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New Hampshire, Demographics and Public Policy

Executive Summary

Author: Eric Herr, Vice Chair of the NH Center for Public Policy Studies

Date: September 19th, 2016

After reading the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies report “The Silver Tsunami,” which documented the momentous demographic changes facing New Hampshire, state representative Neal Kurk of Weare asked a group of New Hampshire’s leaders to engage in a conversation about what, if anything, state government could do to help the state and communities manage these seismic shifts. 

“State  officials need to understand the consequences of a future population that is no longer growing but is stable and aging.  The ideas and recommendations  of a group of very thoughtful and knowledgeable people are an essential first step so that the legislature is better prepared to deal with the budgetary and public policy implications of these changes,” said Representative Kurk.

The effort was chaired by businessman Eric Herr, and included Borealis Ventures co-founder Jesse Devitte, policy researcher Mil Duncan, businessman and former University System of NH Chair Andy Lietz, former state representative and Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau, NH Center for Public Policy Studies’  Executive Director Steve Norton, Tillotson Fund Director Kirsten Scobie, and Durham Town Administrator Todd Selig.  The group met a number of times, and heard from a variety of experts on the trends in New Hampshire. 

This group recently issued a report on New Hampshire’s demographic challenges and the role of state government in meeting them.  This report can be found on the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy's web page. 

What can State government do?

Why should demographics be a part of the legislative agenda?  As chairman of the group Eric Herr notes, "On its current demographic path, New Hampshire’s economic vitality will suffer as the prime working-age population declines, and key sources of state government revenue will be significantly impacted as the demand for state services fueled by the aging of baby boomers surges.  Worse, these effects will be felt unevenly across the state with the North Country feeling the effects severely.  State policy makers must anticipate these swings and act to counter these patterns." 

The report suggests that the immediate object of State demographic policy should be healthy, net in-migration.  More people will relocate here because they believe that New Hampshire is a better place to work, to build a career, to live, and to raise a family.  If the objective is higher net in-migration and a tilt toward prime working years, state government policy and resource choices need to reflect those priorities.

Actions recommended by the report include the following: 

The state should -

  • Adopt specific, long-term net -inmigration goals, quantifying both total net migration and, at least, the age composition of net migration.
  • Establish a current services budget process that projects the State budget forward for a decade on the basis of current policy, programs, tax rates and service levels, adjusting only for known external changes like demographically induced changes in demand for public services and projected effects on State government revenue.
  • Include in the current biennial budget processes information about the expected demographic effects of proposed and finally approved budgets and the impact of demographic factors on budgets (for example, school enrollments and demands for senior services).
  • Create a standing Joint Legislative Committee on Demography to oversee the demographic implications of proposed and enacted legislation and to monitor operating performance against the state’s net in-migration targets.
  • Ensure that there are sufficient resources to support the Legislature’s understanding of the demographic shifts occurring by hiring a demographer in the Office of Energy and Planning, or dedicating a senior position in the Governor’s Office to demographic policy. 
  • Fund a thorough review of the fiscal effects of demographic trends in New Hampshire.

Report File

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