- What should government do to provide an equitable, quality public education for all children pre-K through grade 12?
It is my opinion that equitable high quality public education is strongly dependent on funding that takes into account all aspects of low and high poverty areas. As shown in the February 2018 Report “Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card”, NH received a D in Funding Distribution. This flat line approach assumes that all students and all community needs are the same. On the surface it appears only fair that each community should be given an equitable share of funding however, not every community has the tax base to fill in any funding shortfalls. This method provides excess funding for cities and towns who have the current resources to appropriately fund public education while creating shortfalls in many other lesser resourced communities. Based on 2016/2017 figures a city like Nashua with 11,496 students has an equalized valuation (EV) of $837,057/pupil while a town like Moultonboro w/474 students has an EV of $6,267,340. This results in Nashua needing to have an Ed tax rate of $11.69/1000 while Moultonboro only needs $4.33/1000. To give an even greater inequity Berlin has an EV of $282,760 w/1114 students, Ed Tax rate of $20,78/1000. The truth is the more adequately and overfunded communities are those with large bodies of water and other tourist attractions. Sadly, this leaves the majority of the state educationally underfunded.
We need to review policies that give large tax incentives to businesses who donate to charter and private schools. This is harming our needed and mandated non-chartered public schools. For 2018/2019 the state provides $3,636.06/pupil in Adequacy Aid for students in non-charter public schools while providing an additional stipend of $3,000/pupil for public charter schools. I believe charter schools are a great alternative to “real” public schools but I do not believe that they should receive additional funding while not being held to the same education standards than the “real” public schools.
- What should our state do over the long term to ensure healthcare access for all?
The continuation of expanded Medicaid on a permanent basis would be our first step. While this year we were able to pass a longer 5-year expansion, the anxiety to families and citizens of the threat of an expiring healthcare safety net is horrendous. We must insure that all citizens regardless of their income level or income stability, will be able to succeed and remain cared for regardless of their income. While too many believe that this service is provided to those who don’t want to help themselves, they are missing the needs of those who have become ill and can’t work or the needs of a single parent with small children who would pay more for childcare than they could earn. The ever-growing cost of Healthcare in this state and country is creating a larger and larger disparity between the haves and the have nots. Too many of our citizens are a paycheck away from being homeless and without adequate healthcare coverage. In addition, much of the insurance industry is regulated at a state level which means that we should be able to put into place safeguards to protect those with pre-existing conditions or those in high risk categories from loss, denial or excessively high cost insurance. We need to create these safeguards to protect the most fragile in our community. We can ensure that there are no “pre-existing condition” clauses, no lifetime maximums, and no high-risk grouping which will lead to overpriced plans that will “price out” most of these citizens. If we are a true community, we need to care for each and every citizen. I do believe we should have incentives for those able-bodied and mentally cognitive citizens to become adequately employed and insured. While I don’t believe in putting an undue hardship on small businesses, I do believe that we need to construct a system that supports both the worker and the small business to assure proper and adequate healthcare access to all.
- In building a vibrant economy in our state, would you emphasize reforming tax policies, addressing income inequality, increasing workforce housing, or something else?
My short answer is YES to all of it. The long answer is a little more complex. Truthfully, in building a “vibrant” economy we can just say we have encouraged a number of businesses to come to NH. We need to give them the incentive to come, to stay, and most importantly to grow and encourage them to spend their money here in the state of NH. I don’t believe the continuation of cuts to the business tax rate is an incentive to bring companies to NH. The bottom line is that tax cuts primarily help larger businesses who continue to take their tax savings and monies out of the state of NH. This type of decrease State Revenue is not a sustainable plan. The loss of revenue continues to place the shortfall burden on local municipalities as well as cuts in much needed social programs. This downshift of cost to our cities and towns has created an enormous increase in real estate taxes for most homeowners. This increase in taxes being placed on the backs of our citizens or potential citizens is making NH less and less affordable and desirable
The needed for affordable housing is becoming one of NH’s greatest need. Over the past few years the average rent has increased as much as 25% which is pricing many potential citizens out of the NH market. This lack of affordable housing is becoming a deterrent for new business growth and new businesses in general from coming to NH. Sadly, the continued downshift in cost to the municipalities has created a need for increased tax base which means the need for larger more expensive housing as well as business. Thus, we create a self-imposed “Catch 22”. We MUST begin the battle of encouraging and incentivizing the building of smaller more affordable housing to bring in young families and more business to our state.
It goes without saying that we in NH must also begin the process in setting a minimum wage. While I often hear that we have incredible businesses here in our state that pay over the federally imposed minimum wage of $7.25, I know that currently we are in a period of employee advantage. What happens if this trend turns, as most do, and the advantage becomes more in favor of the employer and there is a workforce glut? The average rent of a 2 bedroom unit in Nashua for 2019 is estimated to be $1,437. This means that in order to afford this rent plus food, insurance, and general cost of living, the average family must earn $51,732/year. For a two-worker family living in Nashua each earning approx. $26K/year would need to be paid approximately $13/hour. This means there are many single family earners who must take on multiple jobs to earn that much money while trying to maintain childcare costs and finding some family time.
Back in the mid-80’s, my husband and I were working at the VA Hospital in Bedford, Mass and resided close to the area. We decided we wanted to buy our first home together. We looked all around the Bedford and surrounding areas for a home that met our needs yet still affordable. We found nothing in Mass and slowly started to look north to NH. We found a beautiful condo in Nashua that was perfect. However, it was about 30 miles from work and with the Rt 3 traffic, we agreed that we would only stay for a few years until we could afford to move back to Mass. As the years passed, we fell in love with Nashua and NH so we chose to stay and have since retired here. The bottom line is, if we continue to downshift cost it will make it less and less affordable to move or stay here. Also, we will lose the desirability of such a beautiful state if we do not create a competitive livable wage.
- What is the most effective allocation of funds to address NH’s substance use crisis?
I wish I had a solution to the substance misuse crisis that plagues our city, state, & country, Sadly, there are no longer communities untouched by this crisis. IMO, the real need is MH and Crisis counselors. While we continue to hear about monies being “found” to support crisis centers, the truth is it mostly smoke and mirrors. Budgeted funds were inadequate to begin with then suddenly monies are given at the right time just before a mid-term election. It is wonderful that funds have been freed up for some centers while others remain underfunded and under supported. In NH the MH and substance capacity both in physical space and workforce remains extraordinarily low. We need more than beds we need to create OutPatient programs that will give discharged patients a place to go while freeing up high cost InPatient beds. Therefore we need to adequately budget UPFRONT aid to programs providing such services. It is time to increase the reimbursement for MH MD’s and caseworkers. In addition, we need to reduce the cost of education for those wishing to work in this field. We can do this by providing scholarship incentives with a stipulation of work within the state of NH for each year of discounted or free education. I believe that the state does not need to take on this burden all alone. I believe that we can create a public/private partnership within the healthcare industry to successfully fill this gap of both program and workforce capacity.