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January 24. 2013 10:37PM

State's economic recovery called 'anemic'

CONCORD - The special panel named by Gov. Maggie Hassan to develop estimates on state revenues kicked off its first meeting by hearing New Hampshire's recovery from the recession described as "anemic" by an economist who serves on the panel.

Hassan created the committee and named its members this week.

The panel spent more than two hours Thursday reviewing the state's economic climate and forecasts for tax collections for the rest of the current fiscal year and into the future.

The State Consensus Revenue Estimating Panel includes three state officials and four private citizens with experience in various areas of public finance. It includes no members of the Legislature.

State Budget Director Gerard Murphy, chairman of the panel, said before the meeting that the group will "help us to see where we are" as the administration develops a state spending proposal for 2013-14.

The panel spent its first meeting hearing presentations by economist Dennis Delay, who told the group that as it heads into the 2013-14 budget year, New Hampshire still feels the effects of the recession that began in 2007.

"The New Hampshire recovery, I think, by most standards is anemic," Delay said. "The problem is we are not gaining jobs back and the economy is not recovering at a pace any of us would feel more confident that we do right now."

But Delay, who serves as the New England Economic Partnership's state forecast director for New Hampshire, said businesses and consumers who have been reluctant to spend during the slow climb out of the recession may become more willing to spend later this year.

"We can cobble together a story that we're really looking toward, at the end of this year and beginning of next year, a housing/consumer recovery," he said. "There's enough pent-up demand in the housing sector and in the consumer goods sector."

The panel also heard state officials review tax collections during the current year. At the half-way point in the state fiscal year, state revenues were running about 1.5 percent behind expectations, but still posted a 6.6 percent increase over the previous year.

Highs and lows ranged from anticipation of strong meals and room tax revenues from ski country in what is described as a good year so far, to diminishing income from the tobacco tax, driven in part by decreasing number of smokers.

Murphy said the group will meet quarterly, and claimed its on-going work will be helpful as the Legislature takes up Hassan's budget, first in the House, then the Senate and ultimately in a conference committee that will attempt to resolve differences between the two branches.



wsmith@unionleader.com


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