New Hampshire in 2013: some predictions

A look at what could and should be in store for Concord in the coming year
Brad Cook|!!| a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green|!!| heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He also serves as secretary of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.

This is not a column of New Year's resolutions. They are broken quickly. However, it is interesting to try to predict what will happen in New Hampshire over the next year.

Obviously, there will be a new governor inaugurated the first week of January, and there will be a lot of talk of "new beginnings," "fresh starts," and the like. There will be excitement and optimism, and the new team will be energized.

The legislative leadership will stress how it is concentrating on "fiscal issues and the budget," and try like anything to keep the more extreme members of the Democratic Party, now in the majority, from introducing bills in the House that will embarrass the party by playing to the left fringe.

The leaders most probably will not succeed, and there will be more ideological discussion than leadership wants, having learned the lesson through personal experience and by watching the last Republican legislature deal with challenges from the right fringe.

Republicans will introduce a lot of bills, like "right-to-work," that will produce a lot more heat than light and will die a slow and painful death, doing the GOP absolutely no good with the public.

Governor Hassan will have to face the reality that the New Hampshire tax system will not produce enough revenue to fund her promises, much less the calls of many for increased governmental spending.

Her budget address will be more austere than she wants it to be, and it will disappoint many in her party and among the general public.

The governor's appointments to boards, commissions and executive posts will continue the moderate, competency-based tradition set by John Lynch in his eight years in office, although there will be some change in the tone of those appointments, reflecting the Hassan team, her acquaintances and supporters, and age group.

The House will do away with the "Redress of Grievances" committee that was invented by the O'Brien leadership and leave judging up to the courts. It will work relatively cooperatively, reflecting the closer balance of the parties.

The Senate, with its 13-11 Republican majority, will be quite bipartisan, although it will act as a check on inappropriate measures passed by the Democratic House. It also will examine both budget proposals and revenue projections carefully.

The state will face the ramifications of reduced federal aid, as the result of whatever budget deals are made in Washington. This will put more pressure on the state budget, as will the continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

The all-female congressional delegation from New Hampshire will do its best to bring home funds for the state, with increasing resistance from the federal government. Still, with Governor Hassan's promise not to institute a broad-based tax, the state will have insufficient revenue to fund what legislators feel are the needs.

The governor will make good on her promise and introduce a casino plan, which will be amended to expand it beyond what she promised to support, and ultimately it, as its predecessors, will be defeated.

Proponents will promise to come back in the next session with a new plan.

The economy will improve in the new year, but the truth of those studies that show how New Hampshire has changed since the roaring economy of the 1980s, attributed to the "New Hampshire Advantage" will receive more attention, as the state, the business community, educational institutions and nonprofits all focus on how to restore economic growth, and see what comprises the "Advantage" of the future.

Increasingly, educational institutions will work with businesses to address shortages in skilled workers, even as college graduates have a hard time finding work.

Local governments will feel the pinch of limited state and federal aid, as resources dry up at those levels. That will put pressure on the local property tax.

Discussion will start on the state level about the desirability of state planning for the need for expanded public school buildings, a departure from local decision-making with automatic state building aid.

There will again be a call for streamlining administrative processes, for "one-stop shopping" for regulatory review and approval of projects, and for flexibility in the number of tools available to attract businesses to New Hampshire.

Efforts to craft a "state economic plan" will attract participants from various sectors, and the ability of all of them to work together will determine whether such a plan is possible. Including education, training, environmental, recreational and cultural elements in such a plan will determine whether such efforts produce a comprehensive plan, or whether the effort merely is a rehash of the old "no new taxes" rhetoric.

So, what will 2013 bring? More of the same issues and efforts that have been around for a long time. However, with new players, new optimism, and a new year, progress will be made on many fronts. This writer is optimistic.

Happy New Year!

Brad Cook, a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green, heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He also serves as secretary of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.

Categories: Cook on Concord