Time To Fix Education Funding Once and For All

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Rep. Marjorie Porter, D-Hillsborough

By Rep. Marjorie Porter, Straight Talk

First off, I want to thank the good people in Hillsborough, Antrim, and Windsor who voted to elect me as your representative in the NH House once again. I am honored by your support, and I promise to work hard for you, and for all my constituents, these next two years.

As most everyone knows by now, Democrats won a majority of seats in the House, the Senate, and on the Executive Council, while Governor Sununu won reelection. This will be the first time ever a Republican governor will serve with Democrats in the majority everywhere else, although the reverse has been true several times.

The governor did not have much use for Democrats in his first term, figuring his Republican majorities would see to it his top priorities would sail through. That didn’t work out too well for him, on a number of key bills—Right to Work, school vouchers, and the special-session bill to deal with collecting out-of-state sales taxes all went down in flames. We even overrode two of his vetoes.

This term, I’m sure he will figure out a way to work with all of us. After all, we all have what’s best for the state and its citizens as our top priority.

The last time Democrats had a majority in the House, Republicans controlled the Senate, and the vote to pass the budget was unanimous, so I know we can work together when we want to.

The last time Democrats held the majority in both the House and the Senate, we were hit by the economic collapse of 2008, and the Great Recession. When you are in the majority, you must actually govern, and governing is not easy. Tough decisions had to be made, and they were. It was a struggle, but in the end, NH made it through in a lot better shape than many other states. Our unemployment rate was a good 3% lower than the country as whole throughout the recession and stood at 5.5% in January 2011 when for the nation it was 9.1%. The budget was balanced, and there was no deficit—regardless of what you may have heard.*

When a sports team takes a loss, they are certain to praise the winning team on TV, “We played hard, but not hard enough. They played a better game and deserve the win.”  But politics is not like sports. Democrats got us through the tough time, but the criticism from Republicans was swift and harsh. So was the backlash in 2010.

But here we are, at the helm once again. We haven’t even been sworn in yet, and already Republicans are falling back on their old, tired meme. “They’re gonna raise your taxes, just you wait!”

I dare to say most of us are not too aware of exactly which state taxes we pay, or whether they have gone up or down.

But not so with that most onerous of taxes —the local property tax. It keeps growing and growing, despite the hard work of local boards to keep a lid on spending. The constant increase is largely driven by the increased cost of education and the decrease in state aid to towns to pay for it.

We are still last in the country in state aid to education, and our adequacy grants are woefully meager. This results in vast differences between towns in the quality of education they can provide and will most likely lead us into another lawsuit to fix the problem. (We do legislate by lawsuit in the Granite State.)

None of this is new to you. This problem is decades old. It’s time we took steps to solve it once and for all.

There are some very smart people who are working very hard to find a way to increase the state adequacy grant to help reduce the property tax burden, without robbing Peter to pay Paul. Whether that can happen remains to be seen. I’m not sure how many new gambling schemes  we can come up with to raise the revenue we need.

I know their task would be a lot easier if they had the estimated $100 million in revenues that were lost when taxes on big, out-of-state corporations were cut last session.

Businesses did not ask for those cuts either. They tell us what they really need is an educated workforce to fill the many open positions they have now. If they can’t find them in New Hampshire, they may need to go elsewhere, tax cuts or no. Think of noses cut off to spite faces…

Organization Day in December 5, and dominating the news lately is the contest for the office of Secretary of State. This is an elected office, but it’s the joint House and Senate who will be casting the votes that day. Bill Gardner, who has held the post for 42 years, faces a stiff challenge from former Executive Councilor and gubernatorial candidate Colin VanOstern, both of whom are Democrats. I like and respect both candidates, but for me the choice is easy. A personal story might help explain why.

I spent my professional life as a teacher. For more than 35 years I taught preschoolers to adults everything from colors and shapes to relaxation and breathing during childbirth. For most of that time, I was a pretty good teacher too. I was enthusiastic, had wonderful creative ideas about how to reach my students, and energy galore. I really enjoyed my job.

But eventually time took its toll. Toward the end of my career, I began to feel burned out. My good ideas were fewer, my energy less. The joy was gone. I began to make mistakes I should not have made, mistakes that may have had grave consequences. I knew it was the right decision to retire when I did. It was time.

I have great respect for the work Bill Gardner has done over the years. He is highly regarded by many who worked with him in the past. But I have served on two committees in the last six years where testimony from the Secretary of State was crucial to making good decisions. Listening to that testimony, it’s become obvious to me it is time for a change. Forty-two years is a long time to hold a job, and mistakes are being made.

Secretary Gardner deserves respect and appreciation for the job he did so well in the past, but even Babe Ruth played one season too many. I will be voting for Colin VanOstern for Secretary of State.

*Here are some Politifact links so you don’t have to take my word for it:




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