According  to the foreclosure tracking firm RealtyTrac, New Hampshire saw 688 foreclosure filings for the month of August, which was slightly higher than previous month.

For August, one out of every 894 residential dwellings in the state received a notice of either bank repossession or foreclosure auction, better than the national average of one in 681. While New Hampshire is doing far better than the national average in terms of foreclosures

157 dwellings in foreclosure sold were sold in August, leaving a total of 4,026 still on the market

RealtyTrac also tracks foreclosures at the local level as well and looking at the 3 major cities of the state, we see that they follow the trends of the state as a whole:

Manchester saw 76 new filings, with 22 sold, leaving 337 on the market. Nashua had 39 new filings, with 11 sold, with 222 still up for sale. Finally, Concord (including 03303 overlap) saw 9 new filings, 6 houses in foreclosure selling and 83 remaining unsold.




Charlie Arlinghaus

September 12, 2012

As originally published in the New Hampshire Union Leader

What you think you know is often wrong. We are bombarded in election season with facts that aren’t facts and conclusions that are so convenient to our worldview that checking them against the facts would be inconvenient.

More important to most people is starting with the conclusion we have and then accepting the theory that confirms what we already believe. After all, if it agrees with me it must be true because I can’t possibly be wrong.

Today’s papers will be full of election news, so I had better start with election examples or you won’t bother reading. Nowhere does the truth take longer holidays than in election analyses. Pollsters who show our candidates winning are obviously correct, but if my guy is down then the pollster is obviously a biased charlatan.

This is very common right now in the presidential race. The President (of whom I am not a fan) is leading in most polls. The average of recent polls posted on shows the President ahead by 3.1 points. I have friends who are eager supporters of the other guy (Romney is his name, in case you haven’t been paying attention) eager to dismiss some polls or even every poll.

The theory is that the polls have a biased sample. “They oversample Democrats and get a biased result.” Respondents self-identify and in quite a few polls self-identified Democrats outnumber Republicans by 4, 5, or 6 percentage points. “That’s ridiculous,” I’m told. “2008 was D+7 but that was unusual. The sample should be roughly even. So if a Democrats-plus-5 poll shows Obama plus 3, it means Romney wins by 2.”

I’m not vouching for that logic, but it always annoys me that my whining friends can’t tell me what the historical average is even though they are certain it should be moved in their favor. So I looked it up.

According to exit polls, self-identified Democrats outnumbered self-identified Republicans by 7 points in 2008 (39-32). The annoying class is right that 2008 was above average for Democrats and that 2004 was an even split (37-37). However, both years are atypical. The four elections before 2004 had self-identified Democrats with either a 3 or 4 point edge. Interestingly, Independents remained steady nationally at 26 or 27 percent of the electorate except in 2008 when they bumped up to 29 percent.

So that crazy pollster with a slightly Democratic-leaning sample by 5 points is off the historical average by maybe 1.5 points. Hardly ridiculous. Nor need it be. If your guy is up or down by three points with eight weeks to go, the race could go either way.

The next polling myth is the incumbent rule. We all “know” that if an incumbent in a big race is below 50 percent he’s in trouble because “undecideds will break heavily against the incumbent” or “they’re not undecided about him.” This is well known and oft repeated. It’s also wrong.

Nate Silver writes a terrific blog called fivethirtyeight for the New York Times. I’m quite right-wing and he’s quite left-wing but (and here’s the lesson if you’ve been waiting for it) he runs numbers and does factual analysis that is very good even if you’re happy when he’s sad or sad when he’s happy.

So he looked at the incumbent rule to see if candidates under 50 percent with a month to go had troubles. They didn’t. On average, an 8.1-point lead turned into a 7.2-point victory. Undecideds broke only very slightly against them. However, if your guy is down 6 points to an incumbent, I’m sure the math will be different for you.

I use these two election samples not to rain on your parade, but to warn you to check the numbers before you believe generalizations in politics.

Ronald Reagan slashed spending. No. Spending under Reagan increased 6.7 percent each year. OK, but that was all defense spending. No, non-defense spending went up 6.1 percent each year. By contrast, spending over the next 10 years is projected to increase by 4.4 percent.

Supposedly the “Ryan budget” also slashes spending. Again, no. Spending would increase over 10 years from $3.5 trillion to $4.9 trillion under that supposedly radical alternative. The average annual increase would be 3.2 percent instead of the projected 4.4 percent.

This has been an election season message urging you to ignore the whining and check the data yourself. You might find that what you think is true isn’t.

Today the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its August jobs report, which showed that the unemployment rate dropped from 8.3% to 8.1%, and payroll grew by 96,000.

Economists had predicted somewhere between 120,000 and 140,000 jobs, with a growth of 150,000 jobs a month needed just to keep up with natural population growth. However, despite the poor job creation number, the overall unemployment rate went down. Why? It all has to do with how the rate is calculated and who counts as unemployed.

While unemployment rate dropped, the underlying data indicates that it was not due to more people being employed, but rather discouraged workers dropping out of the labor force and thus not being counted in the official rate.


1)      Work Force Participation Rate Drops to Lowest Level since 1979:

As noted in earlier analyses of the jobs report, the labor force participation rate has dropped precipitously in the past few years. The participation rate fell from 63.7% to 63.5%. The last time it was this low was under the Carter Administration. That .2% difference translates to more than 350k people no longer considered part of the workforce. In other words, they are no longer looking for work. One might think that this drop is at least partially due to the aging baby boomers, but as pointed out here, more Americans over the age of 60 are in the workforce than ever before.

So why is this important? A drop in the labor participation rate can mean any number of things, such as an aging population (which has already been dismissed as a cause) or people are leaving the workforce due because they think the job market is so bad, there is no chance of them finding a job. The decoupling of the different unemployment rates detailed here indicates that this is the case.


2)      The Total Number of Employed Persons Dropped by 120,000

In addition to reporting the raw number of unemployed people, Labor Statistics also reports the total number of employed people. Despite 96,000 jobs being created, the number of people employed actually fell for the month of August. This means that only 236,000 more people are employed now than were employed in April.


3)      The Number of People Not in the Labor Force but Wanting Jobs Jumps by 400,000

It stands to reason that the large majority of those who dropped out of the workforce last month contributed to this jump. These people however, are not included in the official unemployment rate because the official unemployment rate does not include those not actively searching for work.

If all of those not in the labor force, but wanting jobs were included in the unemployment figures, the rate would be 12.6%, an increase of .1% from the July figures.

Joshua Elliott-Traficante

September 2012

The New Hampshire Retirement System’s 0.7% investment return for fiscal year 2012 was jumped on by some as a sign the system had failed because it had not met the assumed rate of return of 7.75%. As pointed out in an earlier piece[1], for FY12, the System’s returns were about par for the course in comparison to other state pension systems.

Taking a wider historical view, this is true both in comparison to the stock market as a whole and in comparison to other pension systems.


The NHRS and the S&P 500: A Historical Look[2]

Below is a comparison of the rates of return, by fiscal year, for the NHRS and the S&P 500. It is not a perfect fit for the NHRS, since the System’s assets also include fixed income, foreign stocks and real estate, among other financial instruments. However, domestic equities make up roughly 40% of the portfolio.



Generally speaking, investment returns follow market trends. Investment return data shows that the NHRS tends to outperform the S&P, particularly in the bad years. From 1990 to present, the S&P has averaged a return of 7.69%, where the NHRS has seen 9.29%. Put another way, the NHRS outperformed the S&P 500 in 13 of the last 22 years. Of the years that the NHRS underperformed, half were by less than 3 percentage points.


The NHRS Returns and other Public Sector Pension Systems:[3]

Another check on performance is to compare the NHRS to similar public sector pension systems. Below is a chart comparing the returns of the NHRS, to the returns of state and large local public sector pension systems across the United States.

In the chart, above, the horizontal bar indicates the returns of the New Hampshire Retirement System for the year. As the data shows, System returns have been in the middle of the pack. Returns have stayed well within the range of similar systems, usually near the average.

The vertical lines represent the range of investment returns from the sample systems. Surprisingly enough, returns vary greatly with more than 10 percentage points often separating the highest and lowest returns. This spread can be attributed to a number of factors, in particular asset allocation and the performance of private equities.


[2]Investment Return Data for the NHRS is taken from each year’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. Fiscal Year 1999 to date CAFRs are available online at Fiscal Year 1990 to 1998 are available at the New Hampshire State Library. S&P Returns are available online.

[3]NHRS Returns, see Footnote 1, National Pension Data Public Plans Database. 2001-2009. Center for Retirement Research at Boston College and Center for State and Local Government Excellence. FY10 and 11 data was unavailable so those years use a randomly selected set of 10 consisting of ME, NM, KY, ID, AK, RI, NJ, MD, CALPERS, and AZ, with the data compiled by the author.

Charlie Arlinghaus

August 22, 2012

As originally published in the New Hampshire Union Leader

You’re an idiot. You’re so self-serving and adolescent that you can’t possibly have an adult conversation. That’s the barrage from political professionals. Politicians and their like should carefully avoid talking to us like we’re adults because clearly we aren’t. Anyone attempting to have an adult conversation or be clear about their positions on the issues of the day is supposedly a problem.

Voters, we are led to believe, prefer bland banalities. Rather than a plan or an idea, politicians should say “when I get there, I’m going to roll up my sleeves and get this thing going.” God forbid – or at least political hack forbid – they should let us know they’ve reached a conclusion about what needs to be done or not.

The best example of the cynicism of the political class is the reaction to Paul Ryan. I’ve written before about the angst Ryan causes in the group of adolescents known as political professionals.  Ryan’s last foray into actually explaining what he and many of us believe was greeted with the rolling eyes of belief-free operatives fretting that “Republicans are under the mistaken impression they have to lead.”

You see, in Washington, ideas are the enemy. This explains the debt and budget situation in DC which would be considered insane anywhere outside of DC and Europe.

A recent story in Politico highlighted the hand-wringing trepidation felt “among Republican operatives in Washington.” Many timid people of flexible values move to Washington where they get to try and convince our elected officials to avoid talking if at all possible.

You and I are under the mistaken impression that elections are about ideas. We choose, on the basis of what they believe and what they say they will do, who we want to go temporarily into the cesspool and represent us. What they believe matters. A lot. If they have no idea what they want to do, or no fixed opinion, why would we hire them?

Not every politico is a hand-wringer. Notably, Mary Matalin summed up the point of elections when she disagreed with the jellyfish: “what everyone wanted was a campaign and presidency of purpose with a mandate for reform.” Well said, Mary Matalin.

Elections are not popularity contests. The people running ought to be well versed on the issues of the day, willing to talk about the most important issues they are going to deal with, and effective enough leaders and communicators to explain to us what they’re planning on pursuing.

By the way, the election is not a referendum per se. None of us expects that we will agree with a candidate on every issue or every detail. But we are all capable of behaving like adults. We understand difficult decisions and can have them explained to us even if we don’t agree with every particular.

Our own Sen. Kelly Ayotte has been an example of this recently. In her first two years in Washington, she’s emerged as a crusader on balancing the federal budget. Typically politicians like that end up compromised because budget bills are placed forward with a program here or there for her home state. The Washingtonian thinking is that she can’t possibly explain voting against it to the people at home (remember Washingtonians think we’re idiots) so they’ve boxed her in.

Sen. Ayotte voted against a budget bill that included some prison money for New Hampshire along with billions of other spending proposals. She voted no. people didn’t rise up in arms because any money that might go to NH justifies every other stupid idea. Instead they listened to her and most ended up agreeing.

At the end of the day, voters aren’t stupid. They don’t respond to the most brainless of the attack ads run here and there. After decades of over the top negative ads and negative mail pieces, voters instinctively understand that there is probably more to the story than my political opponent is telling them.

The better political professionals will tell you that negative pieces are most effective when there is more information and some sort of third party validation. Why? Because we’re not stupid and we understand that an opponent may not be telling the whole story.

More than that, after watching Greece and half of Europe on the verge of bankruptcy, we know that the United States isn’t far behind and may have to make some adult decisions to avoid being a basket case. When asked what your plan is, it is never the right answer to say “I don’t know but he’s a jerk.”

The adolescents in Washington don’t understand but the rest of us get it.

According to the foreclosure tracking firm RealtyTrac, foreclosure filings fell nearly 25% in July from the June figures. With a total of only 596 properties either being put on the auction block or repossessed by the bank,  this puts total filings under 600 for the first time since December. While a good sign, it should be noted that last year’s June to July time frame also saw a similar drop, followed by a spike in August. It remains to be seen if this year’s drop is part of a yearly trend or a sign of a continued housing recovery.

Statewide, only one in 1,031 properties received a filing notice. The national average for July was one in 686 with California having the highest rate of 1 in 325 and North Dakota the lowest, at one in 105,833.

Charlie Arlinghaus

August 8, 2012

As originally published in the New Hampshire Union Leader

Good proposals often founder on the rocks of partisanship. It is a sad truth of current political wars that Republicans are meant to reject Democratic proposals simply because of the party that made them and vice versa. But even in the current supercharged atmosphere, there are quite a few reform proposals that people across the spectrum can support without impairing their ideological credentials.

Marjorie Smith, former Democratic chairwoman of the House Finance Committee, started the ball rolling by agreeing with my suggestion that our bifurcated executive branch with a semi-independent bureaucracy ought to change. You can just imagine some of her colleagues saying “couldn’t you take that position without agreeing with that annoying nit?”

Yet Rep. Smith is capable of seeing past our disagreements (we often have inverse views on the financial affairs of the state) and seeing the chance to build cross-partisan agreement on changes to make a better government for whomever we elect to run it.

If I can, I’d like to suggest two changes that should be agreeable to both parties and the new governor, whether it be Ovide Lamontagne or Jackie Cilley, Maggie Hassan or Kevin Smith.

The new governor will inherit his or her department heads and have the opportunity to change or reappoint only a small minority of them in the first six months in office. Current Gov. John Lynch improved the situation by signing a law four years ago to make commissioners’ terms expire. They used to serve until a replacement was confirmed, allowing governors to hold them over indefinitely or a council to refuse to accept a replacement and thereby keep the old guy.

But it is a small change. We can and should make all commissioners more directly accountable to the chief executive on whom we pass judgment every two years. Typically, Democrats oppose giving a GOP executive more authority, and vice versa, but today is different. The November election will produce a new governor, and neither party is a clear favorite. We can all agree that the person we support should have that authority and begrudgingly admit that even if our candidate loses, the other one should have the same authority.

But how? We can’t have commissioners serve just two years, or no one would take the job. A four-year gubernatorial term is more controversial. What we can do is stagger the terms, but create responsibility by allowing the governor to remove a commissioner for any reason he chooses. I would have all commissioners serve at the pleasure of the governor. But a removal procedure with or without council approval probably creates the right incentives for accountability.

There’s no ideological victory or defeat for either side in such a proposal, so why not join together and do it?

Similarly, both parties have an interest in having the best people able to serve. Yet the Legislature is an impossible chore for most of us. Sessions have gotten longer and longer so that it is now a full-time job and then some for the first six months of each year and a part-time job for the remainder. Fewer and fewer people are able to serve. This is particularly true in the Senate, in which 24 people have to cover the same ground as 400 in the House. It is almost certainly a cause of good people of both parties stepping aside.

No one, I think, would argue that we are better off for having another 1,000 or so prospective bills in the second year of a legislative session. Yet few people want the Legislature absent for the entire second year (not that they’re ever really absent from an oversight role). A solution is a return to biennial sessions.

The Legislature would meet in full, unrestricted session each odd-numbered year, just as today. But the second year would be restricted just as so-called special sessions were in the past. A limited session would be called and limited to specific proposals of some urgency. Under such a scenario, the Legislature wouldn’t cede any authority or privilege but would allow more to serve.

Again, this is a proposal that creates no partisan advantage, nor runs foul of either party’s philosophical underpinnings. It simply allows a better process.

These are but two examples of proposals that won’t displace partisan debate, but that needn’t run afoul of politics either. Others will suggest reorganizing government, streamlining Executive Council oversight, and reforming the structural components of the budget process. Philosophical fights are important to a free government, but so too is realizing that sometimes it’s all right to agree.

Today the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly jobs report for July. Suffice it to say, it does not show much of an improvement over the June data. In fact, the unemployment rate increased from 8.2% to 8.3%. While it is only a tenth of a percent increase, it means that all of the marginal improvements made this year have now been completely wiped out. Looking deeper into the data, we see more troubling data:

200,000 fewer people are working:

The loss of 200,000 employed persons is probably the worst news out of the jobs report. While some of that loss could be attributed to end of fiscal year retirements, looking at historical data, the June to July data does not show any recurring trend. In years of economic weakness, the June to July number falls and in good economic years, the number rises. Thus economic conditions as a whole are the driving force in this numbers, rather than retirements. Had retirements been the driving force, the data would have shown a consistent decline in the June to July figures.

That being said, the fact of the matter remains that there are 200,000 fewer people working in July than there were in June. No matter the reason in which those jobs were lost, be it layoffs or retirements, the problem is that those jobs were not filled.

Workforce Participation Rate Drops to 63.8%:

The workforce participation rate measures the number of people who are either looking for, or have a job. While measured as both a rate and in terms of individuals, the participation rate has fallen over the past few years to rates not seen since the early 1980s. While a small portion of this was expected due to the first wave of baby boomer retirements, the extent and sharpness of the decline is directly attributable to the recent economic turmoil. The drop in the workforce participation rate from June to July represents 150,000 people no longer employed or seeking work. Given the corresponding increases in the U-4 and U-6 unemployment figures, most, though not all, dropped out of the workforce due to economic reasons.

U-4 and U-6 also increased.

In simple terms, the U-4 and U-6 unemployment rates are different classifications of unemployment, with progressively wider definitions of what it means to be ‘unemployed.’ When you’ve heard on the news that the current unemployment rate isn’t the ‘real’ unemployment rate, these rates are usually the measurements they are referring to. While it makes sense that these rates would increase along with the official unemployment rate, the fact that they do, shows that the problem of large numbers discouraged workers is continuing, not getting any better. The U-4 rate is now 8.8% and the U-6 is 15.0%

For a more detailed discussion of the alternative means of measuring unemployment, click here

Joshua Elliott-Traficante

August 2012

The first Friday of every month, the Department of Labor releases its monthly jobs report. The figure usually reported in the media as the ‘unemployment rate’ is actually just one of six different classifications of unemployment that the Department uses. These are numbered U-1 through U-6 and as the numbers go up, the wider the definition of unemployment. The most common reported by the media and considered the official unemployment rate is referred to as the U-3 rate.

How Rates are Calculated:

Unemployment is almost always reported in terms of percentage rates. In calculating the rates, there are two numbers that are used: The numerator, being the number of people who fit the definition of unemployment for that classification and the denominator, which is the size of the total potential workforce. Divide the two, and the result is the unemployment rate for that classification. Complicating matters is the fact that there are three different potential workforce populations used in the rates. U-1, U-2 and U-3 all use the same potential workforce number, U-4 has one all to its own, with U-5 and U-6 sharing one between them. Because the higher classifications count individuals who are no longer considered part of the workforce, when calculating those rates, those individuals must be added into the total potential workforce as well.

The Classifications:

U-1: This is the narrowest definition of unemployment, counting only those who are unemployed for 15 weeks or longer.

U-2: A slightly wider definition, including those who would be counted as U-1, plus all of those who have lost their jobs involuntarily and those who have completed temporary jobs. A recent example of a temporary job would be someone who took a job as a census taker for the 2010 Census, knowing that once it was completed, their employment with the Census Bureau would be terminated.

U-3: This is considered the official unemployment rate by the Department of Labor and the one most often cited in the media. This rate includes all those who are unemployed and are seeking employment as well as those classified as U-1 and U-2.

U-4: This rate is U-3 plus those workers who are considered ‘discouraged workers.’ In laymen’s terms, these are individuals who are unemployed but not looking for employment only because they think there are no jobs available and to look would be in vain.

U-5: This rate is U-4 plus those workers who are marginally attached to the labor force. Essentially it includes people who are unemployed and not looking for work for any reason, market related or not.

U-6: This rate is U-5 plus all those who are working part-time due to the poor jobs market, but who want and are available to work full time. An example would be a recent college graduate working part-time as a waiter to get by, but would like to work full time in his or her chosen field.

The Decoupling

Before the recent economic downturn, few people discussed any rate other than the official unemployment rate, the U-3. However, the nature of the last recession, as well as the lack-luster recovery has given rise to a debate concerning U-3’s preeminence. Some have argued that given the current economic climate, the U-6 rate is actually a more accurate representation of the state of unemployment.

For the past 18 years, the difference between the U-3 rate and the U-6 rate ranged between 3 and 4.5 percentage points. Since early 2009 however, at which time the recession had been underway for more than a year, the spread rapidly ballooned to 7 percentage points and has remained at or just below that for the last 3 ½ years, unprecedented since the tracking of the U-6 rate began.[1]

This decoupling of rates spurred recent debate of using the U-6 rate over the U-3 rate. The U-6 rate counts the people who have simply given up looking for a job, due to the poor state of the economy and those who have taken part-time work but would otherwise want to be employed full time. People who fall into these categories are not counted under the official unemployment rate.

With a slower than normal recovery, we are seeing an atypical surge of those two groups of workers counted in the U-6 data, but this trend, while critically important when trying to assess the state of unemployment in the country is not represented in the official U-3 rate.

Those who argue for using the U-6 rate point to this fact specifically as the reason to use it over the U-3 rate. This is not to say that the U-3 rate is inaccurate, but its definition of unemployment is too narrow for the current economic climate, failing to capture those two groups of people, whose ranks have swelled rapidly due to an abnormally slow recovery.

As of June 2012 the spread between the two rates was 6.7 points, but trending upward. While it is impossible to say for certain, but it stands to reason that the vast majority of the roughly 3 percentage point overhang from the normal rates can be directly attributed to the tepid recovery.

A New Official Unemployment Rate? Tempting, but Short Sighted

As noted earlier, generally the U-3 and U-6 rates have stayed within a range of 3 to 4.5 percentage points, the 7+ gap as of late is an entirely new phenomenon. It is true, that while the U-3 rate has been a good measure in the past, economic conditions of late have resulted in the official unemployment rate partially masked the true extent of unemployment in the US.

At this point, it seems short sighted to abandon our current measure of unemployment, with the understanding that the current decoupling of the wider definitions of unemployment with the official rate is a fluke.

Should the current state of economic malaise become the ‘new normal’ as some have suggested, changing the designated official unemployment rate would be worth some serious consideration, although stretching to the U-6 would be a bit far. If the goal is to include people who have given up looking for work purely due to economic considerations, then the U-4 rate is worth a look. Like the U-6, it moves in tandem with U-3, albeit at a much closer statistical distance, usually in the neighborhood of .25 percentage points. As of June 2012 it was double that, .5 percentage points, putting the U-4 rate at 8.7%.


[1] Spread calculated by author from data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Charlie Arlinghaus

July 25, 2012

As originally published in the New Hampshire Union Leader

Candidates are supposed to avoid being specific during elections. They are regularly told by the bulk of the consulting corps that telling people what you might or might not do as governor only makes people mad, costs you votes and limits your options once you get elected.

Pledges and specific proposals are troublesome and should be avoided at all costs. Instead of telling us what you plan to do, discuss the problem, share your concerns for the future and say quite forcefully that we need to work together to find a solution. Message: You care.

This is a great plan for the politician who seeks popularity and adulation. If your goal is to be likeable and liked, specifics are not your friend. If your goal is to lead the state and build support for solution-oriented proposals, you might want to be specific during a campaign, lay out concrete proposals and provide details about your preferred solution.

Specifics will keep you from achieving 80 and 90 percent approval ratings. Lack of specifics will keep you from achieving much if you do manage to get elected. In addition to everything else, policy is boring and requires a lot of studying and reading numbers.

So candidates go forward in an election talking in vague generalities about the importance of jobs, bringing people together, fighting for a stronger economy, hot dogs and apple pie — unless, of course, you prefer lemon meringue.

Voters are in a unique position during the election cycle. Candidates desperately need us. They cross the state seeking handfuls of us to speak with and are forced to take questions from anyone who happens to show up about anything they want to ask about.

After the election, they are surrounded by lobbyists, agency heads and people who have time to spend at the State House during the middle of a work day. But during the election phase, we can force them to commit to us on specific issues, answer questions in public about where they stand on every issue and get them to rule in or rule out approaches to the problems of the day.

This is particularly important. Many a candidate in history (although no one running this year I should hasten to add) has told one group he’s in favor of something and another group he’s opposed to, or at least given each diametrically-opposed group the impression he’s sympathetic to them. Only when forced to publicly declare a position is one group then surprised.

The next Legislature will deal with a host of issues large and small, none of which is new to any candidate. I want to know where everyone stands in some detail.

The state’s pension system is among the worst funded in the country. Everyone is planning on doing something, but what specifically? Will you support a defined contribution or insist that defined benefits be required? What specific changes would you make if elected, how would that affect the cost to taxpayers at every level, and would those changes actually stop liabilities from growing much faster than the assets we have to pay those liabilities?

Taxes are always an issue in New Hampshire. Part of candidate transparency is the pledge. At this point, every politician knows where he or she stands on an income tax — yes or no? How about other taxes? The economy is still uncertain, will increasing other taxes be part of your budget or not? You know enough today to tell us that.

The Tax Foundation finds our business taxes the highest in the country. Will you lower them over time? How much? What will that cost and how would you pay for it?

I’m not revealing any secrets when I tell you that the last budget was the most significant cut in modern history. Will you preserve those cuts? If you intend to add some spending back, what areas would you increase first, and how would you pay for that increase?

Are current government structures appropriate? Would you give the governor greater control over the executive branch? How do you feel about biennial sessions for legislators to allow more people to serve?

Would you support an education funding amendment? Will you restructure state aid to education? Will you support or try to repeal the school choice plan enacted last year?

There are dozens of other issues. You should ask each candidate his or her opinion on each of them. The more we know, the fewer surprises we have. Political consultants want them to tell us less. We should demand more.