In a recent column, “Annoy the candidates, ask them questions,” Charlie Arlinghaus posed a number of important questions voters should ask candidates who seek their vote. Charlie makes an excellent point about the importance of candidates answering specific policy questions — something I have been doing throughout my campaign for governor. In the limited column space available, I'd like to address each of Charlie's questions.
-- State pension plans: Despite significant efforts to reform the state pension program, we face a systemic problem. We must transition away from defined-benefit plans. With my own law firm and then during my time as chairman of the board of St. Mary's Bank, we successfully transitioned from a defined-benefit plan to a defined-contribution plan. As governor, I will seek to do the same for all new state employees.
-- Taxes: I have pledged to veto any broad-based sales or income tax. Our status as the only state in the Northeast without such a broad-based tax makes us exceptional and is the cornerstone of the New Hampshire Advantage. Maintaining a balanced budget requires tight controls on state spending to avoid the need for new revenue.
-- Business taxes: New Hampshire's business taxes are among the highest in the nation. My ESE plan calls for a manageable reduction in the business profits tax over two years. It simplifies tax filings and outlines a number of tax credits to help businesses expand, encourage workers to further their education, and allow small business owners to take the salary they deserve. Importantly, my plan includes a “pay-go” provision to ensure that any revenue reductions are offset by spending reductions.
-- The state budget: The Republican-led Legislature deserves significant credit for balancing our budget after years of overspending and unrealistic revenue estimates. Moving forward, I would move away from the “maintenance budget” approach, instead opting for a “zero-based budgeting” strategy, similar to what Gov. Chris Christie has done in New Jersey.
As for funding changes, I believe we need to look at restoring cuts made to the disproportionate share program, which funds care for the poor at our state's hospitals; the state cannot ignore its responsibilities to cover some of those costs. One place to look to offset the spending is within the Department of Health and Human Services itself, the largest and most expensive state department. We should seek reforms that will lead to public/private partnerships to provide services at lower costs. Through my experience with Easter Seals, Catholic Charities and other organizations, I know they can be found.
-- The structure of government: I would seek to amend the influence of the executive branch in two ways. First, the time has come to reform the appointment process to ensure that a new governor is allowed to appoint the heads of major state agencies upon taking office. Second, I support a constitutional amendment authorizing a budget line-item veto, providing the governor with a check to keep spending low and our budget balanced. I would seek to make the executive branch weaker by calling on the Legislature to stop delegating rule-making authority to unelected bureaucrats at state agencies, and instead pass complete bills that do not require rulemaking.
I would impose a 90-day moratorium on all proposed rules and evaluate each through a robust economic impact analysis. I support a return to biennial legislative sessions, to reduce the scope of our government and to ensure that the Legislature has time to fully vet their proposals.
-- School funding: I support and have fought for a constitutional amendment to allow the Legislature to delegate educational policy making and funding to local communities while targeting state aid for education. Failing to do so leaves us on the path to a broad-based tax and limits real education reform. We should work to decentralize the delivery of education through site-based management, giving control to local leaders. I will continue to support reforms that encourage school choice.
As Charlie noted, these are only a few of the pressing issues facing the state. I am running for governor to make a real difference for New Hampshire businesses and families and because I share your concerns about the issues affecting our state. I hope you will visit our website, www.Ovide2012.com, to learn more about my positions and to see when I will be in you area. When I am, please come out and ask your questions. I can't guarantee we'll always agree, but I can guarantee that I will give a thoughtful answer to the questions that matter most to you.
Ovide Lamontagne, a Manchester attorney, is a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor.