Louise Andrus’ View From Concord, March 2023

By Louise Andrus

With the arrival of April, I can start heating my greenhouse with my woodstove, and will be taking my starter plants from my house to the greenhouse to transplant. Even though Spring officially started on March 20, our true warmer weather is just around the corner.

I would like to share an experience with you. That is “a budget can be cut.”   All Merrimack County Legislatures are also delegates to Merrimack County regarding an annual budget, etc.

In February, at a Merrimack County meeting regarding the 2023 budget proposal, I stated I could not support and vote in favor of the budget. The proposal would have created a 2.90% tax increase for the taxpayers of Merrimack County. My reasoning for rejecting the budget was then and still is: Are we heading for a recession? Inflation is high! Realize there are many with an adequate income who will weather inflation and recession. But there are thousands of citizens in New Hampshire who are trying to figure out how to pay their mortgage or rent, buy gas to go to work, put food on the table, pay for heat for their home, and pay the electric bill. Taxpayers are not endless credit cards.

In March, there was another meeting to accept or reject the final Merrimack County budget proposal for 2023. At that meeting, there was a surprise! The tax increase for the taxpayers was going to be lower than the original 2.90% increase. The Merrimack County Business Administration went through expenses which led to a cut in the budget. The delegation voted to approve the revised budget. Two of us voted no on the budget.  I still voted no as I wanted the budget proposal to be no more than the 2022 budget which would mean a 0% increase in taxes. 

It is my belief that if I had not said something about the budget the month prior, the original budget would have passed with the higher increase in taxes. The bottom line is this: Don’t ever let someone tell you that a budget cannot be cut, because it can.  And I believe that with all spending, the question needs to be asked, “Is this a want or a need?”  We can live without a want! The New Hampshire House has been very busy meeting deadlines of bills in committee meetings, and forwarding bills to House Sessions.
On the House floor, I spoke against HB 308 which would allow for less than a quorum to participate in a public meeting remotely for state boards as described in the amendment.  Meeting remotely is not equitable and is not 100% attainable. Remote participation by “state board” committee members again is not equitable as not every member of the public has internet access.  For example, I know in my town citizens on North Road just obtained adequate internet and it took two years to obtain.  Equal access to a public meeting has to be 100% to both the “state board committee members” and members of the public. Anything less is unacceptable.  There should be a set standard of functional equipment. What is considered functional equipment?  Would board members eventually become unavailable to appear at a board meeting in person?
When a person accepts an appointment or nomination to a board, that person knows that in-person attendance is expected. Until the day arrives that every citizen of New Hampshire has sustainable internet access, remote attendance should not be allowed as a way to conduct public meetings as we all work for the citizens.

Part I, Article 8 of the New Hampshire Constitution says: “All power residing originally in, and being derived from, the people, all the magistrates and officers of government are their substitutes and agents, and at all time accountable to them.” Government, therefore, should be open, accessible, accountable, and responsive. To that end, the public’s right of access to governmental proceedings and records shall not be unreasonably restricted.

Section 1 of RSA Chapter 91-A reflects this purpose when it states: “Openness in the conduct of public business is essential to a democratic society. The purpose of this chapter is to ensure both the greatest possible public access to the actions, discussions, and records of all public bodies, and their accountability to the people.”  Even though I voted nay, the bill was adopted by the House.

Have you looked at HB 1 and HB 2, the Governor’s proposed budget?  I am asking you to read the two bills and give your opinion on the budget. The budget can be viewed on the General Court website (gencourt.state.nh.us). This website has much information on the House and Senate. You can also email the appropriate committee or sign in and leave your opinion on a particular bill and whether you support the bill or not or are neutral.  Citizens’ opinions on bills are needed.

If I can be of help, please contact me: 603 648-2510; 406 Raccoon Hill Rd., Salisbury, or email louise.andrus@nullleg.state.nh.us.

Have a great month!