I am humbled and honored that the voters of southern New Hampshire, from Rindge to Nashua, have sent me back to represent them in the New Hampshire Senate. As we begin a new term, I want to share my top three legislative priorities with you.

First among these is helping our state’s economy to rebound from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring that our small businesses are able to survive and to thrive and that our residents are able to remain safely working at their jobs. Our state can help by relieving some of the state tax burden on both individuals and businesses to allow them to keep more of their own money.

New Hampshire already has some of the highest business taxes in the country and the Democrat-passed budget for the upcoming biennium is set to raise taxes on small businesses in our communities. This will have a devastating effect on already ailing restaurants, shops and other local businesses. We need to lower these taxes to help our small businesses.

We also have to work to lower our far too high property taxes. We can start by restoring the ability of local taxpayers to set and enforce municipal tax and spending caps. For the past two decades, the Legislature and local voters have consistently supported the ability of local taxpayers to rein in runaway spending by enacting tax caps that limit the annual increases in both spending and the tax rate. Additionally, and for just as long, big-spending politicians have looked for ways to override, evade or invalidate these limits.

In Nashua, City Hall tried to get around the cap by moving wastewater funds out of the city budget. The city still spent the money. But politicians simply pretended it didn’t count. When taxpayers stood up against this blatant breach of the spending cap, the courts ruled that the cap itself was unenforceable. This is wrong. Fortunately, when judges make a mistake, the Legislature can correct them. We need to update the statute authorizing tax and spending caps, and ensure that taxpayers are able to hold municipal governments to it.

My second priority will be to help lower electric rates and encourage clean energy in Nashua and other communities through “net metering.” Allowing cities and towns that generate their own electricity to sell excess kilowatts back into the electric grid makes sense on many levels. This approach would benefit homes and businesses with lower electric rates and provide local communities with both lower electric bills and a new stream of revenue, easing the burden on local property taxpayers. Since much of this power is being produced from renewable sources such as solar, it helps the environment by creating a cleaner, greener, and more robust electric grid.

There is widespread bipartisan support for net metering, but we have run into disagreement over how this law can be expanded. I will work across the political aisle. I know we can find a consensus solution that allows more of our cities and towns to sell their excess electricity back into the grid.

My third priority will be to ensure that our children are receiving the best education possible and that we are unleashing educational innovation, specifically through the expansion of New Hampshire’s successful public charter school model. Over a year ago, our state won a record-breaking $46 million federal grant to expand our public charter schools. Thousands of New Hampshire families would benefit from the new education opportunities this would provide. Local school districts are eligible for this public charter school funding. They can use the start-up funds to create public charter schools within their existing walls, giving our teachers a chance to create new and innovative educational approaches that reach every child in the classroom, especially nontraditional learners.

The pandemic and resulting remote learning have taught us that we need to innovate and bring new ideas into New Hampshire schools. Public charter schools have broad, bipartisan support in New Hampshire, which is part of the reason we’ve had so much success. But in recent years, Democrats have flip-flopped on charter schools, setting up a false conflict between them and traditional district schools. And so, Democrats at the Statehouse blocked this federal grant, and the chance to invest $46 million into our public school system.

I am pleased that the Legislature accepted the federal public charter school grant, and I will support legislation to build this and other forms of educational innovation into New Hampshire.

We’ll be debating hundreds of bills next year, as well as building the state’s two-year budget. But now you know a few of the issues that are at the top of my to-do list. Thank you again for the chance to serve you. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Sen. Kevin Avard, R-Nashua, represents N.H. Senate District 12, which includes the local town of Rindge.