Since the founding of the Josiah Bartlett Center ten years ago, we’ve taken a special interest in the relationship between federal and local governments. The recent sweeping overhaul of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act known as “No Child Left Behind (NCLB)” promises major changes at both the state and local levels. Unfortunately, the nature of those changes and the likely costs associated with them are often obscured by the political back and forth that tends to dominate the issue.

Four hundred forty million dollars will consume, for a decade or more, practically every bit of highway money in the state of New Hampshire. Dozens of other projects, equally needed to accommodate growth and enhance safety, will be pushed aside. Most disturbing, a widened I-93 will bring rapid growth to 50 or 60 communities in southern and central New Hampshire, but the $440 million price tag will preclude or delay dozens of local highway improvements needed to accommodate the growth. The result, once you leave the interstate, will be more congestion, more delays, and less safety. If widening I-93 is necessary but dumb as proposed, is there a better alternative?

Since 1934, the federal government has had a policy that encourages the use of prison laborers but prohibits the prison from entering into competition with private enterprise. Adopting a sensible policy like the federal one can help New Hampshire reduce the tension created when our own government uses prison labor to gain an enormous competitive advantage over the private businesses paying taxes to subsidize that labor.

Until 1999, state education funding was an integral part of the general state budget. In 1999, in response to the Claremont lawsuit, aid was separated into an education trust fund and a series of tax increases were dedicated to that fund along with a transfer from the general fund. It made sense at the time to create an accounting tool to show that the tax increases were being used for their stated purpose. However, today that accounting tool is no longer necessary, is misleading, and ought to be eliminated.

In this study, economist Brian Gottlob determines that a means tested school choice certificate program could save the state budget $32 million over eight years. For this study, Mr. Gottlob examined a program like the ones introduced in the legislature the last two years that would cap the total number of vouchers, direct a full voucher to children at the lowest income levels and award partial vouchers on a sliding scale to more moderate income families.

A study in partnership with the Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation to examine the financial impact of a state school choice pilot program. The study shows that the voucher would be less than the avoided variable costs – resulting in a net financial gain for most communities.

Over the last year, states from coast to coast have considered the policy implications of importing prescription drugs from Internet pharmacies in Canada. Proposals have faced opposition from state pharmacists, every major Canadian pharmacist organization, and a concise condemnation from the Canadian Medical Association: “We feel Internet pharmacies could jeopardize patient safety and we’re against them.”

Recent editorials and letters to the editors in various newspapers opposing the proposed constitutional amendment to restore to the Legislature its traditional power to determine education policy and funding (CACR2) all sound a common theme – those who suggest that the Judiciary should be excluded from the process are really only out to shrink the state’s share of the education budget. This is not a fair criticism.

Political leaders from the right and left, Democrats and Republicans, agree that the current system of state aid to education is a failure. Without constitutional change, legislators are stuck tinkering at the edges of the current system that no one likes. Yet opponents of any constitutional amendment contend that we can’t trust the people we elect and the current flawed system would just be replaced with the problems of the past.

The Statewide Property Tax is bad for economic development and the independence of local government. We have a short window of opportunity to repeal the tax and should do so before it becomes financially impossible.