Report from Concord July 21, 2019
A dear friend who is a chaplain introduced me to this poem:
“Out of a great need we are all holding hands and climbing.
Not loving is a letting go.
Listen, the terrain around here is far too dangerous for that.”
Since I became your sworn representative in the NH House, I have been impressed with the intelligence and the dedication of all 390 or so representatives who attend every session. That’s not to say I agree with all of them. Some are dedicated to shrewdly representing their ideologies, and some are dedicated to representing their constituents. I hope to remain in the latter group.
We can be proud that the largest industry in NH after tourism is forestry, and that Andover, Danbury and Salisbury are the number one producers of high-value forestry products and biomass wood chips in the entire state. I have worked conscientiously to represent the interests of the many people in our towns for whom forestry helps put food on their families’ tables. “Dollars here” and “dollars there” are not of equal value to us. Money earned by selling local wood chips to generate electricity locally has much greater benefit than an equal dollar amount spent to buy goods and services, fuels and energy produced out-of-state, because local money can continue to cycle through our local economy several times. Forestry and wood chip money pays local loggers, landowners and equipment operators who can spend those dollars in local businesses, maintaining their equipment, improving their homes and supporting their families. When that money is spent locally a second or third time, it enriches our communities by building our community’s wealth. Once money leaves the state, it is wealth that is lost to us.
Unavoidably, a portion of our money goes to taxes paid to our town and to our state. But in my vision of the proper role of government, all that money is spent to benefit the people and small businesses of our towns and state, building and improving our roads and schools, and protecting all of us from outside threats like the opioid crisis. Ideally, none of our wealth should leave our state in the pockets of out-of-state industries and corporations. There are those whose ideology says that we should hope that exported business wealth will “trickle down” to us, but let me ask you this: In the last twenty years, the stock market’s Dow average has doubled, even tripled since the Great Recession. Has your income doubled or tripled over that same time period? Mine sure hasn’t! Yet over the past few decades income inequality has grown, and a thriving class of billionaires and CEOs has grown with it. They spend huge sums on political organizations, producing TV shows and movies with embedded overt and subtle messaging, and buying up news media outlets. The next time you see or hear something that makes you mad, think for a moment. Do I do my clearest thinking when I am enraged? Why is someone trying to manipulate my opinion? Am I so worked up by this that I will repeat it without thinking it through?
Following a long-standing tradition, the NH House is in recess from the end of June until mid-August. The last order of business in the House was to grant a 30 day continuation of the current budget, so that all current state functions will continue to be funded until August. After that, state employees might be furloughed or required to work without pay.
At the beginning of July, the Governor vetoed several bills, including the total state budget passed by the House and Senate. Importantly, the vetoed budget included significant increases in state funding for our schools and more that $60,000 of relief for Andover property taxpayers.
As to what happens next, there are two distinct possibilities. One, there could be compromise among the several factions and a good faith effort to find common ground. Two, there could be a bitter partisan battle in which no ground is given, resulting in a shutdown of the state government in August or September. Note that it is a complicated landscape, divided vertically along Democrat, Republican and libertarian lines, and horizontally though the House, Senate, Executive Council and Governor.
As time goes on, I certainly hope that our NH Representatives do not ape the partisan feuding that we see played out every day in Washington DC, which resembles nothing more dignified than a cafeteria food fight. The national fight has featured the use of name-calling and sound-bite labels that attempt to paint all people and all parties as black or white, pushing us people into corrals that don’t fit well with how we would choose to define ourselves.
I have made friends on both sides of the aisle, and it is disheartening to hear from some of them how the Governor and his party have been threatening members of their own caucus to toe the Governor’s line, without regard to the interests of their constituents. That is not the way government of the people, for the people and by the people should operate.
For the remainder of the summer, I continue to work in your favor on retained bills about state energy policy, and to work on new legislation supporting industry-funded apprenticeships and workforce education. As ever, I would like to hear from you about matters that are important to you. My number is 735-5756 and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Ken Wells represents Andover, Danbury and Salisbury in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.