NHFPI Conference Examines the State Budget and Investments to Sustain a Vibrant Economy

February 22, 2019

NHFPI Conference Examines the State Budget and Investments
to Sustain a Vibrant Economy

Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute’s Sixth Annual Conference, Investments to Sustain a Vibrant Economy, was held Friday, February 22 at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord. More than 145 attendees from the state’s government, nonprofit, and business sectors gathered for the event, which examined state budget issues as well as trends impacting residents and the economy.

The event addressed key topics of concern to the state, including health, housing, higher education, and caretaking for children and family members. Throughout the event, speakers highlighted the interconnections among the topic areas and the importance of considering these connections in the process of creating solutions. Speakers also addressed how New Hampshire residents are faring in the post-recession economy, and opportunities for investments and policy changes that may contribute to their health, well-being, and economic prosperity.

“When we talk about our state economy, and our workforce, we should be mindful that it is Granite State residents who make it all happen, and that all of the issues discussed here today contribute to their quality of life and their economic prosperity. Their well-being is an essential component to our efforts to sustain a vibrant economy,” said NHFPI Executive Director AnnMarie French.

Opening remarks were provided by Donald Shumway, whose distinguished career has included serving as the Commissioner of New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services, as CEO of Crotched Mountain Foundation, and more recently, as the interim director for New Hampshire Hospital. Throughout his career, Mr. Shumway witnessed the impact of state funding decisions on the lives of the state’s most vulnerable residents. In his remarks, Mr. Shumway recounted his personal experiences serving as a caretaker for a family member, and highlighted concerns for others who lack the resources to care for family members in need.

The conference panel discussion addressed progress and opportunities in the areas of health, housing, education, and caretaking workforce supports. Panel presenters included Jeffrey Meyers, Commissioner, New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services; Dean Christon, Executive Director and CEO of New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority; Ross Gittell, Chancellor, Community College System of New Hampshire; and Kristin Smith, Family Demographer, University of New Hampshire Carsey School of Public Policy. The panel was moderated by Jo Porter, Director of the Institute for Health Policy and Practice at the University of New Hampshire. Panel topics included ongoing efforts to address the opioid crisis, the new ten-year mental health plan, health care access and delivery, and child welfare; higher education and initiatives to bolster workforce development; housing market challenges and the need to increase the supply of affordable housing; and access to affordable child care and paid leave, which aid care givers in maintaining employment and contributing to the state’s workforce.

Panelists also discussed concern for the many New Hampshire families who have yet to recover from the last recession. With potential for a slowing economy, speakers noted the importance of public investment during the current strong economy to bolster key areas and help Granite Staters be better prepared to adapt to a changing job market.

“While median household income in New Hampshire is about $73,000, more than one in five households have less than $35,000 per year in income, and one in three have less than $50,000 per year,” noted NHFPI Policy Analyst Phil Sletten. “While the economy has grown and helped to increase median household income, there are still many people with very limited means.”

The keynote address, presented by Jeffrey P. Thompson, Director of the New England Public Policy Center and Senior Economist and Policy Advisor for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, addressed economic indicators for New England’s regional economy and key takeaways New Hampshire should consider as the state strives to maintain a strong economy in the years ahead.

“The region’s economy has grown steadily since the financial crisis, with total output and employment rising steadily, and unemployment at near-historic lows,” said Thompson. “New Hampshire does face a number of challenges, both in the near term and over the longer term. In the immediate future, the state faces a shortage of workers.  With unemployment so low, it is hard for firms hoping to grow and expand to find the workers they need.”

“Over the longer term, there are a number of issues the state will need to address, including infrastructure in dire need of repair, and real affordability issues in housing and for higher education in the state,” Thompson noted. “Along with the other Northern New England states, New Hampshire is also grappling with important demographic shifts – these states are becoming older – now standing out as having among the oldest populations in the country. Being able to attract and retain younger workers will prove crucial to their economies as well as their ability to finance vital public goods and services.”

Event sponsors include R.S. Audley, Inc.; Helms and Company; New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority; Waypoint; Full Circle Consulting; New Futures, and New Hampshire Business Review. Partner level supporters include The Dupont Group, Reaching Higher NH, Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy, and additional support from Paul Spiess.

Conference presentation slides are available online at NHFPI’s conference web page: https://nhfpi.org/news-events/nhfpi-2019-annual-conference

The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute is an independent, nonprofit, non-partisan organization dedicated to exploring, developing, and promoting public policies that foster economic opportunity and prosperity for all New Hampshire residents, with an emphasis on low- and moderate-income families and individuals. Learn more at www.nhfpi.org.




AnnMarie French