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Ruth Ward, N.H. Senate District 8

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Ruth Ward

Age: 83

City/town of residence: Stoddard

How long have you lived in your Senate district? Over 25 years

Family: Husband Fred, 3 children, 7 grandchildren

Education: B.S., Fitchburg State College, M.S. in Nursing from Boston University.

Occupation: Retired Nurse Practitioner

Organizations to which you belong/have belonged: Land Steward for the Society for the Protection of NH Forests, the NH Rivers Management Advisory Council, Board of Advisors of the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC). I am a Juried Member of the League of NH Craftsmen and a past Trustee of the American Textile History Museum.

Public/government service: Currently serving in the State Senate, Past member of the ZBA and Planning Board in Stoddard.

1. If you could pass one piece of legislation to help New Hampshire’s post-pandemic economic recovery, what would it be?

I don’t think there is any one bill that is going to fix our economy, we need to do a number of things to get us back on track including cutting business taxes and rejecting efforts to pass an income tax or sales tax. To name a specific piece of legislation, we need to work on a bill to shore up our unemployment trust fund by repealing any diversion of funds. Unemployment assistance has been a critical lifeline to those out of work during the pandemic. State benefits combined with the enhanced federal benefits was and continues to be critical for tens of thousands of families across the state struggling to put food on the table, pay bills, and pay rent or the mortgage. The Trust Fund balance is projected to run out of money sometime next year, which would require both borrowing from the federal government, triggering tax increases for small businesses, and potential reductions in benefits. Businesses already operating on the edge, can’t afford this tax increase. We need to keep the Trust Fund as healthy as possible to make sure we can provide full benefits to those who need it the most.

2. New Hampshire’s school-funding formula is once again before the N.H. Supreme Court. Whose responsibility is it to fix this problem and how?

This is a complex problem, and it is not going to be solved without everyone coming to the table: the state, the cities and towns, and the school districts. We need to take a holistic look at our education system because it has undergone tremendous change in the last 15 years. School enrollment in the state peaked in 2005 and has been falling every year since then, with no signs of that trend changing anytime soon. Both the funding and the delivery system of education was designed for growing enrollment, not declining enrollment. Looking at funding alone is only looking at half of the equation and simply spending more is not the solution. However, there are measures that can be taken in the short term to relieve the crushing pressure faced by many communities across the state. I was proud to be a cosponsor of the bill that stopped the cuts to stabilization grants and restored them to 100 percent, bringing relief to communities and helping reduce property taxes.

3. What more should the Statehouse be doing to incentivize clean energy?

Incentives for clean energy too often means increasing electric rates for everyone else to pay for the incentive. This is the wrong approach and results in the state picking winners and losers. We need to break from this mindset and instead look for win-win scenarios where we can increase the amount of clean energy being produced while not increasing already incredibly high electric rates. One of those areas is the development of offshore wind. New Hampshire is well positioned to be a leader in this area from an infrastructure standpoint with available transmission capacity and the facilities in Portsmouth to construct and maintain offshore wind farms in the Gulf of Maine. I was happy to work in a bipartisan way to support my colleague Senator David Watters’ bill that would take the first steps to get New Hampshire involved in this burgeoning field. Combined with Governor Sununu’s efforts on the topic, New Hampshire will be ready to support the development of this new resource. Development of offshore wind will bring more high paying jobs to the state, increase the amount of clean energy produced, reduce the need for fossil fuels, and not lead to higher electric rates.

4. What can the N.H. Senate do to make health care more accessible and affordable for Granite Staters?

First, I would like to thank all the frontline healthcare workers, they have been doing an incredible job under unprecedented circumstances, as a retired Nurse I understand the pressures they are under and they are doing a phenomenal job.

The federal government has limited what states can do to reduce the cost of healthcare, but there are still measures we can take to reduce costs, such as associated health plans. Associated health plans would allow small businesses in similar industries like realtors to band together to qualify for group coverage and lower rates for their employees. Currently it is nearly impossible for small businesses to offer low cost, high quality insurance because of their size. Unfortunately, my friends on the other side of the aisle passed a version of this that was so over regulated, it guaranteed that no small business would be able to take advantage of it. For access, if there has been any silver lining to this pandemic, it is the rapid development and adoption of telemedicine. In rural areas such as ours, telemedicine is a game changer for access. It cannot replace an in person visit with a provider, but it is the next best thing.

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