Author: NH Center for Public Policy Studies
Date: September 9th, 2016
Introduction: What is New Hampshire?
Among the new trends shaping the “new” New Hampshire are an aging population, increasing racial and ethnic diversity, a shift away from the high-growth economic model of the past, and continued demand on the state budget for public services. While the implications of these and other changes are still unclear, they do raise critical policy questions, including:
- State budget: With the effects of the Great Recession dissipating, New Hampshire state spending has returned to pre-recession levels. The state fiscal year 2016 budget ended firmly in the black and, absent another economic crisis, 2017 will likely similarly end up in the black. The 2016 surplus was used to fund the state’s rainy day fund and on the state’s opioid crisis. What will budget makers invest in in 2017?
- Economy: New Hampshire’s economy has recovered from the Great Recession. However, the economic recovery is leaving wide swaths of New Hampshire’s largely rural landscape behind. Moreover, it is not clear that increasing prosperity is being felt by all. The bottom half of the income distribution have not returned to pre-recession income levels. Looking forward, what is the state’s economic development plan, especially in relation to demographic trends that show New Hampshire’s working age population actually declining in coming years?
- The education system and demographic change: While New Hampshire is consistently rated one of the best places in the country to raise children, our population as a whole continues to age. Meanwhile, our school enrollment continues on a decade-long decline. Almost 65% of towns experienced a decline of 10% or more in enrollment between 2006 and 2015. Only 15% were stable or increasing. What are the implications of these developments on education policy, housing, public services and transportation?
- Health care: New Hampshire’s health policy landscape is dramatically changing. National reform efforts, and state level collaboration and/or merger activities among providers is creating a new face of medicine in New Hampshire. In addition, the rapid increase in opioid deaths, the expansion of the Medicaid program which extends a substance abuse benefit to many low income NH residents, along with focused investments by the state are fundamentally reshaping the state’s substance abuse provider networks.
- Long-term planning: State policymakers face a long list of critical issues in coming years: public infrastructure investment, financing K-12 education, health care, and energy policy, among others. Many of these require a long-term perspective and an understanding of multi-year trends. How will the state – which has a two-year budget cycle and a two-year term for all major state offices – manage to plan decades into the future?
This report is an update to our annual survey of the major policy issues and critical questions shaping our future. The data explain where New Hampshire has been, forecast where it is heading, and explore how current trends and policy choices facing the state will affect the well-being of its citizens.