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Gov. Lynch laments 'harshness in the air' in final State-of-the-State

New Hampshire Union Leader

January 31. 2012 11:50AM
Gov. John Lynch gets a standing ovation after he gave his final State of the State address at the State House in Concord on Tuesday. Also in the picture is his wife, Susan, and House Speaker Bill O'Brien. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

CONCORD - Gov. John Lynch touted his accomplishments over the past seven years and the relative good state of the New Hampshire's economy in his final State-of-the-State speech to lawmakers Tuesday.

But he said "There's a harshness in the air, in the tone and nature of our communication, and particularly within this building, that's not healthy for our people or our democracy. We can disagree, without demonizing one another.'

He chided lawmakers for reducing the tobacco tax, cutting aid to higher education, reducing payments to hospitals and loosening restrictions on firearms and the use of deadly force.

Lynch, who was the state's first governor to be elected to four consecutive two-year terms, clashed last session with the Republican dominated House and Senate over key issues such as expanding deadly force, overhauling the state's retirement system, parental notification before a young woman has an abortion and significant reductions in the state budget for higher education and hospitals.

In his speech, Lynch recognized those who served in the armed forces, and other New Hampshire citizens who have made a difference from retiring Executive Councilor Raymond Wieczorek of Manchester to Dennis Ford and John Paul-Hilliard, two Department of Transportation workers who helped reconstruct roads after the floods from hurricane Irene.

Lynch reiterated his vow to veto any sales or income tax, expansion of gambling or bills that would loosen restrictions on firearms and the use of deadly force.

Lynch proposed doubling the research and development tax credit and reforming the school building aid program to -provide greater state aid for needy districts. He also called for restoring state aid to higher education that was cut in the last budget.

And he asked lawmakers to finally help him accomplish one of his stated goals when he first was elected governor: to pass a constitutional amendment so the state can better target education aid to the neediest communities.

Lynch and Senate leadership have essentially agreed on language for a proposed amendment, but House leadership balked over how much responsibility the state has to provide and pay for an adequate education for all the state's children.

'I support a bipartisan amendment that would improve our ability to give every child the opportunity for a quality education. I remain committed to working with any legislator who shares the goal of an amendment that allows us to target state education aid and affirms the state's responsibility to our schools,' Lynch said. 'And I will oppose any amendment that would allow the state to abandon its responsibility for educating our children.'

Earlier this session the House killed Lynch's proposed language for a constitutional amendment and killed the Senate's proposal as well.

In his speech, he often returned to talk about jobs and the economy and how best to continue its investment in its workforce.

'I can tell you that the state of New Hampshire is strong, resilient and caring,' Lynch said. 'Our first priority remains putting people back to work. And we have a strategy here in New Hampshire that has made us a national leader.'

Tuesday, he told lawmakers the higher education reduction were short-sighted and said 'We must make it a priority to restore funding for higher education.'

Lynch criticized lawmakers for reducing the tobacco tax by 10 cents, and instead proposed doubling the research and development tax credit from $1 million to $2 million.

'This is a tax credit that works to help create jobs; the same cannot be said of the cut in the tobacco tax,' Lynch said. 'The cut in the tobacco tax was nonsensical. That money would have been better spent on our community college and university systems, for example. We should roll it back, and use the revenue to invest in our economic future.'

Lynch also urged lawmakers to find a way to speed the expansion of Interstate-93 between Manchester and the Massachusetts border. Due to diminishing state and federal highway revenue, the construction schedule has stalled.

'Last year, I called on the legislature to come together to fund the expansion of Interstate 93. Not only did the Legislature not act on Interstate 93 funding, it cut overall highway fund revenue by $90 million,' Lynch said. 'Words alone will not raise the $365 million needed to complete this project. I am willing to put reasonable options on the table. I am asking the legislature to do so as well. If we come together and show the necessary political will, we can complete the widening of Interstate 93 through Manchester in just four years. The people of New Hampshire are waiting.'

Lynch announced in September he would not seek a fifth term.

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