HOW WE CAN GET LCHIP BACK ON TRACK
Between now and April 4th, we will have a key opportunity to show support for the restoration of the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, or LCHIP. As you know, the state legislature has repeatedly raided LCHIP’s dedicated funding source – a $25 fee paid on document recording at the county registries of deeds -- since it was put in place five years ago. To date, more than $10 million of the “dedicated” LCHIP fee has been diverted to the general fund, or almost two thirds of all the funds collected from the fee since its inception.
During the same five years, only $5.8 million of the LCHIP fee – a fee that has been paid by literally hundreds of thousands of New Hampshire citizens -- has gone to its intended purpose. This “bait and switch” on taxpayers has eroded the credibility of the state’s elected officials, and if ever challenged in the courts it may prove unconstitutional.
The good news is that Governor Hassan’s proposed budget for the next two years (FY14-15) includes a partial restoration of LCHIP’s dedicated fund. Under the Governor’s proposal, LCHIP would receive $1 million from its dedicated fee in the first year, and all fee revenues in the second year (about $4 million). The Governor has made a clear statement of principle that the diversion of Land and Community Heritage Investment Program funds for other purposes must not continue. Our challenge now is to work with members of the House and Senate in the weeks ahead to ensure that this same principled standard is applied to both years of the biennium in a final budget agreement.
LCHIP is an investment in the very basis of our state’s economy and quality of life, and is supported by New Hampshire citizens of every political stripe. This is the year we can – and must -- finally get LCHIP back on track.
Over the next few weeks, the House Finance Committee will be doing its work on the budget. Here are some things YOU can do in the month of March:
1. ATTEND A PUBLIC HEARING ON THE BUDGET
The House Finance Committee has scheduled a series of public hearings around the state. Please consider coming to one or more of the hearings, and pass the word to your conservation-minded contacts. Numbers will matter at these hearings!
HOUSE FINANCE COMMITTEE
BUDGET PUBLIC HEARING SCHEDULE
Thursday, March 07 – NEXT WEEK!!
4:00-7:00 Concord, Representative’s Hall
Monday, March 11
4:00-7:00 Whitefield Regional High School
5:00-8:00 Nashua Community College
Monday, March 18
4:30-7:30 Claremont, Sugar River Valley Regional Technical Center
5:00-8:30 Rochester Community Center (150 Wakefield Street)
2. SUBMIT WRITTEN TESTIMONY
If you can’t make it to a one of the public hearings, submit written testimony to the House Finance Committee. Address the testimony to the Committee as follows:
Rep. Mary Jane Wallner
Chair, House Finance Committee
Legislative Office Building, Rooms 210-211
33 North State Street
Concord, NH 03301
Important detail: in your testimony, specifically request that your testimony be forwarded to members of “Division 1 of House Finance.”
Also don’t forget to cc your own state representatives: click here to find out who they are and how to reach them: http://gencourt.state.nh.us/house/members/wml.aspx
You can also see if your rep is ON the Finance Committee.
3. CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES
Last but not least, please reach out directly – on the phone, in a letter or via email -- to the legislators who represent YOU. Again, you can use the link above to find out who they are and how to contact them.
A few thoughts on “message”…
The most important thing is to convey your own thoughts on the importance of LCHIP, and why the dedicated fund should be respected. Talk about specific conservation projects in your town that received LCHIP funding, projects that didn’t happen because LCHIP funding wasn’t available, or projects that could happen if LCHIP’s dedicated fund is restored.
The bottom line message is that it’s time to STOP diverting LCHIP’s dedicated fund.
Thank you your time, energy and passion, and please contact me if you have questions.
Chris Wells, SPNHF
PS - the members of the Finance Committee are public-minded people doing a difficult job so please be respectful as well as passionate.