inside sources print logo
Get up to date New Hampshire news in your inbox

National GOP Group Backing NH State House Women

Women in New Hampshire’s GOP are getting a boost from the Republican State Leadership Committee, a national organization throwing its support behind women candidates in State House races up and down the ballot. 

“The RSLC is encouraged to see so many women candidates running in state legislative races who will effectively represent their communities in Concord and advance commonsense policies to counteract Joe Biden’s failed agenda,” said RSLC National Press Secretary Stephanie Rivera.

The RSLC has so far spent $500,000 to help send women and others to Concord this election cycle. According to Rivera, 27 percent of the Republicans running for the House this year are women, as are 26 percent of the GOP Senate candidates. Betting on Republican women is a safe wager, she said.

“In the State House, 51 percent of Republican women who ran in 2020 won their campaigns. In the Senate, Republican women had a 55 percent success rate,” she said.

According to Rivera, the RSLC’s Right Leaders Network is leading the effort to grow the Republican Party through the RSLC’s Right Women Right Now and Future Majority Project initiatives. The committee is focused on recruiting, training, supporting, and electing thousands of diverse state Republicans across the country.

New Hampshire is a key state for both Republicans and Democrats, as the national parties are looking to gain a foothold in state legislature races. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) is targeting legislatures in New Hampshire, Michigan, and Minnesota, pumping money and resources in an effort to turn all three state legislatures blue.

“We know what we’re up against, but we are making a play to undercut GOP power in the Michigan House and Senate, the Minnesota Senate, and the New Hampshire House and Senate,” DLCC President Jessica Post said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday.

It makes sense for the national GOP to invest in New Hampshire races, according to Rivera, as the GOP leadership in Concord has proven successful in handling the economy and the COVID-19 pandemic, and voters are looking to continue that success.

“New Hampshire has the best economy in the New England region and the second lowest unemployment rate in the country because the Republican-controlled Legislature has made the economy a top priority by passing a historic state budget that includes $171 million in tax relief for working families and small businesses, cuts taxes for retirees, and reduces property taxes by $100 million to provide relief. This diverse slate of candidates will help Republicans hold both chambers in the Granite State to continue this record of success,” Rivera said.

Democrats have been leaning heavily on abortion as an issue to motivate their base. They’re spending big money on ads attacking GOP Gov. Chris Sununu for signing a law that bans abortion after 24 weeks, or six months, of pregnancy. Sununu’s challenger, Sen. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, is using abortion as a major campaign plank, arguing against any restrictions on abortion.

“I would want to put in place Roe v. Wade in the state of New Hampshire,” Sherman said. “New Hampshire does not want the state in between a doctor and a patient, especially on such an intensely private issue.”

The issue may play with well Democratic donors, but not even New Hampshire Democrats support unrestricted abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. A St. Anslem College poll taken in August found about a quarter of Granite State Democrats support some limits on abortion, as do about 70 percent of the general population.

Rivera said New Hampshire voters, especially women voters, see the GOP as having the answer to issues like out-of-control inflation, soaring energy costs, and the price of food.

“Just like all voters in New Hampshire, women are pleased with the job being done by the Republican trifecta in Concord to push back against Joe Biden’s inflation with tax cuts that put more money in the pockets of working families,” Rivera said.

NH Legislature Passes $42 Million Energy Relief Plan in Bipartisan Vote

Granite Staters will get help this winter paying for heat and electricity after the legislature passed a $42 million plan to fund energy assistance for the middle class. 

“New Hampshire just delivered the largest energy relief package this state has ever seen, helping families in need this winter – using our state surplus funds,” said Gov. Chris Sununu as he signed a bill passed during the “Veto Day” session Thursday.

Democrats, on the other hand, used the news to repeat the debunked claim that Sununu is responsible for setting the state’s utility rates.

“The legislation the House just passed is critical to helping Granite Staters affected by Governor Sununu’s record electric rate hikes this fall,” said House Democratic Leader David E. Cote (D-Nashua).

Utility rates are set by the independent Public Utilities Commission.

Partisan rancor ahead of the midterm elections was not enough to prevent the legislature from enacting utility relief at a time when energy costs are soaring in New Hampshire and nationwide. The 12-month inflation rate is currently 15.8 percent for electricity and 33 percent for natural gas.

The new law uses surplus New Hampshire state budget funds to expand energy assistance this year, allowing middle-income New Hampshire residents to qualify for aid. Previously, the aid was only available to households earning up to 60 percent of the state median income. Lawmakers expanded eligibility to families earning up to 75 percent of the median, who can now apply for up to $450 in heating assistance and another $200 in electricity assistance.

Sununu originally wanted to use $60 million in surplus funding to send every home $100 in energy assistance, but that plan was rejected by lawmakers who came up with a more targeted proposal.

“That seems like a meaningless political gesture to me,” Rep. Steve Smith (R-Charlestown), said of Sununu’s initial plan.

Instead, lawmakers passed their proposal that will use $25 million on emergency fuel and electric assistance, $10 million on aid for electricity bills, and $7 million on an electric assistance program. The state’s surplus will be at around $120 million after the assistance is paid out.

Rep. Marjorie Smith (D-Durham) said the bill is not a long-term solution to high energy prices in New Hampshire, but it will help.

“Maybe it’s just a band-aid, but if you scrape your knee a band-aid helps,” she said.

House Speaker Sherman Packard (R-Londonderry) said not only will the bill help people pay for heating this winter, but it does so in a responsible manner.

“The fiscally responsible leadership of the General Court of New Hampshire has produced a budget surplus which allows us to create this one-time emergency relief package that will help offset rising fuel and electric costs this winter,” Packard said. “This bill provides direct relief to those in need and reduces the anticipated burden placed upon municipal welfare programs – a cost that would otherwise be passed along to property owners at the local level. We believe these surplus funds will alleviate some of the financial pressure for NH families who would otherwise not qualify for existing assistance programs. By coming together today, we chose New Hampshire citizens over party politics.

House Majority Leader Rep. Jason Osborne (R-Auburn) blamed President Joe Biden and members of New Hampshire’s federal delegation for making inflation worse.

“Due to no fault of their own, many Granite Staters who have not previously needed assistance may find themselves unable to pay their bills this winter and do not qualify for the federal assistance programs. We want to ensure those people have some help,” Osborne said.

New Hampshire Democrats, however, point the finger of blame for rising utility costs at Sununu.

“New Hampshire has become an outlier in New England with record rate increases because Gov. Sununu has consistently rejected efforts to increase energy efficiency and production of renewable energy,” Cote said. “Granite State families cannot afford the 50 percent increase that will hit them this fall, and this bill provides temporary relief for lower-income households that are ineligible for existing programs.”

In fact, New Hampshire currently has the second-lowest electricity rates in New England and historically had lower rates than Massachusetts.

The legislature also failed to override any of Sununu’s eight vetoes.

NH the Hardest Working New England State, But Inflation Is Still Hurting

Call it the Granite State Grind.

A new study finds New Hampshire residents are the hardest working in New England, though resulting wage gains are not keeping pace with inflation. 

According to findings from the data analysts at WalletHub, New Hampshire ranks ninth in the nation on Labor Day 2022, the only New England state ranked in the top 10. The hard work is evident in New Hampshire’s economic output, which ranks near the top of all 50 states in terms of growth and low unemployment.

Vermont is ranked number 26; Maine at 30; Massachusetts at 44; Connecticut at 45; or Rhode Island all the way down at 49, between New York (48) and New Mexico (50).

North Dakota, Alaska, and Nebraska are at the top of the list.

The WalletHub study looked at data points like average workweek hours, the share of workers with multiple jobs, and annual volunteer hours per resident. Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island rank near the bottom in terms of average hours per week.

Vermont and Connecticut rank near the top for average leisure time per day. Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire also have the lowest rates for idle youth in the study.

There are challenges ahead for New Hampshire employees and employers. According to a report by the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute, despite a strong recovery from the COVID-19 economic crash, a critical labor shortage remains.

“Job growth in the last two years has been much faster than originally expected, mirroring other rebounding indicators of a strong economy, in large part due to swift federal policy action to provide both relief and financial support for the recovery,” the NHFPI report stated.

While the current strong economy means better pay and conditions for workers, those same workers are now paying more for food, energy, childcare, and housing.

“However, many Granite Staters find themselves struggling with rising housing costs, limited childcare options, and significant increases in living costs due to inflation as these key pandemic-related programs wind down or near their expiration. Among families with low and moderate incomes, and particularly those in rural areas of the state, these challenges have become even more pronounced,” the NHFPI report states.

According to a report in the New Hampshire Business Review, wages are up in the Granite State as the country recovers from COVID, thanks in part to the labor shortage creating supply and demand pressure that favors labor.

“Overall, hourly wages increased by $1.38 an hour annually, though they actually went down slightly from April by 11 cents. However, education and healthcare workers averaged $34.84, an annual increase of $3.12. Leisure and hospitality workers average $20.02, a $2.12 increase,” NHBR reports.

Still, a growing number of low to middle-income Granite Staters are working multiple jobs and are unable to keep up with inflation, according to the NHFPI report.

“Rising inflation has made making ends meet and paying for usual household expenses more difficult for individuals and families in New Hampshire,” the report states.

Consumer prices increased nationally by 9.1 percent between June 2021 and June 2022, the largest 12-month increase in inflation since December 1981, with energy prices increasing 41.6 percent from the prior year, according to the NHFPI report.

Even though wages went up due to the labor shortage, the raises are not keeping pace with the record-setting inflation.

“While nominal wages did increase during the same period, the average inflation-adjusted private-sector hourly wage in New Hampshire was 2.6 percent lower in July 2022 compared to July 2020. When price increases outpace wage growth, the purchasing power of consumers falls and financial pressures increase,” the NHFPI report states.

If High Prices Are Gas Station ‘Gouging,’ Why Are Costs Going Down Now?

Gasoline prices have soared since President Joe Biden took office, setting new records with an average national price above $5 a gallon. Biden and his fellow Democrats, including Sen. Maggie Hassan and Rep. Annie Kuster, blame oil companies and retailers for “price gouging.”

While gas still costs twice as much as it did when Biden was sworn in, the price has been steadily falling for a month. The New Hampshire average on July 17 was $4.55 and the national average was $4.53. Some stations are selling gas below $4 a gallon for the first time since February 2022.

Did Biden’s bullying work? Or has the supply of gasoline recently surged? What is behind the declining prices?

“Honestly, I can’t figure it out,” said Phil Abirached, owner of the Metro Mart Exxon gas station and convenience store in Derry. “I just dropped it another 30 cents a gallon to $4.29, today,” Abirached said on Friday. “It’s mind-blowing. I don’t know why it’s going down 10 cents to 20 cents every day.”

While gas prices are now falling sharply in New Hampshire and across the country, it does not seem to be because of Biden. For example, his recent fist-bumping trip to Saudi Arabia failed to get the oil-rich nation to significantly increase its oil production

The reason the price of unleaded gasoline has come down from a high of more than $5 a gallon a month ago to around $4.50 throughout the state is basic economics, experts say: Less demand today, and fears of a recession tomorrow.

“It’s changing, because people are driving less, that’s the big reason behind it,” said John Dumas, former president and CEO of the New Hampshire Grocers Association. “It’s supply and demand, that’s really all it is.”

Chris Ellms, New Hampshire’s Deputy Energy Commissioner, said there is now about as much refined gasoline available for the market as before prices soared. The falling prices are mostly tied to supply and demand.

“No national energy policy changes have led to the decreases we’ve seen recently, not for natural gas or oil production,” he said.

Global issues like the war in Ukraine, higher interest rates, and a stronger dollar, are all factors. But the available gas supply is largely unchanged. When consumption slows down, so do prices.

“A lot of the issues we have been seeing are related to a big spike in demand coming out of the COVID pandemic,” Ellms said. “There was a lot of demand without a corresponding rise in the supply. It’s really a supply and demand connection.”

It was certainly not local gas stations artificially raising prices, despite Biden’s claims. Most gas stations in New Hampshire are small, locally-owned businesses like Abirached’s store in Derry. Far from pushing higher prices, according to Jeff Lenard at the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), higher gas prices drive down local businesses’ profits. That is because stations cut into their own profits in an attempt to soften the price-hike blow.

And gasoline has never been the primary profit center for these businesses.

“Convenience stores, which sell an estimated 80 percent of the fuel purchased in the U.S., rely on in-store sales, not fuel sales, to drive profits,” according to a statement from the NACS. “But high gas prices are hurting customer traffic in stores and ‘basket’ size: Nearly half of all retailers (49 percent) say that customers coming inside the store are buying less compared to three months ago when gas prices were $1.50 a gallon lower.”

And yet New Hampshire elected officials continue to point the finger at the petroleum industry and local retailers. Both U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas are still pushing a so-called “anti-price-gouging” bill that would allow the federal government to declare an energy emergency and set prices for fuel.

Multiple investigations by both Republican and Democratic administrations have found no evidence of widespread price fixing for gasoline.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports economists fear another gas price spike could be coming this fall.

“Economists across the ideological spectrum warn that the measures the White House is promoting— allowing Russian oil into the global market at reduced prices, taxing oil company “windfall” profits, cutting the federal gas tax—could ultimately aggravate the energy crunch in the United States rather than ease it,” the paper reported. And, it said, when the most serious sanctions on Russian oil take effect later this year, the price of gasoline could surge above $6 a gallon.

Could the U.S. offset the impact by adding to global supplies? According to Reuters, the U.S. does not have the capacity to increase the supply by drilling more oil and gas.

“Capacity for U.S. oil refiners fell in 2021 for the second year in a row, the most recent government data showed (last month), as plant shutdowns kept whittling away on their ability to produce gasoline and diesel,” the news agency reports.

In the end, the price at the pump both reflects and influences the overall economy. Abirached said.

“We all became very aware of where we’re going and where [the economy] is heading. People are asking if it’s worth even turning the car on.”

Amid Shortages, Hassan Pushes Debunked ‘Big Tampon’ Theory

First “Big Pharma.” Then “Big Oil.” Now…”Big Tampon?”

On Monday, U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan sent a press release headlined, “Following Reports of Tampon Shortage, Senator Hassan Calls on Major Tampon Producers to Increase Supply.” It’s part of her “work to hold corporations accountable for unfair price increases and address shortages.”

Except, like her allegations about oil companies manipulating gas prices, Hassan’s claim of price-gouging by the feminine hygiene industry is unfounded.

“Access to menstrual products should be treated like every other essential good. At the beginning of the pandemic, price gouging of essentials like toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and hand sanitizer was rightly criticized as an exploitation of an emergency for financial gain. Menstrual products should receive that same consideration,” Hassan wrote in a letter to the CEOs of Procter & Gamble, Edgewell Personal Care, Kimberly-Clark, and Johnson & Johnson.

Hassan’s accusation of “unfair price increases” does not appear to be supported by the facts. Instead, “supply chain issues and historically high inflation have affected all manner of goods,” Axios reports, including tampons. COVID drove up demand for plastic and cotton to make personal protective equipment, both key materials for making feminine hygiene products.

And, like much of the shortages seen over the past couple of years, COVID-related supply chain issues are having an impact as well. Shipping costs to move material and products have also gone up as diesel fuel prices continue to climb. Add to that the ongoing labor shortage many companies are experiencing.

Then there is the impact of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, constraining the normal supply of fertilizer used to grow cotton, further exacerbating supply issues. The price of raw cotton is up more than 70 percent.

And there is another twist Hassan doesn’t mention: Amy Schumer.

Procter and Gamble spokeswoman Cheri McMaster told Time that part of the blame belongs to comic Amy Schumer. She stars in a series of commercials for their products that have been wildly successful. “(R)etail sales growth has exploded,” McMaster told Time.

As the demand went up more than 7 percent, Procter and Gamble started running its Maine plant 24/7 to try and keep up. The industry says it is looking for ways to increase production.

“While the tampon shortage is part of a larger supply chain issue, price-gouging essential products is an unacceptable response,” Hassan said — without providing any effort of gouging.

“We understand it is frustrating for consumers when they can’t find what they need,” a P&G spokesperson told CNN. “We can assure you this is a temporary situation.”

In her tampon shortage press release, Hassan also pointed out she “led legislation to require a federal investigation into reports that Big Oil was artificially raising gas prices, and follows Senator Hassan’s previous calls for additional actions and updates regarding the FTC’s oversight of anti-consumer trade practices in the oil and gas industry.”

Hassan’s claim that oil companies have manipulated gas prices has been repeatedly investigated and dismissed by both Democratic and Republican administrations.

Political observers say what’s really at play is giving Hassan another way to motivate women voters, particularly young women who tend to vote Democrat and also tend not to show up in midterm elections. Hassan had campaigned aggressively on the abortion issue, which she refers to as a “women’s health” issue, advocating abortion without limits up to the time of birth.

Interestingly, one word that doesn’t appear anywhere in Hassan’s “tampon shortage” letter or press release?

“Women.”

(To be fair, the progressive phrase “people who menstruate” didn’t appear, either.)

Hassan said she is giving the CEOs of personal hygiene manufacturers until June 17 to come up with a solution.

Voters are giving Hassan until Election Day.

FISHER: Welcome to Parenthood, NH! Your Life is Over

Well, well, well, look who finally figured out how to have babies. 

Granite Staters have been gettin’ busy, with the highest birth rate increase in the entire nation according to new data from the Pew Trusts. The Granite State saw a seven percent increase in babies born in 2021 compared to 2019.

Lockdowns, amirite?

Let me be the first to say to all you new parents out there, from the bottom of my heart: Ha. Ha.

Your life is over. Kaput.

Some starry-eyed optimists might see all those little rug rats as good news. Take Gov. Chris Sununu, for example.

“We’ve long known New Hampshire is the best state in the country to live, work, and raise a family,” said Sununu. “This latest study reinforces that, highlighting that people are moving to New Hampshire to start a family because of our low taxes, high quality of life, and safe communities.”

So says the amateur with three kids.

As a father of 10 (Yes, I’m Catholic. Why do you ask?), let me tell you that being a new parent in 2022 is gonna be terrible.

I don’t feel bad for any of you. I’ve been doing my part for years to keep up the state’s population while the rest of you slacked off. You were all getting dogs and going hiking and starting microbreweries and binge-watching Bridgerton, blah, blah, blah. We were the schmoes changing diapers and pushing double strollers and driving vans with four car seats crammed in them.

Then, because you ran out of shows on Netflix, you decide to have a kid.

Suckers.

The pandemic/inflation/Ukraine/supply chain/BigFoot issues have made regular life hard enough, but parenting? I mean, I can buy dog food. Maybe not my guy’s regular brand all the time, but he eats. You poor saps with infants have to stand in the Costco parking lot in the middle of the night to meet your black-market baby formula dealers.

And it’s not like it gets easier when they get older. They keep eating! Their whole lives! And you’re supposed to pay for it for some reason!

Get to a grocery store and see. You’re paying $8 bucks a pound for bologna — and not the good kind. Milk might as well be diesel. And bananas are what? $10?

Forget the visions you might have of being a soccer mom or a Little League dad. Gas is $5 a gallon now. Imagine how much you’ll be paying in seven or eight years. How are you going to get to all of those practices? Hopes and dreams? Heck, by then you’ll be willing to sell the kid just to afford to get to work.

Maybe you can shell out $80,000 for an imaginary electric minivan. You know, one of those green cars that magically reduces carbon by getting all its energy from the electric grid that runs off coal and oil. Hope it’s not one of the exploding models.

New Hampshire does have lots of affordable housing options for young families, though. Just head to the nearest state liquor store and you can pick up all the cardboard you’ll need for the night.

But what about schools when your little tyke is ready? The good news is New Hampshire has some of the best public schools in the country. When they’re open. Otherwise, you can get free Wi-Fi at your public library with the Chromebook your teacher will hand out for remote learning. You’ll need it for the next monkeypox outbreak.

I bet you thought you were done doing fractions, huh. Think again. You’re the teacher now, and it somehow pays worse than a real teacher’s salary.

Maybe you’re ok doing all the educating of the kids while simultaneously paying property tax on your cardboard shack. Maybe you’ve heard how politically radical our teachers have become. Well, relax. No more than half of the members of the NH NEA are Marxists.

The rest are committed Trotskyites.

But don’t worry, the good folks in the House Freedom Caucus have a plan to fix education. They are going to secede everything in New Hampshire from the Union except for the public schools. Those will become part of Massachusetts. I don’t know what that will fix, but then again I never read Ayn Rand, so what do I know?

All kidding aside, New Hampshire’s baby boom is great news for every new parent, and it’s pretty good news for the rest of the Granite State, too. Choosing to have children is a bet on the future, a sign of your belief that living here is pretty good and it can get even better.

Which may explain why the birth rate in New York fell by 5.5 percent.

Live free or die!

REPORT: Granite State’s Economy Fifth Best in Nation

New Hampshire has one of the strongest state economies in the country, with high rates of high-tech jobs, low unemployment, and a GDP growth rate that outperforms California, according to a new data analysis from WalletHub. 

The report, which looked at how each state’s economy has fared since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic recession, ranks the Granite State as the fifth-best economy in America, behind Washington state, Utah, California, and Massachusetts.

New Hampshire easily outperforms the remaining New England states, with Connecticut coming in at 25, Rhode Island at 36, Vermont at 41, and Maine trailing at number 44.

However, according to experts, New Hampshire could be headed toward a recession as runaway inflation continues to drive up the price of energy, housing, and other needs.

New Hampshire comes in second, behind Tennessee and ahead of California, when it comes to positive change in gross domestic product or GDP. It is tied for first with Utah, Nebraska, Kansas, and Minnesota for the lowest unemployment rate. It is fifth when it comes to having the highest number of immigrants with advanced educations, and is fourth in the percentage of high-tech jobs.

Gov. Chris Sununu said the overall picture is good, but warned there are negative forces outside New Hampshire’s control that could be a problem.

“We’ve taken steps over these last few years to ensure that New Hampshire’s economy remains strong,” Sununu said. “But given Washington’s inaction in combating inflation and out-of-control spending, an economic downturn is on the horizon, and we are doing everything we can at the state level to minimize the impact on our citizens.” 

One expert interviewed by WalletHub, Robert Wyllie, Assistant Professor of Political Science ad Director of Political Economy Program at Ashland University in Ohio, said the country as a whole should be concerned about a potential recession and inflation getting worse. He said we could see a return to the 1970s.

“High inflation, fueled in part by high energy prices, combined with slow growth points has drawn many comparisons to the 1970s,” Wyllie said.

A recent University of New Hampshire Carsey School of Public Policy report warned of a stagnating economy. New Hampshire’s economy needs state and federal leaders to address roadblocks that come up as the world economy tries to move past COVID.

“As the state, nation, and world hopefully emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic carnage it created, New Hampshire is, to some extent, subject to economic forces beyond its control,” the report states.

The state’s many long-term challenges include the housing shortage, the shrinking labor force, the need for childcare, and infrastructure investments.

“New Hampshire has many economic advantages that position it well as it seeks to address the challenges of wage stagnation, childcare shortages, educational inequity, an aging workforce, housing affordability, struggling families, and C- infrastructure,” the UNH report states. “It has a strong and diverse economic base from which to grow, and its workforce is well-educated. With foresight and will, New Hampshire can chart a course to a productive, prosperous economy that addresses these challenges and enhances the well-being of all who live here.”

However, New Hampshire has also repeatedly been ranked near the top of the “Freedom Index” by multiple sources, due to its low tax and low regulation environment. And that could be both a reason its economy is overperforming today and has a brighter future tomorrow.

In the Wallethub report, Vincent Gloss, assistant professor of economics at George Mason University argued that “economic freedom (i.e. lower regulation, lower taxes and lower spending, safer property rights) does not only minimize downturns associated with exogenous shocks such as a pandemic, but it also accelerates recovery. Governments should look at policies that allow firms and families more flexibility in their decisions and that means stepping back.”

Hassan, Pappas Silent as Inflation Hits 40-Year High

Grim economic news for New Hampshire residents as inflation continues to climb, spiking to a 40-year high at 7.9 percent. And, experts say, it’s likely to get worse in the coming months — presenting a serious problem for vulnerable incumbents like Democrats Sen. Maggie Hassan and Rep. Chris Pappas.

The U.S. Labor Department released numbers Thursday showing the previous 12 months had the highest rate of inflation since 1982 as Americans deal with sky-high prices for food, gas, and basic goods.

President Biden blamed Russian President Putin.

“[T]oday’s inflation report is a reminder that Americans’ budgets are being stretched by price increases and families are starting to feel the impacts of Putin’s price hike,” Biden said in a statement

“The numbers are eye-watering, and there is more to come,” Eric Winograd, senior economist at asset management firm AllianceBernstein, told the Associated Press. “The peak in inflation will be much higher than previously thought and will arrive later than previously expected.”

In New Hampshire, gas is already more than $4 a gallon and heating oil is topping $5 a gallon. With the worst inflation still ahead, the response from members of the New Hampshire congressional enate delegation has been to continue with the status quo.

Polls show people across the nation and here in New Hampshire say their top issue is inflation. And yet as of late Thursday night, neither Hassan nor Pappas had released a statement about the new inflation numbers or any plans to address the problem. Nor did they respond to requests for comment.

[Editor’s note: Despite being taxpayer-funded public employees, the staffers at Hassan and Pappas’ offices have been instructed not to respond to media requests from NHJournal.]

Hassan did, however, post a message praising Major League Baseball for resolving a labor dispute:

In the past, both have argued that increased federal spending, like the Build Back Better proposal Pappas voted for late last year, is the best way to solve the inflation problem.

Hassan has proposed a temporary gas tax holiday as a way to deal with rising prices. That would add about $20 billion in federal debt as funds were transferred from the general fund to the highway fund.

“It would be about a $20 billion hit on the Transportation Trust Fund,” Robert Puentes, president of the Eno Center for Transportation, told Marketplace. “That’s the main source of money for fixing roads, bridges. and subways, and a gas tax holiday for the rest of the year would cut it in half, Puentes said.

And, economists note, the “spend to solve” strategy could actually make the inflation problem slightly worse.

Southern New Hampshire University’s Professor of Economics Dr. Nicole Bissessar said that while long-term federal spending does not generally increase inflation, spending with short-term benefits like relief checks and gas subsidies can alter the market and lead to higher consumer prices.

“If government spending leads to an increase in consumer demand which then will affect supply immediately (short term 1-3 months), it will affect prices,” she said.

Associate Dean of Business Dr. Zuzana Buzzell said the federal government can take action to curb the rise in inflation by going after monetary policy.

“The government and Federal Reserve should act quickly to address the rise. There needs to be a tightening on monetary policies, starting with the rise in interest rates and tapering the asset purchases. The monetary policy needs to put more weight on inflation risks in 2022. This is particularly important as commodity prices are expected to rise again in 2022,” Buzzell said.

The Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates later this month in an effort to slow the inflation surge.

GOP candidates running to unseat Hassan lost little time Thursday in jumping on the inflation numbers. New Hampshire Senate President Chuck Morse (R-Salem) said inflation has been climbing since President Joe Biden took office, and Hassan has failed to act.

“Inflation is out of control and prices on everything from gas to milk to everyday purchases are skyrocketing. We need to get spending under control in DC the same way we’ve controlled it in NH. The 603 Way, not the DC Way, will get us out of this inflationary crisis,” Morse said.

Former Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith knocked Hassan for blaming oil company price gouging for the spike in energy prices, calling that a “conspiracy theory.”

“Granite Staters are desperate for solutions, yet Maggie Hassan instead chooses to peddle short-term gimmicks that won’t work and debunked ‘price gouging’ conspiracy theories that aren’t true,” he said.

Don Bolduc accused Hassan of being out of touch with Granite Staters who are struggling to pay their bills.

“Everyone is feeling the squeeze of inflation. Unfortunately, Sen. Maggie Hassan has been part of the political machine for so long, she’s stopped understanding the real-world problems facing Granite Staters,” he said.

According to the Associated Press, from January to February, prices for nearly every category of goods and services went up substantially. Grocery costs jumped 1.4 percent, the sharpest one-month increase since 1990, other than during a pandemic-induced price surge two years ago. The collective price of fruits and vegetables rose 2.3 percent, the largest monthly increase since 2010. Gas prices spiked 6.6 percent, and clothing, 0.7 percent.

For the 12 months ending in February, grocery prices jumped 8.6 percent, the biggest year-over-year increase since 1981, the AP reports. Gas prices are up 38 percent and housing costs have risen 4.7 percent, the largest yearly jump since 1991, according to the AP.

 

 

NH Grocery Store Shelves Looking Bare as Prices Rise

On Tuesday, the U.S. Labor Department announced the inflation rate hit 7 percent, the fastest pace of price hikes on Americans since 1982. But some shoppers are asking: What difference does it make when prices rise if there’s nothing in the stores to buy?

In New Hampshire and across the nation, shoppers are finding grocery store shelves that, while they aren’t empty, they are far from fully stocked. The hashtag #BareShelvesBiden has begun to take off.

Grocery store supplies are dwindling across the country as grocery store supply chains fall victim to the Omicron surge, and recent bad weather is leaving the Northeast hardest hit.

It’s not all bad news, according to Bruce Bergeron, chairman of the New Hampshire Grocers Association’s board of directors. He said the supply issues are going to hit large chains hardest in New Hampshire, as those stores rely on frequent shipments, while smaller stores are so far still able to get stock. 

“It’s a matter of scale. The smaller stores are not selling in large quantities and don’t have the same pressures,” he said.

Supply chains are suffering from a variety of problems, from lack of staffing to weather delays. Add in the latest round of COVID-19 illness and many shoppers are finding bare shelves and fewer choices.

“We’re really seeing the perfect storm,” Phil Lempert, editor of the website SupermarketGuru.com, recently told NPR.

According to Lempert, the Northeast is facing some of the worst shortages now, due in part to recent winter storms that snarled transportation routes. 

Albertsons CEO Vivek Sankaran told investors in a recent call he had anticipated supply chain issues from earlier in the pandemic would have eased by now. That expectation has been upended by the Omicron variant surge.

“We were expecting supply issues to get more resolved as we got into this period right now. Omicron has put a bit of a dent on that. There are more supply challenges and we would expect more challenges over the next four or six weeks,” Sankaran said.

Albertsons has nearly 3,000 grocery stores nationally, and the chain is not alone. Discount grocery chain Aldi, which has 2,000 stores, recently posted an apology to shoppers because supply chain problems have left it without many advertised items.

“We are experiencing shipping delays and are working around the clock to fix it. We know it is frustrating and we are sorry for any and all inconveniences,” the store stated in the apology.

The Aldi chain is relatively new to New Hampshire, with about a dozen stores opened in the Granite State in the past few years. 

Bergeron said the biggest concern for New Hampshire grocers and shoppers right now isn’t what’s in stock, but how to pay for it with the increasingly rising inflation.

“Inflation is real and it affects people’s pocketbooks. And it’s present in everything grocery stores sell,” he said. 

Skyrocketing inflation means the cost of necessary goods like food and fuel continues to rise, eating away at the recent wage increases many workers have seen. Bergeron said Granite Staters are going to likely deal with inflation for a long time to come.

“There’s no escaping that,” he said.

Bergeron noted signs of the current inflationary crunch were present for years. Home prices and wages have been climbing in New Hampshire since before the pandemic, he said, forcing up the price of everything else. 

“In my business, we started seeing this five years ago. I knew it would result in some inflation at the retail level,” he said.

As inflation started shooting up in the fall, President Joe Biden’s Federal Trade Commission responded by opening investigations into grocery store chains and suppliers, like Keene’s C&S Wholesale Grocery. C&S is the largest supplier for grocery stores nationwide. Company representative Lauren La Bruno did not respond to a request for comment.

The FTC issued orders in late November to Walmart, Amazon.com, Kroger, C&S, Associated Wholesale Grocers, McLane Co., Procter & Gamble, Tyson Foods, and Kraft Heinz Co. demanding they provide data showing how their individual supply chains have been managed since the start of the pandemic.

Most economists dismiss that effort as political theater.

“Beef, pork, and poultry all have their own supply and demand market fundamentals,” explained Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Potts. She said the real engine of higher meat prices is “rising input costs, rising fuel costs, supply chain difficulties and labor shortages that impact the price of meat on the retail shelf.”

Russ Atherton, owner of The Local Butcher, a meat processing business in Barnstead, N.H., agrees.

“Regionally, we’re coming off a year when feed prices were through the roof and the feed supply was really short,” he told NHJournal. “Fuel and grain costs are way up, too. A ton of fertilizer two years ago was $280. Now they’re forecasting the price at $1,300 this spring.

“When the input prices are going up across the board, you can’t say [meat producers] are just ripping people off,” Atherton said.

Buttigieg Talks Up Infrastructure, Mum on Inflation, During Manchester Stop

MANCHESTER — Even as polls show New Hampshire voters are unhappy with the massive federal spending currently underway in Washington, D. C., U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg showed up in Manchester on Monday to push for even more. And he did so while avoiding the red-hot issue of inflation.

Buttigieg, a once and (possibly) future Democratic presidential candidate, said President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure spending plan and his proposed $2 trillion in social spending — a new CBO estimate puts that closer to $5 trillion — will be positive for the average American worker.

“It’s a once-in-a-generation investment, and along with the president’s Build Back Better plan, it will create millions of good paying jobs,” Buttigieg said of the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law by Biden.

Buttigieg was in New Hampshire to announce a $25 million U.S. DOT grant to support a project to reconnect the South Millyard District to surrounding neighborhoods and downtown Manchester. The infrastructure improvements will mitigate existing traffic congestion, increase driver and pedestrian safety, improve a critical rail crossing and freight mobility, and provide improved and accessible transportation options for the community. 

During his Millyard presser, Buttigieg took questions from a largely friendly press. He wasn’t asked any questions about inflation — which a new NHJournal poll ranked as the voters’ top priority — or about the costs of the so-called Capitol Corridor rail project he was touting. (NHJournal was excluded from asking questions by Democratic organizers of the press event.)

All the federal spending talk hasn’t helped President Biden, whose favorable rating is down to 43 percent in the Granite State, while 57 percent of voters have an unfavorable view, the new NHJournal poll shows.

Despite that, Rep. Chris Pappas is on board with the infrastructure plan, as well as the Build Back Better plan.

“We know that the cost of doing nothing far exceeds the price tag on this bill,” Pappas said.

As part of the new Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, New Hampshire is getting at least $1.1 billion for the state’s roads, $225 million for bridges, $126 million for its public transportation, $100 million for high-speed internet, and $26 million for its airports. The infrastructure law also contains $10 billion nationwide for cleaning up drinking water that has been contaminated by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS.

The bill includes close to $100 million for New Hampshire passenger rail, all endorsed by the state’s Congressional delegation, though none of them mentioned the price tag during Monday’s event.  Sen. Maggie Hassan, who pushed hard for rail, said passenger rail will bring in employees and investment for the states.

“Passenger rail is so important,” she said.

The new line, connecting Nashua and Manchester to Lowell, Massachusetts, would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to complete, and according to at least one study would require $11 million to $15 million in subsidies from Granite Staters, like from property taxes. 

Buttigieg and the delegation also never mentioned how many people would be likely to use this new, expensive rail service. According to data from Amtrack, their seacoast region Amtrak line, the Downeaster, serviced fewer than 200 New Hampshire passengers a day during its pre-COVID-19 peak.

Granite State Republicans have been critical of the fact that, despite Hassan’s reported “lead role” in negotiating the infrastructure bill, New Hampshire came in dead last for total funding.