EXECUTIVE Councilor Debora Pignatelli, D-Nashua, scored a long-earned win for Merrimack residents last week as an advisory commission set in motion the likely elimination of any ramp toll charge at Exit 11 on the F.E. Everett Turnpike.
Since we pointed out Gov. Chris Sununu’s criticism of Pignatelli’s record on toll hikes, we should set straight her record, as well.
In a Nov. 6 letter to the editor to the Union Leader, Pignatelli said she’s been a consistent opponent of toll increases.
“In 2005, I cast a protest vote because no toll relief was delivered to Merrimack,” Pignatelli wrote.
“In 2007, I voted against toll increases. That fall, I worked on an initiative to give Merrimack residents two free toll passes per day. The process culminated in the Merrimack Town Council voting to declare Toll Revolt Day after my proposal was voted down by the Executive Council.
“In 2009, I again opposed an increase in highway tolls. In 2014, I was out of office but supported the elimination of tolls at Exit 12 in Merrimack.”
On Oct. 3, 2007, the council unanimously voted to raise the toll rates by 25 cents at Hooksett, Bedford, Dover, Rochester and Hampton tolls, and Pignatelli was at that meeting.
Later that month, Pignatelli took up her bid to zero out the tolls charged at Exits 10 and 11 in Merrimack and that lost on a 3-2 vote with former Councilor Beverly Hollingworth, D-Hampton, joining Pignatelli.
“I don’t have a recollection of voting for that,” said Pignatelli who was visiting family Friday in Virginia. “I have a long record of voting against toll increases because the council would not give any relief to Merrimack.”
House GOP upset about representative’s discipline
House GOP leaders charge Speaker Steve Shurtleff, D-Penacook, applied inconsistent discipline in removing a Republican from one House committee and merely suspending a Democrat from another.
Shurtleff kicked State Rep. John Burt, R-Goffstown, off the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee after comments he made in a Sunday News article calling outgoing Fish and Game Executive Director Glenn Normandeau a “terrorist” and a “liar.”
North Hampton Democratic Rep. Tamara Le was suspended for three months from the House Education Committee for a Facebook rant against non-public education that included an F-bomb at private schools.
House Republican Leader Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack, said Le’s transgression was worse than Burt’s.
“Rep. Burt had serious concerns about how the Fish and Game Department was being managed, and he has a right to express those views, which he did without the use of vulgarity. His removal is a convenient distraction from the fact that a member of the speaker’s leadership team used profanity towards private and religious schools, and gets an inconsequential suspension,” Hinch said. “Frankly, this is a double standard.”
In response, Shurtleff said in a statement he handled both cases equally.
“My standard for all removals of members from their committees has been the same,” Shurtleff said. “First, I issue a warning in hopes that member will change their behavior. If they do not, I remove them from their committee with cause, which is what happened with Representative Burt.”
Burt has said the speaker earlier had called him into the woodshed to discuss other comments he had made. In contrast, aides to Shurtleff said Le did not have any other issue during her two terms in the House and the speaker has made clear she’ll be returned to the committee only if there are no further controversies.
Council puts brakes on one, elevates another
The Executive Council tabled Sununu’s nomination of Department of Education division director Stephen M. Appleby of Bedford after Councilor Andru Volinsky, D-Concord, questioned his qualifications.
For five decades, the person holding this post, in charge of higher education and education support that pays $94,000 a year, has held a doctorate, Volinsky said.
Appleby does not hold one, and Volinsky said Appleby’s only education experience is that he ran a career school that gave out certifications for Microsoft.
The council did approve CFO Kerrin Rounds of Bristol to serve as the interim commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services until a permanent successor is found for Jeff Meyers, who steps down early next month.Plastic bag ban gets momentum
The House Municipal and County Government Committee ignored strong retail opposition and moved forward on a favorite of environmentalists, a bill (HB 559) to get rid of single-use plastic bags. The panel voted, 11-8, to require retailers to charge consumers 10 cents for each completely reusable and recyclable bag they would be required to use, up to 50 cents per shopping trip. The vote was even stronger, 12-7, for a local-option measure (HB 102) to give any city or town permission to adopt their own restrictions.Biz tax cut looks in jeopardyThrough four months, business owners probably should not plan on that next round of tax cuts kicking in.
Democratic state budget writers got Sununu to condition the next cuts to occur only if revenues are at least 6 percent over forecast.
Through the first third of the year, revenues are $10.3 million, or 1.7 percent, below the plan.
As expected, business taxes are one of the biggest lags, $7 million below what had been expected by now and $37 million lower than this time last year.
Business tax refunds are the culprit. Through four months they total $17.9 million; in all of last year they were only $19.9 million and $15.3 million the year before that.