Guest Blogs

Thursday
Mar212013

Todd Selig - Opposing An Increase in the Road Toll is a Hard Road to Travel for NH Legislators

The Importance of HB 617 to New Hampshire

 

by Todd I. Selig

After lengthy debate on March 6th, the NH House passed HB 617, a bill that increases the road toll, commonly referred to by opponents as the “Gas Tax,” by 4 cents per gallon of gasoline in each of the next three years (fiscal years 2014 – 2016) and then 3 cents in fiscal year 2017, for a total 15-cent increase over the current road toll of 18 cents per gallon.  It is referred to as the 4-4-4-3 plan with Rep. David Campbell of Nashua as the prime sponsor.

This additional revenue would be placed in a separate fund within the constitutionally protected highway fund to be used exclusively for the construction, reconstruction, and maintenance of state and municipal roads and bridges – investment that will equate to good jobs across New Hampshire, particularly within the construction, engineering, paving, and aggregate industries.

Projections show the modest change in the road toll would result in increased highway block grant funding for municipalities of $3.6 million in 2014 to over $13 million in 2017 and beyond, for a total increase of $117 million over the next ten years. For communities working diligently to stabilize local tax rates across the granite state, this increase is significant.  To put it into concrete terms, the 4-4-4-3 plan would mean an additional $250,962 for Bath; $2,982,522 for Concord; $949,347 for Durham; $980,731 for Exeter; $573,305 for Henniker; $1,656,408 for Keene; $1,140,890 for Laconia; $6,851,848 for Manchester; $5,364,972 for Nashua; $2,079,901 for Rochester; $2,195,307 for Salem; and $112,771 for Woodstock.  Local taxpayers in every town and city across NH benefit from the 4-4-4-3 plan.

But much needed additional revenue for municipalities targeted to roadway repairs is not all that this bill provides. The increase would also fund an additional $8.5 million per year for municipal bridge and highway aid programs, fully fund the I-93 widening project, fully fund the state’s grossly underfunded ten year transportation plan, and provide resources to address the 1600+ miles of state roads currently rated in “poor” condition.

The road toll is a true user fee that has not been increased in over 20 years.  If the citizens of New Hampshire want decent roads, someone will have to pay for them, and it is only appropriate that the cost be borne by the users.  Those who drive less would pay less; those who drive more would pay more.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted on March 20th to recommend reducing the road toll increases from four cents/four cents/four cents/three cents over the next four years, to simply four/four/four.  This is a mistake.  Full implementation of the 4-4-4-3 plan is reasonable and necessary to meet the state’s transportation needs. Here is why.

At 18 cents per gallon, New Hampshire’s road toll is currently the lowest in New England.   

An important aspect of the road toll is that it does not translate penny for penny at the pump.  Drive into Maine with a higher gas tax than NH and you can find lower gas prices there.  This is because supply and demand is the primary driver of gas prices, not the road toll.  When the average driver drives 12,000 miles per year, getting an average of 22.6 mpg, it will cost an additional $79.65 per year after the 15 cents increase is fully implemented.  This cost is based on the assumption that the 15 cent increase passes through penny for penny at the pump, which is unlikely.   

Even assuming that every penny is passed onto the driver at the pump, the cost of $79.65 is less than what the average NH driver is currently spending on vehicle maintenance and repairs due to poor NH road conditions ($323/year), as reported by TRIP, a national transportation group. And in some areas of the state it is worse.  The average driver in the Southern New Hampshire area, including Manchester and Nashua, loses $503 annually due to driving on deteriorated roads, while rough roads cost the average Dover-Rochester-Portsmouth driver $400 annually.

New Hampshire faces an annual transportation funding shortfall of $74 million, more than one third of the state’s major roads are deteriorated, nearly a third of Granite State bridges are in need of repair or replacement, and the state’s rural traffic fatality rate is disproportionately higher than that of other roads in the state.  Unless NH can increase transportation investment, conditions are projected to worsen significantly in the future.  This serves none of us well and works against the NH advantage.

HB 617, at the 4-4-4-3 level, is a good plan and deserves the support of the NH Legislature.  Opposing it is a hard road to travel for our representatives and senators in Concord.

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Information about Todd I. SeligOriginally from Laconia, Todd Selig resides with his wife and two daughters in Durham, New Hampshire.  He has served as Durham Town Administrator since 2001.  After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Syracuse University, Mr. Selig went on to complete a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of New Hampshire.  He has served in a variety of New Hampshire administrative positions within both the municipal and school sectors including positions in Raymond, Laconia, New Boston, Hopkinton, and now Durham.  In 2003, Todd Selig was awarded the Caroline Gross Fellowship allowing him to attend the Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.  He was named as one of New Hampshire’s “40 Under Forty” by The Union Leader in 2005.  Mr. Selig has previously served as chairman of the board of directors for the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies and as a trustee and vice-chairman of the board of PRIMEX (N.H. Public Risk Management Exchange).  He is a member of the International City/County Management Association, a member of the Municipal Management Association of NH, a Trustee Emeritus of the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, and a member of the Durham Historical Society. 

Tuesday
Mar192013

Rep. J.R. Hoell - New Hampshire jobs, lives in the cross hairs of gun debate

By Rep. J.R. Hoell
Dunbarton, NH


It would seem absurd to almost anyone if a group of politicians said they wanted to ban a list of controversial books or require a background check that verified the completion of some civics education before anyone could vote in an election.

After all, the state and federal constitutions protect the right to free speech, regardless of where a person happens to be, and it also protects the equal right to vote in free elections for everyone who is 18 and older. Importantly, these constitutions specifically restrict the right to vote for people convicted of treason, bribery or violation of election laws, not to mention those individuals who happen to be 17 or younger.

Now, the federal Constitution also protects the right to “keep and bear arms” and specifically asserts that this right “shall not be infringed” by Congress. Our state Constitution protects the right of individuals who are “defending life and liberty” or “protecting property.” It also specifically affirms: “All persons have the right to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves, their families, their property and the state.” Unlike the right to vote, there are no constitutional restrictions on these very clear God given Natural Rights of self-defense.

Why then, is it not absurd for politicians to seek legal restrictions on citizens’ right to defend themselves from potentially lethal attacks “wherever they have a right to be,” as our state law now says? Why is it not absurd to require background checks before someone can buy a constitutionally protected product? Why is it not absurd to contemplate banning any weapon that a person can bear? How are these restrictions of the right to self-defense any different from the restrictions to voting or speech rights contemplated above?

Quite simply: Any restriction on gun rights or the right to self-defense is equally absurd and unconstitutional.

Yet, we now have a group of Democrat state legislators in the House who have made it their priority to violate gun owners’ constitutional rights, at the expense of safety and the New Hampshire economy. The same group of Democratic legislators who complained last session when Republicans lifted the unconstitutional ban on guns in parts of the State House reinstated the ban as their first order of business this year.

Then, the Democrats busily got to work on bills to ban guns in public buildings, to prohibit people from showing a gun to diffuse a violent confrontation, to allow violent aggressors to sue people who use their gun in self defense, to require people to take a safety course before buying a gun, and to force innocent people to run and cower from someone trying to kill, rape or seriously harm them.

All of the Democrats’ ideas to restrict gun rights this year are unconstitutional and a distraction from more important business, but the Democrats are now working overtime to convince you it is a compromise for them to advance HB 135, a bill that would make you a criminal for defending your life with a gun outside your house. That bill is scheduled for a vote in the House this week.

Perhaps New Hampshire Democrats expect a woman who is about to be raped to urinate or throw-up on herself as she’s trying to get away from her rapist rather than stop the rape with her gun? Or maybe Democrats expect a disabled man in a wheelchair to let an assailant tip over his chair and take his wallet instead of prevent potentially life-threatening injuries and the theft with his gun? Do they think the well trained, concealed-carry license holder should let a madman shoot 30 people before the cops arrive or take the clear shot that he has and stop the mayhem? Maybe Democrats want a young mother to allow her children to be murdered as she runs under a table to hide instead of take a weapon from her purse and save her most precious loved ones?

With their relentless efforts, it is clearly more important for House Democrats to stop law-abiding citizens from lawfully protecting themselves than to work on efforts to rebuild our struggling economy. What’s worse, a quick look at the statistics show how Democratic efforts to curb lawful gun rights in New Hampshire will actually contribute further to economic malaise.

By far, the firearms industry in New Hampshire generates more revenue per capita and employs more people per capita than the firearms industry in every other state. In New Hampshire, there are over 2,100 people working in the firearms and ancillary industries generating over $150 million of economic activity, according to the National Shooting Sports Association, yet the Democrats want to shut this industry down.

With their uncompromising action, it’s quite clear that Democrats are not only trampling all over constitutionally protected rights, they are also actively working to harm the economy.

 

Released by House Republican Alliance

Tuesday
Mar192013

Matthew Godlewski - State Government Should Not Be Picking Business Winners and Losers

One-Sided Bill Runs Contrary to New Hampshire’s ‘Live Free or Die’ Tradition

By Matthew Godlewski, Vice President of State Affairs

Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers

Think back to 1998.  Remember your hairstyle?  Your clothes? 

A lot changes in 15 years.  Not only do styles and trends change, but most things need a refresh from normal wear and tear.  The same is true for auto showrooms.

That’s partly why automakers are so strongly opposed to legislation crafted by car dealer lobbyists in Concord that would restrict automakers from requiring New Hampshire’s franchised auto dealers from improving or upgrading facilities for a full 15 years.  Automakers are asking for a reasonable 7 years, the industry standard.

And when they do upgrade and refresh their showrooms and waiting areas, dealers want full freedom to do whatever they want without input or oversight from automakers.  But like with any retail product, brand consistency is important in the ultra-competitive auto industry and manufacturers deserve to be part of the renovation process.

The truth is franchise agreements serve a very real and necessary purpose when it comes to retail sales.  They ensure like quality, style, and design that reflects on the value and character of the product sold.  That’s why a McDonalds looks like a McDonalds or a Jiffy Lube like a Jiffy Lube.  The same is true for selling cars and trucks.

And the illogical changes dealers want in New Hampshire law that regulates their business relationships with manufacturers doesn’t end there.  Their changes hurt consumers.  They will cost consumers.

Dealers insist on changes that would raise retail rates for service and repairs for everyone.  Why should New Hampshire motorists pay more than drivers in other states so dealers can increase their own profits?  They shouldn’t.

Dealers want to eliminate checks and balances built into today’s accounting practices.  Five years ago, automakers could ensure the reimbursements they were paying for warranty and recall work were accurate by auditing those invoices up to 24 months back.  In 2009, that review period shrank to 12 months.  Dealers now insist on 6 months.  What are they hiding?

And, in their bill, dealer lobbyists included first-of-its-kind language in the country that would make it easier for dealers to secure automakers’ proprietary and confidential information and sue, thereby increasing litigation, clogging up the courts, and passing on those increased costs of doing business to consumers.  Good for dealers and their lawyers, but again not for you.

The fact is Senate Bill 126 is poor public policy that lets government pick business winners and losers and sets a dangerous precedent in New Hampshire law.  It benefits car dealer interests, not yours.  And it runs contrary to New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die” tradition of encouraging a competitive marketplace for commerce while also protecting the interests of consumers.

The auto industry is in rebirth, and that’s good for New Hampshire.  Close to 24,000 New Hampshire families rely on jobs in the greater auto industry.  And auto-related taxes and fees generate $295 million annually to state coffers, totaling 14 percent of total state tax revenue.

According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, last year dealers enjoyed record pretax profits of nearly $850,000 per store on average.  The ship has been righted.  Automakers want to share that success with dealers, but not at the expense of New Hampshire families who will ultimately be left footing the bill if SB 126 becomes law.

Automakers stand ready to work with both legislators and dealers to find a balanced solution that addresses the needs of all parties and protects consumer interests as well.

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The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the leading advocacy group for the auto industry, represents 77% of all car and light truck sales in the United States, including the BMW Group, Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz USA, Mitsubishi Motors, Porsche, Toyota, Volkswagen Group of America and Volvo Cars North America.

Saturday
Mar022013

Congresswoman Shea-Porter - It will take compromise and courage to solve sequester impasse

On Tuesday, I went to the floor of the House of Representatives to say we should do more than just one simple vote a day (Tuesday's only real vote was to develop an academic competition, Monday's was to rename a flight facility), and that we really needed to work on the biggest issue - a sequester compromise.

Suddenly, Republican Speaker John Boehner walked in, repeated his comments about how the House had already passed two bills last Congress to avert the sequester, blamed the Democrats for holding out for a compromise bill, and departed.  While I was there to talk about a compromise to avoid the sequester, the Speaker, the only one who actually can make that happen in the House, basically told anyone watching CSPAN that he had already done his part, that he was finished.

So goes a typical day in Washington. A few insults are hurled at the Senate and around the House, and everyone goes home, a day's work left undone. No debate on jobs. No debate on fair and careful deficit reduction. No legislative solutions offered, none voted upon. And when the sequester hits if Congress does not compromise, we will see the consequences - jobs lost in New Hampshire and across America, many Americans finding it even harder to get by.

Remember the "jobs, jobs, jobs" campaign chant? I can't even hear a whisper of the word now in the House, because everyone is yelling so loudly about the sequester. Is there a path to a solution here? I do believe there is, but it will call for compromise and courage.

Both parties agree the debt is too large. We may not agree on what spending was necessary, but we all agree that going forward, we need to reduce the debt. Since Congress already passed a first round of cuts, amounting to $1.5 trillion in discretionary cuts (which caused the economy to contract last quarter), we should now compromise and limit and slow down a second round, so we can absorb it. We should scrutinize and reduce spending where appropriate, but do it gradually, so we do not shock the economy, increase joblessness, and slow down our recovery. The sequester will cut $85 billion this year, and $1.2 trillion over 10 years. That is too severe for a fragile economy.

The sequester will hurt both defense and domestic programs. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the sequester will reduce economic growth in 2013 by one-third. These cuts will make us lose about a million jobs, force federal workers to take furloughs and lose 20 percent of their pay, and hack services that range from Meals on Wheels to school aid, from work at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to work in the National Guard. Hospitals will suffer, nonprofits will struggle, and small and large businesses will feel the pain also, when people are laid off and cannot spend. Everyone will feel the pain eventually because the sequester calls for the axe to fall evenly across the federal government, half the cuts coming from defense and half coming from domestic programs. The only group that is happy about this is the group that largely caused this, the tea party. As the Washington Post reported on Tuesday, "Although Democratic and Republican leaders are pointing fingers, the tea party and its allies are happily accepting credit for the cuts."

While I believe that many members from both parties would like to work this out, Speaker Boehner and his leadership team control the House. They alone decide what bills will be put on the floor for a vote. To date, they have refused to allow votes on any plans to avert the sequester. They wouldn't even change the schedule so Congress can at least be in session today, the day the sequester hits. We cannot compromise if we aren't there, and we can't vote on a compromise if no compromise bills are brought to the floor for a debate and a vote.

Most Americans want Congress to work together. They want us to reduce costs and find revenue by stopping unnecessary subsidies. They want us to get the job done, but most members of Congress can only do what they are doing - sit, wait, and wonder why we can't have those debates and those votes. Debates and votes require courage and compromise. Maybe that's why we aren't having any, but Americans have a right to demand it.

See more at: http://www.unionleader.com/article/20130301/OPINION02/130309987#sthash.rUKSQehx.dpuf

Thursday
Feb142013

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter - Stop the Sequester

This is chapter twelve of “The Sky is Falling,” authored by Democrats in the House and Senate who opposed the 2011 Budget Control Act and the threat of the sequester it brought about. They warned that the economy would falter if the sequester came to pass. The Republicans, who hold the majority in the House, warned that the economy would fall if America did not pass a dramatic austerity program.  Their tea party members refused to raise the debt ceiling unless there were what they considered to be appropriate cuts to spending and what Democrats considered to be draconian cuts to spending. As America hung on the verge of default, and the tea party in the Republican Caucus refused to yield, the Democratic majority in the Senate and President Obama agreed to the Budget Control Act.

The deal was that there would be a “supercommittee” that would find the spending cuts, but if they could not compromise, the deep cuts would be spread equally between defense and domestic programs.  Everyone just knew, just was positive, that the unthinkable would never happen, that Republicans would blink on defense and Democrats would blink on drastic cuts to everything else, and that there would be compromise.  But there wasn’t, and now the sky might actually fall right on our nation’s economic recovery.  Last quarter is the first time that the nation’s economy has shrunk in almost 40 months, and the reason is the impending sequester, with its deep and irrational cuts that require lay-offs, slow-downs and freezes. When you demand that the federal government spend at least 9% less across-the-board this year, and you don’t even have specific targets, you will have a lot of unintended and unwelcome consequences, ranging from defense to medical research to education to transportation programs, etc.  Those politicians who kept insisting that the government does not create jobs now have to watch their friends, family, and constituents who work for the government or rely on federal contracts face lay-offs, and they will see companies lose business and profits. The consequences of deep cuts are upon us.

The Defense Department has been sounding the alarm more than other Departments. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has been going before Congress—the very ones who created this mess—and talking about the damage the sequester will do.  In a letter to Senator John McCain, the Ranking Member of the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services, Secretary Panetta wrote, “Such a large cut, applied in this indiscriminate manner, would render most of our ship and construction projects unexecutable—you cannot buy three quarters of a ship or a building—and seriously damage other modernization efforts. We would also be forced to separate many of our civilian personnel involuntarily, and, because the reduction would be imposed so quickly, we would almost certainly have to furlough civilians in order to meet the target.”  Panetta goes on to say that this would “seriously damage readiness.” What he is talking about here is national security and jobs.  Is anyone listening yet?  Everyone knows there are savings to be had in the Department of Defense, but we should target those cuts so we do not jeopardize security or jobs.

While Secretary Panetta is warning the country about our national security, the sequester is threatening other programs and jobs.  The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says in a report that sequestration would be “deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments, and core government functions.”

We need to stop this impending sequestration. We need to find a compromise that allows us to gradually reduce spending, while we find revenue from closing loopholes, reforming the tax code, and going after waste, fraud, and inefficiency.  There are other suggestions as well.  We could add a public plan to the health insurance exchanges. We could require the government to negotiate the price of prescription drugs for Medicare Part D.  We could raise the cap on Social Security.

But there is very little action on Capitol Hill to do just that.  Even if we wanted to discuss it, we cannot, because the House is not actually in Washington, DC very often these days.

Sequester will hurt our economy in New Hampshire.  It will hurt our national economy.  It will lead to lay-offs, and it will create more misery for the middle class and the poor. Congress has spoken.  Now they need to listen.  It is time to stop the sequester and create a viable plan that reduces spending gradually and keeps the economy growing.

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Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter represents New Hampshire’s First District. She previously served the District from 2007-2011, and she was reelected in the November 2012 election. The Congresswoman is again serving on the House Armed Services Committee and the Natural Resources Committee.