New Hampshire Democrat candidate for governor Maggie Hassan spoke here last week at the Salem Rotary Club, detailing her "Innovate New Hampshire" plan to a very receptive audience. Outlining a wide range of job creation and education proposals, a Hassan administration will be a definite panacea to the far-right ideology espoused by GOP challenger Ovide Lamontagne and the current state Republican Party led by regressive House of Representatives leader Bill O'Brien. Hassan stands for the citizens-first principles that along with the successful eight-year leadership of governor John Lynch served to push the Granite State to the top of the nation’s fifty states in most measurable individual-friendly categories until the O’Brien-led House takeover in Jan. 2011.
When you compare the agendas of these two candidates and weigh just how much damage a Lamontagne/O'Brien collaboration would do to New Hampshire, it is clear how imperative it is to prevent a Lamontagne victory. If you are a union worker, a citizen of or approaching Medicare age, a woman, a student or LGBT (or anyone who simply has a care about these people, our neighbors) a vote for Maggie Hassan should be a fait accompli.
Ovide Lamontagne champions all of the anti-citizen Tea Party-favored changes and proposals that since O'Brien's implementation have proven disastrous to our state during the past two years, two years that due to the Republican takeover of both the Senate and House have prevented governor John Lynch from vetoing much of the worst legislation. O'Brien has cut over 50 percent from the higher education budget (UNH and other colleges), raising yearly tuition for students by thousands of dollars and driving many of them out of New Hampshire to continue their education. He has implemented huge medical spending cuts, resulting in a number of hospital closings and thousands of lost jobs, and Lamontagne has vowed to slice these important appropriations even further if elected. Lamontagne favors Wisconsin governor Scott Walker-ish style anti-union legislation ("I want to be Scott Walker on steroids!"), which should make all hard-working public union employees take notice of the loss of bargaining rights and benefits that they'll have to suffer if he and O'Brien get to team up next year. He will also privatize many public services, resulting in the loss of thousands of MORE jobs and higher prices all of us to pay from registering our vehicles to snow plowing.
Elders can look forward to the dismantling of Medicare, as Lamontagne's embracing of the infamous Tea Party voucher plan, which has been discredited by every non-partisan think tank that has studied it, will add $5,000 to $7,000 annually to each members' payout. This state Medicare takeover will also allow the House with its current right-wing majority to raise the eligibility age and actually deny policyholders' care in many cases.
Continuing and intensifying this election year's "War On Women" which the GOP is waging on both national and state levels, Ovide Lamontagne is the ultimate fundamentalist when it comes to female reproductive rights. He opposes and will seek to outlaw abortion IN ALL CASES, including rape, incest and when the mother's life is endangered. He supports a U.S. constitutional amendment that would criminalize all abortions as jailable felonies for both the patient and the doctor, eliminate some forms of birth control and fertility treatment as well as allow NH businesses to deny health coverage to female employees for many essential services, including birth control. Only in this Tea Party-addled era could something as basic as a woman's right to her options regarding contraception, which actually DRIVES DOWN potential circumstances for abortion, be such a haggled-over issue in America.
Regarding lower education, Lamontagne if elected will seek to implement a state constitutional amendment that would eliminate New Hampshire's educational responsibilities to our schools, and end the state mandate and financing for kindergarten (long one of the Tea Party's main targets). These cuts would total nearly a billion dollars of funding. We all watched a few years ago as Lamontagne, then head of the state Board of Education, turned away millions of federal dollars earmarked for local schools, throwing his 19th-century ideology in the faces of both our young students and their parents. Apparently Tea Party philosophy doesn't take into consideration the causal relationship between both keeping our state's graduate percentage levels high and retaining qualified young members of the work force, as well as the fact that due to the hit schools and businesses have taken with the O'Brien state budget, many companies that would've employed them have moved out in droves to other corporate-friendly states.
Hassan's manner of governance would restore most of the House-cut education spending to our colleges and kindergartens with NO INCOME TAX HIKES (both candidates have taken the Tax Pledge), as well as prevent the anticipated GOP agenda detailed above that a Lamontagne/O’Brien collaboration would continue and strengthen. Her plans include the "single casino" option that will provide for a modern casino/hotel complex in southern New Hampshire, the most likely location being Rockingham Park. This will bring in millions of dollars of revenue that we have been losing for decades to Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. Maggie also plans to protect the under-attack state minimum wage, preserve collective bargaining for union workers, and prevent Roe v. Wade from becoming a historical footnote.
Finally, the New Hampshire Republicans’ oft-stated charges that the Democrat Party here led by governor Lynch and seconded by Maggie Hassan is somehow a bunch of oblivious tax-and-spenders has been and remains just another right-wing canard. In reality our state tax bite taken in toto is the LOWEST OF ALL FIFTY STATES, and has been throughout Lynch's administration as well as before he was elected. The barrage of TV and radio ads claiming Hassan to have been some kind of tax exploder as Senate majority leader is simply a desperate election-year lie. What IS true is that Lamontagne and the state GOP favor a slash-and-burn design that has only served over the past two years to devastate our formerly nationally admired state on many levels, while with their majorities in Concord neutered the Democrat desire to further and broaden New Hampshire’s mandates including healthcare, education, and equal rights for ALL citizens.
So the essential questions that voters must decide on November 6 are : How much MORE New Hampshire funding to our hospitals, colleges, children and the elderly can we afford to have a Lamontagne/O’Brien team cut? And how many more groups of human beings can we watch lose their Constitutional rights if he is elected?