Grim economic news

To the Editor:

As committee meetings ramped down at the House of Representatives for the Christmas season, time permitted a great opportunity for members to attend a joint economic session hosted by the New Hampshire House and Senate committees that oversee state spending and the budget. Legislators got a briefing from a number of local and national economists on the current economic state of New Hampshire and the nation as well as forecasts of what's to come.

Unfortunately, the news was grim. David Wyss of the Watson Institute for International Relations at Brown University suggested a very slow growth for the economy and the possibility of another longer and deeper recession that could last a decade, comparing us to Japan in the '90s. He indicated that jumps in oil prices or other significant turmoil in the financial markets would be the trigger to set off a double dip.

Other speakers included the New Hampshire Business and Industry Association (BIA) regarding a survey of business confidence; New Hampshire Department of Employment Security regarding the state's labor and economic trends; the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy; the American Legislative Exchange Council on the state economics index, and the University of New Hampshire. None of which, in a nutshell, painted a rosy picture.

Most of us needn't sit through an economic summit to know that. Times are tough and we see that everywhere we go: the papers, other news media, foreclosures and business closings. But town meetings are gearing up and voters must turnout in greater than usual numbers. There is no guarantee that State and Federal funds will become available to help local budgets. There is evidence that town tax rates are going up quicker the usual because towns and cities can coincide the rates with falling property values to continue to spend as usual. But the problem is now is not the time to spend as usual and we must elect local leaders with an agenda of austerity ready to make tough decisions to trim budgets at the town level. Taxpayers can't afford to hand over any more of their hard earned money.

Further, residents can take action now. Those who don't want to pay more need to put pressure on our current public officials to adjust budgets down rather than simply keep spending as if they have a carte blanche. If you don't complain about your rates going up, then expect more of the same. Voter turnout is critical more now than ever, as is attending budget meetings if you want to take the sting out of your tax bill. If towns and school districts decide to spend more money, it needs to be done with the clear approval of the voters--not just determined by a few.

Rep. Ed Gionet, Grafton 3

Lincoln, N.H.

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