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Dave Solomon has been a reporter or editor for New England news organizations since 1977. He has served as executive editor of both the Portsmouth Herald and the Nashua Telegraph. He joined the reporting staff of the New Hampshire Union Leader in 2012.

Recent Granite Status

Democrats have own ideas of who replaces Sylvia Larsen

N.H. Senate President backs Brown

April 16. 2014 10:35PM

Granite Status: Havenstein talks tax stance to make position clear

Republican gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein made it clear in announcing his campaign on Wednesday that he will oppose any income tax or sales tax in New Hampshire, but the point was made in questioning by reporters, not in his announcement speech.

He never uttered the words, "I will oppose and veto any broadbased tax," and so in the purest sense, he never took "The Pledge," a mandatory position for all Republican and most Democratic gubernatorial campaigns for decades.

When asked about broad-based taxes, he said simply, "Forget it."

Later, in a huddle with reporters, he was asked if that statement constituted his version of "The Pledge."

"Sure," he said, "but that's puffery as far as I'm concerned. The real question is will I support policies that will maintain the ability to have that pledge, or will I support things that will inevitably challenge our ability to have that pledge."

The Pledge is puffery? asked an incredulous scribe.

"If you think about it in the context of just the pledge," he said. "There is a lot more to that commitment to not have a broadbased tax in this state."

Havenstein's campaign immediately went into high gear to clarify.

"He takes The Pledge very seriously," said one adviser. "He used the term 'puffery' to make the point that it's meaningless to take The Pledge if you support policies which lead to it by default. In other words, he takes it so seriously, that he not only took The Pledge, but is also pledging to oppose any policy which might lead to a broad-based tax."

Just so there's no misunderstanding.

Money matters

Democrat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen got the jump on the April 15 Federal Election Commission reporting deadline for the first quarter of 2014, and revealed her numbers last week, showing $1.5 million raised by her reelection campaign in the three-month period, and $4.3 million cash on hand.

Her possible Republican opponent, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown reported that his campaign has raised $274,728, and spent none of it.

The Brown campaign was quick to point out that the money was raised in just two weeks.

"This is just from the time he announced the exploratory committee on March 14 to March 31," said an adviser. "During this time Scott had zero fundraisers and zero paid staffers. So essentially no fundraising operation. Which makes the number even more impressive."

At that rate, Brown raised about $137,364 a week.

Here's the campaign spin: "Shaheen raised $1.538 million last quarter. Her best yet. Over 12 weeks, that's $128,167 a week, so Scott outpaced her."

Other filings are still pouring in to the FEC.

Congresswoman Annie Kuster raised $402,000 in the first quarter of 2014, and has more than $1.3 million cash on hand.

Polling poorly

President Barack Obama's job approval rating in New Hampshire is now at the lowest point of his presidency, according to a Granite State Poll released earlier in the week, sponsored by WMUR and conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

The poll of 507 randomly selected adults, interviewed between April 1-9, showed that 39 percent approve of the job Obama is doing as President; 53 percent disapprove, and 9 percent are neutral.

The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, also polled poorly, with only 37 percent of New Hampshire adults surveyed in favor of the legislation, 51 percent opposed, and 12 percent neutral or uninformed.

In another poll released on Wednesday, the Survey Center took aim at the gubernatorial race and reported that a majority of Granite Staters approve of the job Maggie Hassan is doing as governor.

Of those responding to the April 1-9 survey, 59 percent say they approve of the job Hassan is doing; 20 percent disapprove and 22 percent are neutral or don't know enough to have an opinion.

Hassan's approval rating increased from 51 percent in the last poll taken in January.

The poll shows that the two Republicans vying in the September primary to face Hassan in November have a long way to go to build name recognition with voters. Political activist Andrew Hemingway of Bristol and former BAE executive Walt Havenstein of Alton have officially entered the race, but barely registered with the voters polled.

More than 80 percent of the respondents knew little or nothing about both candidates.

The state Legislature gets far better approval ratings that the U.S. Congress, with 50 percent of respondents approving of the job lawmakers are doing in Concord, compared to 33 percent who disapprove.

New Hampshire residents continue to believe the state is headed in the right direction, according to the survey, as 62 percent agree with that statement, while 30 percent think the state is seriously off on the wrong track.

The most important problem facing the state is the economy, cited by 23 percent of those surveyed. Taxes, health care and education all trailed in the single digits.


Powerful profits
The owners of unregulated power plants in New England are starting to release their earnings reports for the first quarter of the year, and the numbers are likely to be quite impressive, given the historic spikes in energy prices during the winter of the polar vortex.

As the state Legislature and Public Utilities Commission continue to deliberate on the fate of power plants owned by Public Service of New Hampshire, you can bet that PSNH is going to bring attention to those earnings.

Entergy, which owns the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, reported that strong first quarter earnings resulted from "significantly higher realized wholesale energy prices ... reflecting cold winter weather and northeast pipeline infrastructure limitations."

PSNH is likely to make the argument that if power plants are going to be so profitable, why not keep some under regulation in New Hampshire and let consumers here benefit — the same consumers who have been paying those significantly higher energy prices.

Pressing for hearing

U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown has jumped into the fray over the narrow provider network Anthem has created for New Hampshire residents who purchase health insurance on the Obamacare exchange at healthcare.gov.

In a letter to Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny released on Thursday, Brown urged Sevigny to move ahead with a hearing for Rochester resident Margaret McCarthy, a patient at Frisbie Hospital, which was not included in Anthem's network.

Anthem claims McCarthy did not file her complaint on time.

Sevigny was supposed to decide this week on a date for the hearing, but instead gave Anthem until April 22 to respond to McCarthy's latest arguments.

"Ms. McCarthy is having difficulty even getting her case heard because of technical objections," wrote Brown. "I urge you to set aside those technical objections and give a full hearing to the substance of her complaint. There are many thousands of people like Margaret McCarthy and they shouldn't be silenced by technicalities."
As part of his ongoing “Obamacare Isn’t Working” tour, Brown stopped at Central Paper Products in Manchester on Thursday to tour the facility and learn more about the everyday challenges facing the business.
 
“Obamacare’s uncertainty is preventing local companies like Central Paper from reaching their full potential, creating jobs and keeping the economy growing,” said Brown.  “When their costs go up, so does the cost for their customers — it’s a chain reaction that negatively impacts too many people.  This law never should have been rammed through, and it wouldn’t have been the law of the land without Senator Shaheen’s tie-breaking vote.”
 
Central Paper Products employs more than 50 people in Manchester, providing a variety of products and supplies to various industries ranging from food services to health care.
 
“The uncertainty coming out of Washington is troubling for business owners as we must account for the increased cost of health care and higher taxes," said Marketing Manager Fred Kfoury, III.
 
"I appreciate Scott Brown stopping by to hear our concerns and talk with employees about ways to change the tone in Washington so we can focus on growth and expansion, not more red tape,”


dsolomon@unionleader.com


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