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Foster's Daily Democrat Says STEWARD Stimulus Study Reveals Mixed Results for the Granite State


DOVER — The $787 billion economic stimulus is a mixed bag for New Hampshire, with a local analyst concluding there are a "number of good things" but "probably some things that have less value."

"We're going to build more roads and repair more bridges," said Brian Gottlob, principal of Dover-based PolEcon, and "that's got to have a stimulative impact."

But then there's the $250 million to $260 million in federal funding that's going to the state's share of Medicaid and about $260 million dedicated for education. The aid could spare the state from layoffs or raising taxes, he said, and it could enable the state, which is trying to close a budget deficit, to increase spending elsewhere.

If that happened, "it wouldn't be a positive," Gottlob said. "We'd be right back where we started." And that could bring on higher taxes — "the type of thing you generally don't want to do in a recession."

Gottlob was hired by STEWARD of Prosperity, a self-described non-partisan "grassroots fiscal watchdog," to undertake what he stressed was an agenda-free analysis of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Gottlob found New Hampshire ranks last in New England in terms of per capita funds received, because of the federal government's long-standing tax redistributive policy to send less money to states with greater income, employment and fewer social problems.

Though Massachusetts and Connecticut are wealthy states, they "have cities with urban problems" unlike most of New Hampshire and, as a result. stand to benefit more from the tax provisions geared to those in the lower and middle class, he said.

Nashua businessman Fred Tausch formed STEWARD (Save the Economy Without Accumulating Record Debt) of Prosperity. He supported President Barack Obama in 2008, but he started the organization to point out issues with the president's plans.

The study shows "New Hampshire citizens will contribute enormous sums of money to pay for this law but we may be underwhelmed by the results of such a huge spending measure," Tausch said in announcing the study. "It's an open question whether or not the stimulus is a good deal for New Hampshire."

A STEWARD news release accompanying the report's unveiling said the federal package will "have no impact on job creation." But Gottlob said the funds will help the state avoid layoffs and staff cutbacks for the period the federal dollars are available.

New Hampshire and Maine's congressional representatives have offered different job projections. In Maine, a recent estimate was 15,000 — 1,300 fewer than originally forecast — and in New Hampshire the 16,000 estimate was 700 less than a prior prediction. Gottlob noted lawmakers' language evolved around the job figures — first with talk of jobs being created — later revising that to jobs created or saved. But he said "those are reasonable estimates." The public will know what's actually happening with monthly jobs estimates, he said.

STEWARD also questioned whether sending stimulus funds to Medicaid and education is most desirable considering they are among the sectors that have experienced the fastest growth the past decade.

And the group pointed out the individual tax breaks — which is being seen through payroll withholdings and will net Granite State taxpayers $564 million over three years — is nearly $100 million more than what came this way with the stimulus rebates in 2008.

So far, Gottlob said, too much of the debate has centered on the huge sums of dollars associated with the plan, the hallmark of Obama's economic recovery effort, he said.

"It's like trying to understand the meaning of Christmas by all the presents we get," he said in an interview Tuesday. "That's not how you discern the meaning of Christmas ... there has to be a greater understanding of the issue."

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