a gambling bill to allow two casinos with 5,000 slot machines each heard the reports that say the state will lose money if it resists the lure of slot machines and commercial casinos.
Slot machine payoffs are now illegal, and other casino-style gaming is limited to charitable organizations, most of which are handled by professional game operators.
Lottery Commission executive director Charles McIntyre said state revenues would suffer what he called “a material loss” if New Hampshire did not respond to a Massachusetts legalization of slots.
“It would have a significant impact on our (Lottery) revenues, and an even more significant impact on charitable game revenues.” McIntyre said. The Massachusetts Lottery, where McIntyre used to work, will suffer more than 10 percent loss, close to $100 million, if three casinos open there, he said.
One recent Lottery survey found that people who gamble at bingo are far more likely to head to casinos, mostly in Connecticut.
The New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies said that if Massachusetts follows through with plans to open three resort casinos and New Hampshire does not, it would cost the Granite State roughly $73 million in direct gambling, spending and social costs.
If New Hampshire allows even one major casino in response to Massachusetts, the net gain here would be about $48 million, Center executive director Steve Norton said, based on estimates that the state would see $114 million in revenue.
That figure does not include licensing and other fees. The proposal now on the table would collect a $50 million fee from each of two companies that are granted licenses.
Norton noted that gambling of all kinds has declined during the recession, both in state lotteries and in the casino industry.
Millennium Gaming, which has the option to develop a casino at Rockingham Park in Salem, estimates the state would take in $140 million if it were in competition with Massachusetts.
None of the gains or losses discussed would occur overnight. Construction of any casino would take at least 18 months, and the expense of social costs such as divorce, bankruptcy, domestic violence, alcoholism and crime, would take months to develop after a casino opened, Norton said.
A relatively small portion, less than 2 percent, of the population is likely to become problem gamblers, suffering addiction and other social ills. The state would see as many as 3,000 pathological gamblers as a result of expanded gaming, Norton said.
Lottery and the Center disagree on what portion of New Hampshire residents already gamble at existing casinos. Norton said roughly 20 percent of state residents go once a year while the Lottery survey puts the figure at 45 percent of the general population, and 53 percent of Lottery customers.
Health care spending in NH has outpaced growth in the economy for decades and is projected to continue doing so into the future. This has caused no small amount of consternation for legislators trying to balance state budgets and business owners trying to manage their bottom lines. Prices and utilization are two obvious drivers of health care cost growth. Put simply, health care is getting more expensive, and people�especially older people�are receiving more care, more often.
The aging of the Granite State will play a major role in shaping health care spending well into the future. In a recent project supported by the Endowment For Health, the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies explored that trend and made the following findings:
NH is Aging�Slowly
If the general trends in migration and births and deaths during the past 10 years continue at a similar pace, NH is projected to face a �silver tsunami��meaning a higher median age and more residents over age 65.
The good news is that the rate of aging will not peak until 2020, giving policymakers, businesses and health care providers the time to prepare for what is coming. That said, aging patterns won�t be uniform. Northern communities will age more quickly than southern ones, and some areas will feel the pressure to adapt to an older demographic sooner than others.
Health Care Usage Will Rise
While obvious, it is worth stating that as a person ages, he or she tends to have more and different health care needs. Within the commercial market, those between the ages of 45 and 64 use more than three times the health care resources than those through age 18. Within the Medicaid market, individuals over the age of 85 use 10 times as much health care as children under 5. In both cases, these greater expenditures are a result of the volume and type of services being consumed.
Rising Private Insurance Premiums
Health care premiums have been growing quickly in NH, and an aging population will speed that growth for two reasons. First, older individuals in the commercial market need more health care and the services they need cost more. As the share of the population in the 45-to-64-year-old age bracket increases in the commercial market, actuarial risk will increase and premiums could potentially increase. Second, as the market share of Medicare users increases, hospitals and other providers will continue to shift the financial losses associated with Medicare to the private market�likely resulting in higher premiums.
Aging to Impact State Budget
The state acts as a purchaser of health care in several ways. The state buys insurance for its employees, provides health care for its prisoners, and covers insurance costs for its retired state workers. As those within these programs age, and demand for services increases, those programs will become more expensive. One example: the state�s corrections systems counted 105 prisoners over the age of 65 last year. It�s estimated that number will be 269 by 2030.
More Health, Less Health Care
How should legislators and others think about the future of health policy in NH? First, keep people healthy. The healthier the population, the less it costs to care for it. Public health activities tend to focus on the young and the old. But we need to ask how we can better the health of those in the middle.
Second, educate the community�including nonprofit hospital boards�about the state�s aging dynamic and the long-term incentives that are created by the graying population. Finally, find ways of encouraging health systems to provide fewer services or provide existing services cheaper. On this point, there is no easy answer. Regulatory approaches to encouraging lower aggregate health care costs have not been successful for both political and policy reasons.
More health care is not necessarily better health care. Research has found that for patients with chronic illnesses, more aggressive interventions actually shorten life expectancy, probably because of the risks associated with hospitalization. A recent study reported that almost three-quarters of Americans say they have declined interventions that were recommended by their physicians because they thought that it was unnecessary or the benefits did not outweigh the risks.
Making patients aware of the trade-offs associated with treatment choices is one way of reducing demand. Paying physicians to spend more time advising patients about treatment alternatives without penalizing them for doing less is another important strategy for reducing utilization. n
Steve Norton is executive director of the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, an independent, nonprofit, non-partisan organization that pursues data-driven research on public policy. Its work includes research on the state budget, public school funding and health care finance. Norton may be reached at snorton at nhpolicy.org.
Housing summit: Market stabilized, but lacks buyers
New Hampshire's housing market has stabilized at about where it was a decade ago, but factors such as the state's aging population are putting a damper on a resurgence, experts told a Housing Summit Tuesday.
By DENIS PAISTE
New Hampshire Union Leader
MANCHESTER — New Hampshire’s housing market has stabilized about where it was a decade ago, but factors such as the state’s aging population are putting a damper on a resurgence, experts told a housing summit on Tuesday.
“We are pretty much back to the inflation-adjusted year 2000 price for housing in the year 2011,” said Dennis Delay, an economist for New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies.
Factors holding back a recovery in the housing market locally include a lack of young families with children, demographer Peter Francese said.
“Only one out of five households in the state is a married couple with children,” Francese he said.
“They’re the backbone of our school systems, and when four out of five households do not have any kids in the schools that becomes an issue in school bond issues, school budgets and so forth. We need more families with children, and I hope we get them,” Francese said.
The summit, co-hosted by the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire and the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority, was held at the Radisson, Center of New Hampshire in Manchester.
Kendall Buck, executive vice president of the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of New Hampshire, said that at the end of July, New Hampshire housing permits were being issued at the same level as in 2007.
“We are quite a bit less than last year, but one must remember that last year there was a bump because of the new homebuyer tax credit,” he said.
“There are many, many fewer young adult households, 35 to 44 and under the age of 45 than there are 45 to 54 and beyond,” Francese said, “and that decline is driven by the fact that those young adults simply left the state.”
Delay disagreed that all of the disparity in younger households was caused by people leaving the state. “The rate of migration from Massachusetts into New Hampshire declined quite a bit,” he said.
“On net, we actually lost migrants. ... Part of it is that people in Massachusetts had even higher prices than we did, and essentially can’t sell their home, so they can’t migrate to where there is economic opportunity.”
Dean Christon, executive director of New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority, said 50 or 60 communities have adopted workforce housing or inclusionary zoning ordinances.
“All the dynamics of the housing business ... create a challenge,” Christon said. “Unless you believe that the economy in general is going to stay the way it is forever, which would be really unfortunate, unless you believe that we’re not going to see job growth or population growth in the future and therefore not see more demand for housing, we need to have an infrastructure of rules and policies in place that will allow (builders) to respond to market demand appropriately when it comes forward.”
Rosemary M. Heard, president of CATCH Neighborhood Housing in Concord, said the organization has proposed workforce housing in Bow, and sees a need for rental housing.
The Bow Highlands project, with 20 two-bedroom apartments, was completed last year. There are about 12 children.
“I think the need for rental housing is growing,” she said. Citing a National Low Income Housing Coalition study, Heard said a person has to earn $19.76 an hour full time to be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent of $1,028 a month.
“We’re hovering right at the 100 percent occupancy level,” Heard said. The price of gasoline is also driving people to closer to where they work, putting more pressure on affordable housing, she said.
Data show sluggish Hillsborough County economic growth
NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW
There’s no reason to panic or move to the Seacoast over data that shows widely differing economic growth in several of New Hampshire’s southern counties, says one New Hampshire economist.
According to 2010 data of gross metropolitan product for 366 metropolitan regions across the country, the Manchester-Nashua region -- or, in other words, Hillsborough County -- the GMP shrank by a half-percent from 2009 to 2010.
The data, compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, shows the area's GMP fell from $21 billion to $20.9 billion. While that was still the 96th largest output in the nation, the negative year-over-year growth landed the region a sluggish ranking of 324 out of the 366 regions included in the report.
But the Greater Boston region -- which statistically encompasses Strafford and Rockingham counties in New Hampshire -- experienced one of the strongest growths in the nation over the same period. Its GMP grew by 4.8 percent over, from $297.2 billion in 2009 to $313.7 billion in 2010.
In fact, that region grew faster than any of the 10 largest metro areas in the nation.
But even though more than five percentage points separate the figures, it’s not likely a case of Rockingham and Strafford counties outperforming Hillsborough County, said Dennis Delay, economist at the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies.
"Strafford and Rockingham would be a very small part of that total Boston area," said Delay. "Clearly, Boston carries the area."
Boston in particular has been helped by the recovery of the financial sector, which Delay said has been recovering more quickly than many other industries.
"When you consider how hard the financial sector was hit in 2007 through 2009, if it came back even a little bit, that would explain why Boston did better than Hillsborough County did," he said.
Delay also warned against looking at the regional growth from just one year to the next.
"At least in this time period and according to this data, from 2009-2010, Boston did a little bit better than southern New Hampshire did," he said. "But I’d want to look at it over a longer time period -- like five years -- because over five years it might be a different story."
In each year since 2007, GMP has remained much more steady in Hillsborough County than Greater Boston, which went on more of a roller coaster ride.
Hillsborough’s GMP was $20.2 billion in 2007, $21 billion in 2008 and 2009, and $20.9 billion in 2010. Greater Boston saw more of a flux, from $290.9 billion in 2007, $300.7 billion in 2008, $297.2 billion in 2009 and $313.7 billion in 2010.
"There was more of a recovery in Boston, but they had more to recover," said Delay.
The negative growth figures for Hillsborough County also may have been adversely affected by federal state-by-state data released several months ago that was likely in error, said Delay.
If the data for state GDP were incorrect -- which Delay believes it was -- then it could have adversely affected the regional GMP figures as well, making Hillsborough’s economic climate seem worse than it is, so it’s best to wait for the revised figures to come out to draw conclusions, he said.
"I think it’s way too early to push any kind of panic button – there has been employment data that suggests that Hillsborough has been doing pretty well," he said. "Manchester seems to be tracking along with the rest of New Hampshire, and New Hampshire is doing better than the rest of the country. You would expect to see gross metropolitan product that is doing better than the rest of the country." -
Jobs forecast calls for head winds
By DENIS PAISTE
New Hampshire Union Leader
MANCHESTER — A picture of a stagnant job market with an uncertain near-term outlook was painted by a trio of economists for the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce Tuesday.
“The economy's basically stuck in neutral,” said Dennis Delay, deputy director of the N.H. Center for Public Policy Studies.
The latest state unemployment report, released Tuesday for August, showed the unemployment rate at 5.3 percent, which was 0.1 higher than the July rate.
During the Great Recession, employment nationally declined 6.5 percent and in the state it fell 4.5 percent, Delay said.
The broader unemployment rate, including those who have stopped looking for work, are working part-time but really want to be working full time, and people who are underemployed, is about 16 percent nationally and 12 percent New Hampshire.
“Even in the worst previous recessions we were able to bounce back and recover those jobs lost,” said Ross Gittell, who is the James R. Carter Professor at the UNH's Whittemore School of Business, and forecast manager for the New England Economic Project.
Brian Gottlob, principal of PolEcon Research and senior research fellow at the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation said two factors, high oil prices and weak housing and construction are holding back economic growth. “Those two factors are enough to keep us with relatively low, modest job growth and economic growth,” he said.
About 130 attended the luncheon forum.
Chamber of Commerce President Robin Comstock, who acted as moderator, asked what effect the federal stimulus program had in the state.
Gottlob said the Making Work Pay tax credit, which was part of the stimulus, put an additional $560 million into the hands of New Hampshire workers. This year's payroll tax reduction kept another $600 million in the state. “Those are all positives. That's spending money that benefits the local businesses,” Gottlob said.
But high oil prices have drained more than $900 million from New Hampshire households over the last four years, Gottlob said. “That's a huge hit on consumer expenditures in the state,” he said.
Oil consumption in New Hampshire has fallen “but we can't cut back fast enough,” he said. The region as a whole is heavily dependent on home heating oil.
Underlying the slowdown in the economy is a loss of $3 trillion in the stock market since April, Gittell said.
The debt ceiling debate in Washington this spring also undermined people's confidence in the economy, and the European debt crisis has also affected the U.S. economy, he said.
“It's clearly an economic crisis, but it's also a crisis in confidence,” Gottlob said.
“There's not a lot of confidence among businesses at the moment. There is clearly not a lot of confidence among households and consumers.”
During a question-and-answer period, Nicholas B. Rowe, president of Focus Capital Wealth Management Inc., in Bedford, asked how the European debt crisis is affecting the U.S. “If Europe goes into recession, that's going to affect the demand for our manufactured goods and services in Europe and that's clearly not a good thing,” Delay said. “The positive side of what's going on in the rest of the world and particularly in Europe is the U.S. is seen as a safe haven for investment which is keeping our borrowing costs relatively low.”
Joseph Mendola, senior vice president NAI Norwood Group in Bedford, asked whether it wouldn't make sense to call a pause in implementing regulations like those required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial oversight law. Comstock pointed out the state has a commission currently reviewing business regulations.
In answer to a question from Comstock what businesses could do to help improve the economy, Gottlob said, “We need a hero, we need some good news,” he said. “We need some of those companies that are sitting on a lot of cash, and there are a lot of companies, to make the leap and become, to rally the flag, and unfortunately, I don't think we've had that.
“We really do need leadership in this economy,” he said.
Delay, who also is New Hampshire Forecast Manager for the New England Economic Partnership, said, “We're at a point in this business cycle right now where the government is a drag upon economic growth.”
“The good news is we fixed everything else, Consumers are in good shape ... corporate profits are relatively high, business investment is up, It's the government sectors that the drag on the economy right now ... Reductions in government employees are a head wind to the economy right now. If we can reverse those things, I think that we'd turn head winds to tail winds,” Delay said.
The event was sponsored by Centrix Bank, Sojourn Partners, PSNH, Fidelity and Devine Millimet.
Gittell said New Hampshire's standing relative to other states has weakened in recent months. For example, he said, in Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia reports, New Hampshire fell from ranking 7th best of the 50 states in overall performance just before the period of the Great Recession to 15th in the last three months.
Massachusetts is tied for first with Montana and New York, while Texas is fourth, he said.
“We've heard significant news about layoffs in New Hampshire just during the last month or even in the last two weeks,” Gittell said, citing recent layoffs at hospitals, Thermo Fisher Scientific and FairPoint Communications.
“It really concerns me,” he said. “There are signs that competitive advantage has weakened.”
“I think the resiliency of some of New Hampshire's smaller to medium-sized business is starting to wear out,” he said. “If you're into this for over three years, we're starting to see some of that in the most recent numbers.”
Latest state revenue numbers show a 'limping' N.H. economy
By Michael McCord
September 14, 2011 2:00 AM
State government revenue figures for August raise as many questions as answers about the health of New Hampshire's economy.
State revenue collections for August, which included Tropical Storm Irene's arrival late in the month, totaled $109.3 million, which was $9.6 million above the plan set forth by the Legislature in its 2012-13 biennium budget.
Republican legislative leaders said the August figures justified the conservative estimates they had for the budget.
"This validates the Legislature's decision to use responsible revenue estimates well below those proposed by the governor and House Democrats," said House Speaker William O'Brien of Mont Vernon.
Taken by themselves, the August numbers are favorable when compared to the forecast. The following sectors stood out over budget estimates — business tax collection at $3.3 million; the real estate transfer tax at $2.2 million, cigarette tax collection at $1.8 million; and rooms rental tax at $1 million.
When put in the context of comparison to the 2011 fiscal year actual collections, the year-to-date numbers mirror a sluggish economy. Overall, collections are down $6.4 million compared to the same two-month period of July and August 2010. In particular, tobacco tax collection is down $2.9 million, rooms and rentals tax was down $300,000 and the communications tax was down $1.5 million. There are hopeful signs with the year to date totals for business taxes rising by $3.6 million and real estate transfer tax increasing $900,000.
Dennis Delay, an economist with the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, said the August revenue figures revealed a state "limping along" economically and still not close to recovering from the recession of 2008.
"There's nothing to celebrate, given the August revenue numbers," he said. "We still have fewer jobs than we did when the recession hit, and state revenues haven't recovered."
Through the 12 months ending in August, Delay said, the main revenue sectors totaled $2.183 billion — a drop of 2.1 percent from the same 12-month period ending August 2010. The most recent past 12 months of revenues came in lower than the same period in fiscal year 2008, which began before the recession really took firm hold of the economy, he said. Those fiscal year 2008 collections were $2.337 billion, more than $150 million or nearly 7 percent higher above the most recent 12-month period.
The revenue difficulties are directly related to the state's lack of sustained job growth. In July, unemployment rose to 5.2 percent in the state, up from 4.9 percent in June.
"We are seeing some job growth in business services and manufacturing," Delay said. But overall, he's not optimistic about the economy kicking into gear anytime soon.
Even politically celebrated or criticized collection figures, such as the rise in cigarette tax collections for August, which followed a 10-cent-per-pack tax decrease approved by the Legislature in June, may be hard to decipher. Republicans pushed the measure saying a tax decrease from $1.78 to $1.68 per pack of 20 cigarettes would lead to greater sales and greater tax revenues.
"Last month, the Democrats screamed that our efforts to make New Hampshire's cross border sales advantage even more competitive by lowering the tobacco tax would lead to the crashing of our tobacco revenue," said House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt of Salem. "I hope they take a moment today to wipe the egg off their faces and realize that our state always benefits by having lower prices and by seizing on opportunities to further capitalize on the willingness of our high tax neighbors to give their citizens an incentive to shop in New Hampshire."
While August cigarette tax revenues did increase to $23.8 million from $17.5 million in July, an analysis by the state Department of Administrative Services stated retailers had held off on buying cigarette stamps (from which tax collections are based) until the tax cut went into effect. The Department of Revenue Administration also reported that June-July-August 2011 stamp sales volume was 20.3 percent below the same time in 2007.
Citing the national economy, O'Brien said the forecast for the coming fiscal year revenues is mixed. "We expect that there will continue to be good months and bad months coming," he said.
National jobless data doesn’t reflect NH picture, economist says
By JAKE BERRY Staff Writer
The national jobless figures released this morning paint a grim picture of the country’s employment status. But the forecast isn’t as gloomy in New Hampshire, according to one state economist.
The national numbers, released by the U.S. Department of Labor, showed that zero jobs were added to the U.S. economy in the month of August and the national unemployment rate remained stagnant at 9.1 percent.
But, the data won’t necessarily lead to similar distress in New Hampshire when the state’s unemployment figures are released later this month, according to Dennis Delay, an economist with the N.H. Center for Public Policy.
The state numbers, released each month several weeks after the national figures, are scheduled to be released Sept. 13.
“The data for New Hampshire looks a little bit better than it does for the entire U.S., at least on readings that I have,” Delay said. “The unemployment rate here is lower. We’ve actually seen some improvement (with that).
“We’re certainly not immune,” he said. “We’re going to be buffered by the national and international winds just like the rest of the country, but we may not see it as bad here.”
Throughout the recession, while the national unemployment rate has hovered near double-digits, New Hampshire has maintained one of the lowest jobless rates in the country.
Last month, while the national figure soared to 9.1 percent, New Hampshire stood at 5.3 percent, according to the state Employment Security, Economic and Labor Market Information Bureau. That rate was up from earlier this year. In April, the rate stood at 4.7 percent and 4.9 percent in May. But, even at 5.3 percent, New Hampshire’s employment picture was brighter in July than in the prior year, according to Delay, who also serves as the state forecast manager for the New England Economic Partnership.
In the Nashua area, unemployment stood at 5.6 percent in July, up from 5.4 percent in June, but down from 6.2 percent in January, according to the state figures.
The state’s largest health insurer says hospitals — not its insurance customers — must absorb the loss of $250 million in state reimbursements to hospitals over the next two years.
By MICHAEL COUSINEAU
New Hampshire Sunday News
The state’s largest health insurer says hospitals — not its insurance customers — must absorb the loss of $250 million in state reimbursements to hospitals over the next two years.
“We really don’t believe that’s a problem we can step in and solve by filling that gap and adjusting our reimbursement rates,” said Lisa Guertin, president of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in New Hampshire.
Private health insurers paid the state’s 26 health care systems — hospitals and their associated businesses, such as physician practices — $800 million more than the actual cost of services in 2009, according to a report by the non-partisan New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies in Concord. Those payments more than covered a deficit of $664 million in costs generated from treating Medicare, Medicaid and uncompensated care patients.
In the state’s current two-year budget, which began July 1, hospitals received a $250 million reduction in reimbursement payments for Medicaid patients and uncompensated care. In recent weeks, at least seven hospitals have announced more than 600 layoffs collectively to help fill that gap.
Dartmouth-Hitchcock also said it wants to accept an unknown number of the 725 buyout deals it is offering.
Meanwhile, at least some private insurers have agreed to increase how much they pay Dover’s Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, which is hiking charges for hospital procedures by 9 percent on Oct. 1 and an additional 6 percent on Jan. 1 to help cover its $10 million loss in state aid, according to hospital spokesman Noreen Biehl.
Some insurers will absorb up to 6 percent of that total increase, as is permitted under their contract agreement with the hospital, Biehl said. She didn’t know which insurers were involved.
“When Medicaid and Medicare don’t keep up with the cost of care, that cost shifts to commercial insurers,” she said.
Bob Noonan, Anthem’s vice president of provider engagement and contracting, said Anthem has a contract for agreed-to prices with the hospital for the next few years, “so the rates are already set in stone.”
Noonan explained that Anthem, like other insurers, negotiates agreed-to reimbursement rates for services with each hospital.
“There is significant variances in those hospitals,” Noonan said.
The state Insurance Department has a website, nhhealthcost.org, that estimates how much people with and without insurance will pay at various hospitals for specific services.
For a person belonging to an HMO with no co-pay or deductible going for an MRI on the brain, Anthem is estimated to pay $1,512 to Parkland Medical Center in Derry but $4,841 to Memorial Hospital in North Conway.
The estimates are based on the median amounts paid using insurance claims data from July 2009 through September 2010. “The cost amount is often referred to as the ‘allowed rate’ of payment to health care providers,” according to the website.
Asked why there was such a spread, Anthem’s Noonan said: “That’s a real good question.”
When looking at the same MRI procedure at the same hospital for a person in an HMO with no co-pay or deductible, reimbursements differed because each insurer negotiated a different reimbursement rate. Anthem is estimated to pay $1,512, Harvard Pilgrim $2,054 and Cigna $3,427. An uninsured person is estimated to be charged $4,935, but hospitals typically provide at least a 15 percent discount, lowering the cost to $4,195.
“Every carrier looks at their plan subscribers and how they’re reimbursing, and the hospital looks at that plan’s subscribers and the level of services they offer and how that spreads across their entire operation,” said Steve Ahnen, president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association. Negotiated rates for one service may subsidize another service, he said.
Ahnen expects hospitals to press insurance companies to help recoup some of the $250 million cut in state aid.
“I don’t think there’s an easy way to determine how much of that will be shifted to the private payer,” he said. “Clearly, the pressure will be there to recover some of those costs, but those are individual negotiations between health plans and hospitals.”
He said Medicaid reimburses 50 percent or less of actual costs to hospitals while Medicare was in “the neighborhood of 82 percent.”
Last February, Anthem resolved a dispute with Exeter Hospital and its provider group, Core Physicians, over pricing. The health insurer had said the hospital was charging more for its services than others in the state.
Tom Bunnell, a policy consultant with NH Voices for Health, a network of groups pushing for quality, affordable health care for all, said he expects the budget cuts will mean “some significant amount of those costs would be shifted over to payers of private health insurers.
“Hospitals would be more inclined to make up their losses, especially those who are hurting significantly, by being in negotiations by raising their rates for insurance companies and insurance coverage,” he said. “Small businesses as well as consumers — workers, people with health insurance — would be paying even more in the cost of their private health insurance.”
The study showed the 26 health systems generated a post-tax profit of $128 million in 2009, the most recent year available, or a 2.8 percent operating margin, although seven were in the red for the year.
Anthem’s Guertin said Anthem pays nearly 150 percent of the actual costs of providing care to its members.
Noonan said private payers historically have absorbed more than the actual costs of just their members.
Hospitals “had quite a bit of leverage in this marketplace,” he said. “There’s not a lot of competition at the local level” with few communities having more than one hospital.
“They’ve had quite a bit of clout in the negotiations,” Noonan said. “Price is somewhat of a function of how competitive or not a marketplace is.”
Alexander Feldvebel, the state’s deputy insurance commissioner, said his office plans this fall to have experts take a more thorough analysis of cost-shifting hospital costs, issuing a report around November.
“There’s some indication (in other states) that if a hospital has a higher percentage of Medicaid, Medicare and uncompensated care (cases), it actually becomes more efficient and therefore benefits the commercially insured population,” he said. “Obviously, what most people already understand is we have a mix of payers, and when one of those payers lowers their compensation, then the natural tendency is to look to the other payers to make up that difference.”
Feldvebel said his office by November may be able to see whether insurance companies are hiking their rates as a result of the hospital cuts. Three companies cover more than 90 percent of the state, with Anthem leading with 51 percent of market share.
Rep. Neal Kurk, a member of the House Finance Committee, said legislators made tough choices to balance the state budget and considered the repercussions of cutting hospital aid, including a possible rise in health insurance premiums.
“The hospitals could become more efficient. The hospitals could try to cost shift. The hospitals could offer more services,” he said. They could close down less profitable services.”
“In an economy that’s not growing, if you reduce one area, there are consequences,” Kurk said. “If you reduce the other area, there are consequences. If we take hospitals and reduce their income, they’re going to lay off people, they’re going to become more efficient,” he said.
If the state funds them at the previous level, then “the only way to cover those expenses is to raise taxes,” Kurk said.
“If we raise taxes, the public’s disposable income ... goes down because they have to pay taxes,” Kurk said. “When their income goes down, we don’t spend as much. If we don’t spend as much, the private sector lays off people.”
How Stock Market Jitters, Treasury Bonds, And Fed Interest Rates Affect The State’s Economy
August 12, 2011 | 12:35 PM
By Amanda Loder, NHPR
It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, with financial tremors continuing to shake-up the jagged economic landscape.National GDP barely went up, Congress made an 11th hour deal to raise the debt ceiling, S&P downgraded the US credit rating anyway, and the Federal Reserve decided to hold interest rates steady—at virtually nothing—for the next two years.
And that was just the beginning.
But what does all of this mean for the New Hampshire economy?It’s hard to say.With current events in mind, we talked with local economists and professional associations to get a perspective on what, exactly, New Hampshire’s economic landscape looks like now, and how it could change.
Macroeconomic forces like Wall Street machinations and Federal Reserve decisions have a direct, although not always obvious, effect on New Hampshire's economy.
So what’s the story with New Hampshire banking?“It’s actually fairly good,” NH Bankers Association President Jerry Little says.“The [state’s] banking industry was extremely cautious in the late 2000’s…and has worked hard to protect the integrity of the institution.At the same time, they’re well-capitalized and highly liquid.There are plenty of deposits on hand and sources of funds to be making loans.”
But make no mistake, Little says, it’s still not a rosy picture, “The big problems they have are finding good loans to make, loans that will be highly likely to be repaid.And then dealing with general uncertainty in the market … so they’re a little leery about making long-term commitments.”
As for the Fed deciding this week to hold the interest rate steady, Little says it’s a mixed bag for the banking industry.On the one hand, FDIC-insured accounts are just as secure as Treasury bonds, so he expects at least a modest uptick in small investors moving their money from stocks back into savings, “But…consumers are getting a little bit frustrated with the low rate for return that they’re getting on their deposit accounts…Banks can’t increase those rates if the Fed is holding that rate down near zero. Then, that leaves us with the interesting problem of needing to find someplace to put those deposits to work, and…because of a great deal of uncertainty in both the global financial situation and the economy back here in the United States, a lot of businesses are standing still.They’re choosing not to expand, do new products, new projects, until they have a better idea of which direction the economy is taking. So while I am hearing that there is a net inflow of deposits into FDIC-insured banks, they’re then left with the problem of how to put those monies to work.”
Small Business And Exports
In New Hampshire, a respectable number of smaller firms are exporters.As Little says, “A lot of New Hampshire businesses now do have international exposure.They’re active in markets around the world, and it creates very peculiar risks for them.”
And here, as in banking, the picture is mixed.
“One of the bright spots [nationally] over the last year and a half has been the export sector.And one of the reasons for that is the price of the dollar has been drifting down,” said Michael Goldberg,a University of New Hampshire economics professor.“ The value of the dollar over the past year and a half has actually come down about 15 percent.And really, one of the main reasons why the US economy has actually grown at all over that period has been that the rest of the world has been buying up more of our goods and services.”
That’s been especially true for New Hampshire in the recent past.According to statistics from the New Hampshire International Trade Resource Center, the state’s exports went up by 44.1 percent during the first quarter of 2010 compared to the year before.That was the largest year-over-year growth in the entire Northeast.
The lower the dollar goes, the better news it is for New Hampshire exporters. But with more investors moving their money into Treasury bonds, the dollar could gain in value, taking some of the steam out of New Hampshire's export sector.
Dennis Delay, an economist with the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, describes the state’s export economy this way, “New Hampshire doesn’t make the planes and the trains and the automobiles.We make all the stuff that goes into them.We’re a component manufacturer to the rest of the world.”That’s why, he says, exports went down in the months after the Japanese tsunami; major car manufacturers shut down, and weren’t buying parts from their New Hampshire suppliers.And, Delay says, that’s why what world markets are of particular economic interest to the state now.
“I’m more concerned…[about] what’s going to happen to NH in terms of what’s…happening in Europe, what’s happening in the Asian economies.And if those slow down, and it’s starting to look like they are, that’s probably going to have a bigger impact on NH exports than what happens to the dollar per se.”
In other words, if the European and Asian markets truly tank, there won’t be much of a demand for the New Hampshire components that go into their cars, factory equipment, or luxury electronic goods.
Incidentally, both Goldberg and Delay agree that if investors continue to seek shelter by buying US debt in the form of Treasury bonds, the dollar will become more secure, and continue to rise in value.And that’s never good news for the export sector.
All over the country, big questions remain about whether the housing market has actually bottomed-out yet.And that’s definitely affected New Hampshire’s market.A major player in the state’s real estate game is the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority.Among other things it, helps low- and middle-income people get into affordable housing, whether that be through issuing home mortgages or tracking down reasonable rentals.
Communications Director Jane Law says the boom-time pricing has gotten back down to more reasonable levels, “We’re now probably about the same price level as where we were in 2003.”But, “during the housing boom, we would do, and this is just us, 12- 1,400 mortgages a year.And during these last several years, we’re about half that level.”
Although there are plenty of houses up for grabs, it's still tough to find people who are able--or willing--to become homeowners.
Law says there are a lot of things going on with the macroeconomic landscape that’s making the housing market tough–for both buyers and sellers.But she lays most of it at the door of that squishy idea of “consumer confidence.”This is the part of economics that’s basically a head game.Most people don’t fully understand the nitty-gritty details of how macroeconomic forces shape their lives.But when US credit gets downgraded and stocks start tumbling, they know it’s not good, they get scared, and they hold onto their cash.Banks (which do understand macroeconomics) do the same thing, because they don’t like uncertainty, either.
So, Law says, “The fact that the interest rates are being held down [by the Fed] is a good thing for someone who wants to get a new mortgage.”But, “unlike…before the housing market crashed, it’s much more difficult to get a mortgage than it used to be.
Meanwhile, she says foreclosures and housing market jitters have driven more people to rent their homes, making it harder for renters to find something they can afford, which could be more of a problem in the future. “We have not yet seen…cost increases, but seeing the curve for the vacancies going down, we would expect that, if that continues, seeing some increase in rental costs in future years.”While there’s a good stock of new and foreclosed homes on the market, at this point, it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere.Meanwhile, Law says a lack of new rental construction could create even more problems down the road for renters needing a good deal on their monthly payments.
Ultimately, whether New Hampshire investors see good dividends, businesses maintain their healthy export economy, and the Housing Finance Authority can get less-than-wealthy residents the deed to a house affects the state government.Or, more accurately, its coffers.
Eventually, what's happening on Wall Street could have an even longer-lasting effect on the state's general fund.
Dan Barrick is Deputy Director of the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies.He describes the overall effect this way: “Any factors that contribute to wider uncertainty in the market…will probably have downward pressure on business’ willingness to expand and hire, on personal consumer buying, people’s desire to go buy big purchases, and people’s interest in getting back into the housing market….And so much of New Hampshire’s tax base is reliant on a lot of those things.”
The state’s business tax revenue could also be shaky, depending on corporate spending and profits. “The Business Enterprise Tax is primarily a tax on wages that businesses pay.It’s also a tax on dividends and interest, so if companies don’t hire people, that impacts that tax, “ said Delay. “And probably…most importantly at the local level, the property tax is the main source that local governments and school districts use to raise money…If property markets aren’t expanding…that…affects the ability to fund not only municipal services, but also schools.”
Unemployment in the state rose three-tenths of a percent to 5.2 percent in July, from 4.9 percent in June, New Hampshire Employment Security said.
By DENIS PAISTE
New Hampshire Union Leader
MANCHESTER — Unemployment in the state rose three-tenths of a percent to 5.2 percent in July, from 4.9 percent in June, New Hampshire Employment Security said.
The July 2010 seasonally adjusted rate was 5.9 percent.
“The good news, I think, in this is if you look at a year ago, we have about 2,160 more jobs in July 2011 compared to July 2010,” Dennis Delay, economist with the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, said Tuesday.
The state Economic and Labor Market Information Bureau estimated there were 701,100 employed state residents, a decrease of 3,310 from the previous month and an increase of 2,160 from July 2010.
The number of unemployed residents rose over the month to 38,290, an increase of 1,690, but still was 5,600 fewer unemployed than in July 2010.
“When the federal stimulus money ended on July 1, we knew that there would be a major loss of government jobs, and we are now seeing just that,” House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt, R-Salem, said in a statement. “As a result, between June and July, this has resulted in 16,000 employees who worked for the government losing their jobs. However, because there is a positive environment for business, the private sector has added 10,000 jobs in the last two months.”
Pam Walsh, spokeswoman for Gov. John Lynch said, “We have to continue working vigorously to get people back to work.
“Whenever someone in either the public or private sector loses a job that has an impact on their families and on the economy,” she said. “Employment security is continuing to focus on assisting workers to find new jobs.”
The July figures showed gains in leisure and hospitality, education and health services. Professional and business services declined from the previous month but were still up over the year.
Recently announced cutbacks at hospitals in the state came too late to be reflected in the July unemployment statistics.
The U.S. unemployment rate continues above 9 percent, at 9.1 percent in July 2011, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the June rate and a decrease of 0.4 percentage points from the July 2010 rate.
Aug 7, 2011 Federal debt deal won't impact N.H. much
DOVER — U.S. legislators have resolved in the recent debt and budget deal to cut $917 billion in future spending, but the impact on New Hampshire is expected to be negligible.
"Over the next 10 years, spending was going to grow 4.6 percent. Now it's going to grow 4.3 percent," said Charlie Arlinghaus, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy. "So the cuts amount to a little tiny thimble full of warm spit."
The deal that passed Congress just in the nick of time Tuesday sets forth two rounds of spending cuts to be matched by two increases to the debt limit. Defense spending and non-defense discretionary spending — excluding entitlements, at least for the first round of cuts —will be on the chopping block.
But New Hampshire's U.S. legislators say it's not only too early to tell what the impact of the cuts would be on Granite Staters, and they predict it won't be significant or even noticeable.
"I think the focus largely is that the federal budget is out of balance by $1.6 trillion and we have to reform spending to bring it back to balance," said Congressman Frank Guinta, R-N.H. "We have to do that over time. There will be negligible or no impacts to New Hampshire, but I think most people realize Washington has overspent."
The nearly one trillion in cuts will be achieved by implementing a cap on discretionary spending, according to Steve Norton, executive director of the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies. But, he added, there is "a lot of uncertainty" as no specifics about those caps are clear.
"Is this going to be a 10 percent reduction, or are they going to target particular programs?," Norton asked.
He said the real question lies with the Super Committee, a group slated to form to tackle the second round of deep spending cuts and make the tough decisions about which programs to cut from.
Outside of entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, Norton predicts New Hampshire won't see much of an impact from the second round of cuts either.
"One thing to keep in mind in terms of trying to assess overall impact on New Hampshire is most of the federal dollars we receive are for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid," Norton said. "Once you take those programs away, the contribution to our community is relatively limited because many of these programs are formula-based."
Guinta said any entitlement reform that would be examined exempts anyone older than the age of 55 and focuses on preserving and protecting the existing entitlement programs.
"The problem with entitlements is they're growing at 8 percent a year and our economy isn't growing to sustain that," Guinta said. "We've got to focus on having a greater consumer choice, competition within the system and slow the growth rate."
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., is concerned the debt deal as a whole didn't do more to protect entitlement programs.
"I was disappointed that the agreement does nothing to strengthen and preserve our entitlement programs, which are so important to New Hampshire seniors," she said.
And as the Super Committee will be making spending decisions with all programs on the table from entitlement to discretionary spending, at least one New Hampshire organization is already on edge.
"The second round of cuts is probably the more scary one," said Erika Argersinger, policy director at the Children's Alliance of New Hampshire. "The Super Committee is going to have to make some really hard decisions and they're the ones set up to make the hard decisions. We fully anticipate (Medicaid) will be a big target."
Argersinger said children make up 60 percent of Medicaid recipients in New Hampshire.
"Depending on what cuts are made, we'd be fearful it would really impact those kids who are on Medicaid," she said, adding many children using New Hampshire Healthy Kids also rely on Medicaid for their basic preventive care. "The Alliance is trying to do work right now to emphasize we need to let folks know Medicaid is crucial."
Argersinger is also concerned about the food stamp program, of which about half of New Hampshire's users are families with children.
Colin Manning, spokesman for Governor John Lynch, said while it's not clear at this time what the federal government is going to cut, there is a concern for the state's residents whenever there are talks about spending cuts.
"It's always a concern when the federal government talks about cutting programs that serve New Hampshire citizens, especially at a time when all states are struggling with their budgets," Manning said.
At this juncture, it seems the biggest challenge is the lack of detail. There are even unknowns about how the process of spending cuts will unfold.
If Congress fails to pass the first round of spending cuts by the Thanksgiving deadline, automatic cuts will take effect. If the Super Committee fails to make its spending cut decisions, another round of automatic cuts will go into play.
The automatic cuts would likely include tax increases and spending cuts, as well as deep cuts to the defense budget and domestic spending, excluding Medicaid and Social Security. Medicare could still be impacted.
However, Arlinghaus said he remains cynical regarding what will stick in Washington.
"The history of budget deals in Washington is they're always broken within a few months of being passed," he said. "It's a fig leaf for politicians so they can say, 'Our intention right now is to cut spending and therefore we're going to increase the debt limit.'"
Arlinghaus is similarly not worried about unemployment benefits, saying they will still be available, although some news reports point out the debt deal offered no relief to the unemployment crisis.
Guinta said what unemployment numbers suggest is the policies put in place by President Barack Obama aren't working and the country needs to do three things quickly.
"We need an environment where job creators can have predictability in the tax rate, we need to reduce regulatory burdens and, finally, reduce debt spending at the federal level so they're (businesses) not going to be hampered with the notion of more tax increases," Guinta said. "That, to me, is the way to try and attack this problem."
Faryl Ury, press secretary for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said, "The cuts in the compromise plan begin with 2012 spending, so it's not yet determined which programs will be affected. Senator Shaheen will work to protect programs important to New Hampshire businesses and families as that process moves forward."
Norton at the Center for Public Policy Studies anticipates the impact of federal spending cuts may be felt in grant-based programs.
"You would expect the federal government to step away from those activities as opposed to the underlying funding for special education and things that have been going on for a long time," he said.
Republicans, like Guinta, have said they do not support revenue increases as part of the discussion on spending cuts.
"I don't support raising taxes," he said. "What I do support is tax reform, which would lower the rates, broaden the base of the number of taxpayers and close loopholes to make the tax system fairer and more simplified. That's a concept I support. I'm eager to see tax reform that provides a greater opportunity for job creation."
A balanced budget amendment is also expected to be part of upcoming congressional discussions.
However, Argersinger remains concerned as she also has on her mind cuts that were made right at home.
"For New Hampshire, childcare funding would be something we'd really be looking out for in terms of what happens to it," she said. "A lot of our concerns about how (national spending cuts) are going to affect New Hampshire's kids is compounded with what happens at the state level."
The recent lawsuit filed by 10 hospitals seeking to block cuts to New Hampshire's Medicaid reimbursements were sparked by changes enacted within the past year, but the foundation for today's fight was laid 20 years ago.
In 1991, New Hampshire was among many states that were creating “disproportionate share,” or DSH, programs as a way to get additional federal money.
Under the stewardship of thenGov. Judd Gregg, a Republican, the state at the time was in the midst of a budget crisis during a weakened economy, similar to what Concord has faced this year. Without additional federal money, the Medicaid program would be looking at potential cuts.
As initially intended, the DSH programs were supposed to reimburse hospitals that treated a “disproportionate share” of low-income patients. Essentially, it would support the providers, usually in urban areas, with a greater than average burden of serving disavantaged populations.
The Medicaid law -- a federal program administered by the states to provide health insurance for people who cannot afford health care-- said that if states came up with the money to reimburse for the disproportionate share patients, then the federal government would provide a match of 50 cents on the dollar, according to Steve Norton, executive director of the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies.
There were three ways the state could collect its portion of the money, said Norton, a former state Medicaid director under Gov. Craig Benson. It could extract donations from providers, draw “intergovernmental transfers” (such as county funds), or levy a tax.
Perhaps surprisingly, given New Hampshire's anti-tax history, the state chose the third option. Indeed, there was little other choice.
“Because we've got small county government, small expenditures, and donations didn't seem like a good way to go, they came up with the tax,” Norton said.
Specifically, New Hampshire would tax hospitals under what became known as the “Medicaid Enhancement Tax.”
The tax was palatable because hospitals were told that they would never lose a dime, according to Steve Ahnen of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, a trade association that represents hospitals in the state.
“Certainly, from the very beginning, this was an attempt to generate additional federal dollars,” he said.
“At least half the revenues would go to hospitals. At least as much as they paid in the tax,”Ahnen said.
That expectation came from a letter, written by then Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Harry Bird, to NHHA president Gary Carter, which stated if the federal dollars were to stop flowing, then the state would stop taxing hospitals.
“It is our intent that, should Federal Disproportionate Share funds become unavailable, we would no longer require the State revenue and we would recommend that the rate of taxation drop to zero,” Bird wrote.
In other words, the program would be cost neutral for hospitals, and at the same time, revenue beneficial for the state.
Here's how it worked: New Hampshire would tax hospitals on “gross patient service revenues” -- which would be the total revenue generated by services provided to all patients, not solely Medicaid recipients. (For simplicity's sake, assume that tax is $100.)
Half of the tax -- $50 -- would go into an “uncompensated care fund,” which would be earmarked for hospitals.
The other half would go into the state's general fund. A state's general fund can be used for a variety of operations in the state, not necessarily related to health care.
The state would then receive a federal match for the uncompensated care fund, or $50. So at the end of the day, the state taxed hospitals $100, but the money was returned, in part, by using the federal money. Meanwhile, the state collected $50 for itself, which it could use for any purpose.
The system was known derisively as “Mediscam” for many years, as critics charged that the New Hampshire -- and some other states with similar programs, such as Louisiana -- were playing a shell game with federal money in order to fill state coffers.
It operated with the approval of the federal government, which still requires states to file a plan with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for how the state will manage its Medicaid program. Although Congress attempted to close loopholes in the system during the mid-1990s, those reforms took a while to implement, Norton said.
“(T)he DSH program is one of the many different programs that serve policy purposes -- e.g. supporting safety net providers -- but also serve as a means of providing states with financial resources,” Norton said in an email. “Once those programs are in place, they are difficult to eliminate, especially programs of the size of the DSH program and with a constituency that is as strong as the hospital industry.”
Generally, hospitals seemed fine with how the state was using the DSH program to support the general fund, Ahnen said, because they were not losing money in the bargain.
But that pact lasted only as long as the program was a financial wash for hospitals. That all changed in recent years.
Feds Strike Back
In 2007, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through which federal Medicaid funds flow to the states, had questions about how New Hampshire was distributing its money. A subsequent audit of the state's program concluded that New Hampshire did not follow federal guidelines in implementing the tax and distributing payments. As a result, the government threatened to claw back more than $35 million in federal matching funds. (The state is appealing the decision.)
The audit nonetheless led to changes in the state's distribution system that were implemented last year. The new program created “winners” and “losers” among the hospitals, Norton said. It also came in the throes of a budget crisis as a new Republican majority sought to eliminate a budget deficit without raising taxes.
The winners would be so-called “critical access hospitals,” a federal designation for small hospitals that serve rural areas, such as Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont and Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital in Lebanon. This designation -- which is from the Medicare program that provides health care to the elderly -- basically guarantees that these hospitals will be reimbursed 100 percent for their costs to treat Medicare patients.
The losers would be the larger hospitals, such as Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, which lawmakers figured could afford cuts to their Medicaid reimbursements.
Although Medicare has nothing to do with the DSH program, the critical access designation “became a convenient way for policy makers to think about hospitals, the ones that were doing OK and hospitals not doing so well,” Norton said.
And lawmakers determined that they were going to take care of the hospitals that were not doing so well first.
After all, it seemed like the logical, and right, thing to do.
“They are small, rural hospitals that have been on the brink financially,” said state Rep. Neal Kurk, a Republican from Weare, N.H., and member of the House Finance Committee. “Cuts to them would be much more devastating than cuts to the largest hospitals. The principle we used was one of doing the least harm.”
The state would still tax the hospitals -- at a rate of 5.5 percent on patient revenues -- but the money would not flow equally back to them as before. Small hospitals and the state would get about the same, but the larger hospitals would end up getting short-changed because they were deemed to need the money less.
Legislators have defended the change, saying that it was among the many difficult decisions that had to be made in order to shore up the state's finances.
“We felt that… the hospitals were better able to absorb the hit,” Kurk said.
A new uncompensated care fund that specifically targeted critical access was set up. This time, however, the fund could not be tapped by all hospitals as it was previously. The state would channel the tax it collected into that fund, which would be paid out to the small hospitals. And roughly the same amount of money as before would go into the state's general fund for unrestricted use.
Whatever is left over goes to support all Medicaid providers -- the dentists, clinics and anyone who treats Medicaid patients, not just the non-critical access hospitals such as Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
“That's money that used to go to them,” Norton said, referring to the larger hospitals.
Last November, when the program was implemented, there was disparity between the share of money received by the smaller hospitals and larger ones. Many of the critical access hospitals ended up getting more than what they paid in taxes, while some larger hospitals received less.
But this year, the gap between the winners and losers grew immensely with the crafting of the new state budget, and the quiet discontent among hospitals broke out loudly into the open.
“This year, the hospitals are grumbling because not only are there winners and losers, but the losers are losing hugely,” Kurk said. “The principle is the same. But the quantities are different.”
The large hospitals have no guarantee that they will recapture the full amount of their tax, which is why hospital officials now disparage the changes as a “new tax.”
Providers File Suit
The situation led to 10 of the state's largest providers, including Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, to file a lawsuit in July against the state.
The lawsuit claims that the 10 hospitals will provide more than $131 million in uncompensated care, and also pay nearly $135 million in the Medicaid enhancement tax, for a total financial cost of $266.1 million. (Dartmouth-Hitchcock would be required to pay a an estimated $47 million enhancement tax and provide $48 million in uncompensated care.)
Top Republican lawmakers denounced the lawsuit, saying that the hospitals must make sacrifices in hard times like everyone else.
“Every group received cuts in order to deliver a budget that balanced honestly, and the hospitals are one of many groups that will see less money,” House Speaker William O'Brien said in a statement issued after the hospitals filed the lawsuit. “The alternative to this would be a huge tax increase for the working families of New Hampshire, which is unacceptable.”
There are similar lawsuits in other states, notably in California, where a case against the state over its Medicaid program is heading to the U.S. Supreme Court this fall. Like the one in New Hampshire, the California hospitals are suing on the basis that the state's Medicaid program violates federal law because it does not use the funds as they were intended.
The California suit could redefine states' responsibilities on Medicaid services, Norton said.
“It's going to call into question whether federal law supersedes state law,” he said.
The case is getting plenty of attention in New Hampshire.
“We're watching California very closely,” said Frank McDougall, DHMC's vice president of government affairs.
Though California bears many similarities to the New Hampshire suit, McDougall said he believes New Hampshire is “by far the most extreme.” The Granite State ranks last in the nation for Medicaid reimbursement rates, according to the American Hospital Association. The changes to the DSH program will virtually cement New Hampshire's position at the bottom.
“You don't have to look very far” to see the impact, McDougall said. “Two-hundred and eighty two layoffs at Elliott Hospital.”
He said this on the same day as news emerged about Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in Nashua planned to cut 100 workers.
For months hospitals in the state have been warning that cuts to Medicaid would have a significant impact on services they provide. The extent of those cuts is slowly starting to come into focus.
As a last-ditch attempt to stop the cuts from being implemented, 10 hospitals recently filed suit against the state claiming Medicaid cuts in the recently enacted state budget violate the federal Medicaid Act by providing insufficient payment to them and their doctors to treat Medicaid patients.
Some cuts proposed by the hospitals would impact not only their regions but the entire state.
Continued uncertainty in New Hampshire's real estate market is a challenge that many, including Dennis Delay, an economist with the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, have probed extensively.
"Consumers have been looking at falling prices for six years, and they've been looking at falling sales for about seven years, and I think that really there's not much more to explain than that," he said.
Through the months-long debate over the state budget, much attention focused on the size of the spending reduction from the last budget. And while the new budget, which took effect last Friday, does spend significantly less than the last one, focusing on the bottom-line obscures an important fact: The bulk of the spending changes come in a handful of programs.
And each of those changes poses its own challenges and opportunities that bear watching over the coming months.
With an economy diversified among a robust high-tech sector, professional services, retailing and tourism, New Hampshire has weathered the recession far better than some other early primary and caucus states. With its skilled workforce and highly educated population, it has maintained the lowest poverty rate in the country in recent years.
At first blush, those economic conditions would suggest that Republicans may have a difficult time making their case that Obama's economic policies have failed. But voters' views of their circumstances are far more sour than statistics would suggest, and their uneasiness could make it tricky for the president to campaign on the state's economic successes.
To outsiders, NH’s finances often appear like a grand act of fiscal sleight of hand. How does a state balance its books without relying on either a broad-based sales or income tax?
A recent report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston—“How Does New Hampshire Do It?”—examines the Granite State’s unusual spending and revenue structure. Although the report leaves a few stones unturned, it is a great conversation starter and raises a host of questions about NH’s spending that should be a part of future discussions.
Infrastructure, energy and maintaining the "New Hampshire advantage" were among the topics discussed during a State of the Economy Breakfast Forum hosted by the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce Tuesday.
Steve Norton, executive director of the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, said changes must be made for the long-term in order to ensure the Granite State remains a place of economic prosperity.
Norton identified the next five years in New Hampshire as a time of "enormous uncertainty."
"Things economists said four years ago are no longer true," he said.
Last year, New Hampshire companies increased their exports by 43 percent, making the state the fastest-growing exporter in the United States. This quarter it lagged behind a bit - only growing by 10 percent, compared to the nation's 18 percent as a whole - but it still exported more than $1 billion worth of goods in three months.
Where are the exports going? Lots of places.
"In the first three months, we already were in 141 distinct markets. Pretty darn good," said Justin Oslowski, director of the New Hampshire Export Assistance Center, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Government budgeting can be a chore to understand because it involves so many elements. The current wrangling in Concord over a two-year state budget comes to mind. Assuming an ordinary mortal can get past the posturing, how can he or she make sense of things? The answer is: with help. The New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, a nonpartisan think tank, has stepped forward with such assistance.
Under a plan crafted by House budget writers, New Hampshire hospitals stand to lose $250 million dollars over the next two years. New analysis by the NH Center for Public Policy Studies shows that if they lose these funds, all but four of the state’s largest hospitals would suddenly plunge into the red. Moreover, hospital leaders are accusing the legislature of imposing a new tax on hospitals.
The Union Leader's Tom Fahey features the Center's online budget calculator in his weekly "State House Dome" column: "It’s easy to use, but not so easy to achieve a balance, as any budget writer will tell you."
The graying of New Hampshire is a topic that frequently comes up when the business community convenes at events like the one sponsored this week by New Hampshire Forum on the Future, a group of business, education and policy experts. An aging population means fewer people in the work force. It means local high-tech companies like BAE Systems and Dell have a harder time finding recent college graduates to hire. And it means other companies might decide not to locate here.
The new Leadership Seacoast class was tasked this week with helping answer the age-old question of what are the contributors to high costs for health care and insurance, and how can it be made more accessible on the Seacoast?
This struggle between public employees and employers is in part a function of significant declines in state tax revenue. In New Hampshire, the question before policy makers is not if they will attempt to bend the pension cost curve, but how.
A recent New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies report noted that Smart Manufacturing/High Technology is the single largest sector of New Hampshire's economy, encompassing 3,700 New Hampshire companies employing almost 80,000 people and paying out $6.4 billion in wages and benefits. Behind these statistics is an economic development system that nurtures this vital sector and a state team that is consistently at the forefront of ensuring the development of well-paying jobs and world class companies.
Countering assumptions that manufacturing is steadily dying in the U.S., a study from the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies showed that the sector continues to be a vital part of New Hampshire's economy, accounting for 15 percent of the total compensation paid to the state's workers in 2009.
On top of nearly $540 million in school building costs the state already must pay in the next three decades, local governments are asking for $50 million in the upcoming state budget, according to the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies. That $50 million in requests is double what localities asked for only eight years ago.
In the most recent edition of BusinessNH Magazine, the Center's Daniel Barrick and Dennis Delay explain some of the ways the new 2010 Census data will shape New Hampshire's future -- politically, economically and demographically.
Gov. John Lynch may have bruised the egos of a few hospital executives during last week's budget address, but he also focused a spotlight on the tug of war waged in individual homes and at the State House: how to control health care costs without sacrificing excellent care.
The governor proposed cutting $20 million in next year's state budget that hospitals would use to cover uncompensated care they provide.
On the same day the new ER at Monadnock Community Hospital opened, Gov. John Lynch used his budget address to call for a moratorium on the construction of hospital facilities, though only the Legislature can order such a freeze.
In a remarkable departure from its pattern of stinginess on education funding, New Hampshire’s state government has for many years operated one schools-related operation with pretty much an open checkbook.
Each session began with an economic overview from Dennis Delay, an economist with the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, and was followed by a tour of the host facility. During the last hour, host company officials presented information about their operating costs and comparative data with sister companies, or in some cases competitors, doing business in other states and/or countries.
Executive director of the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies Steve Norton indicated that the state is suffering from a structural deficit, and that current sources of revenue were insufficient to adequately fund state services.
The New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies is an independent, nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) organization that pursues data-based research on public policy matters, develops options, informs policy makers and advises them about choices for action. The Center’s mission is to raise new ideas and improve policy debates through quality information and analysis on issues shaping New Hampshire’s future.
Gov. John Lynch and Department of Resources and Economic Development Commissioner George Bald will lead a Jobs Cabinet Roundtable on Friday afternoon for Seacoast business and civic leaders. Reported at seacoastonline.com
Dennis Delay, New Hampshire Forecast Manager for NEEP and economist with the N.H.Center for Public Policy Studies, today noted that unemployment rates in New Hampshire are still below the U.S. average, and that New Hampshire has lost only 3 percent of its employment base since the beginning of the recession in December 2007.By comparison the US job base declined by 5 percent from December 2007 to September 2009.
Come Dec. 15, the New Hampshire Gaming Study Commission will have heard testimony on the status of gambling in other states, models of expanded gambling here, its revenue potential and the social impact and "costs" that come with it, as well as how it could affect the state's image and quality of life.
Concord, NH, August 21, 2009 – The New Hampshire Forum on the Future, a collaborative of the New Hampshire High Technology Council and the New Hampshire College & University Council has agreed to form a new partnership with the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies. This partnership will provide an ongoing platform for the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies to share its public policy research at New Hampshire Forum events. The partnership will also create opportunities for new research on key issues facing the State of New Hampshire.
It’s no secret that the Governor, legislature and state department heads have their work cut out for them in balancing the state budget, but a newly released report by a non-partisan think tank says that the solution will not be found by adjusting numbers, but in changing the underlying laws that drive state budget growth.
New Hampshire town meeting season is fast approaching. While funding the state budget and the state’s share The New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies has provided easy to access data needed to analyze city and town expenditures – or the financing of the municipal services they represent. (click here to view full report)
Donna Sytek of Salem has been named chair of the board of directors of the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies. The Center is a non-partisan organization that provides objective information and analysis on issues facing state policy makers.
Ms. Sytek is a veteran of New Hampshire politics, having served as speaker of the House, chairman of the NH Republican Party, and for 23 years as a state representative from Salem.
Founding board chair, Martin Gross, of Concord, continues to serve the Center as its chair emeritus. Mr. Gross is senior counsel with the Sulloway & Hollis law firm. He served as legal counsel to two New Hampshire governors and is a former mayor of Concord.