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Nashua, Hollis-Brookline Residents Beware Of Jim Luther!

The State Senate Race for District 12 is getting hotter every day.  Democratic candidate Peggy Gilmour is vying to get her old seat back.  Peggy understands the middle class and their struggles.  As a nurse she has seen more and more the growing need for expanded healthcare for Granite Staters.  She recently told the Nashua Telegraph editorial board that she was in favor of expanding insurance coverage in NH by offering Medicaid to those current lower income families who cannot afford insurance.  She also said

“An insurance exchange would allow patients to choose the best insurance plan that covers their health care needs.”

While Mrs. Gilmour is working to expand access to care, her opponent Sen. Jim Luther is working to limit all government services.  Sen. Luther states on his website

“I was proud to work with leadership in both chambers to rein in state spending by 11% and still reduce taxes.”

While the Legislature did reduce spending and state level spending, the cities and towns are now paying the price.  Many towns had to raise their property taxes to handle the ‘downshifting’ costs from the Legislature.

Sen. Luther is also singing a different tune now.  After the massive cuts to the University of New Hampshire Budget, Sen. Luther told the Nashua Telegraph that he “would like funding to be restored to higher education.”  I am sorry Senator you cannot have it both ways.  You cannot advocate for the budget that slashed the UNH Budget by nearly 50% then tell people that we need to increase funding to the colleges.  That is what you should have done as our State Senator and not use it as a campaign speech.

Peggy Gilmour knows how to tell what is important to an elected official.  She told the Nashua Telegraph

“A budget is a statement of priorities”

Sen. Luther also sponsored other legislation that would take money from self-funded operations and place it into the ‘general fund’.  He tried to take the money from the NH Department of Labor and the Department of Environmental Services.  He was also prime sponsor the school voucher bill that would take money from our public schools and give it to private (for-profit) schools.

As if that were not enough reason to vote for Peggy Gilmour in the upcoming election, here is one more.  RIGHT TO WORK (for less).  Sen. Luther is a proponent of Right to Work legislation.  He told the Nashua Telegraph the same old line that Speaker O’Brien could not prove.

Luther said he supports New Hampshire becoming a Right-to-Work state.

Luther shared a story from two weeks ago when he spoke with a man who has operations in the Granite State and Massachusetts.  Luther said he was told the man is looking to build an $11 million plant in Brockton, Mass., but would be willing to build it in New Hampshire if it became a Right-to-Work state.

If this were true then why would he not tell us the name of this business?  The same reason that Speaker O’Brien did not tell us, because it is a made up story.

Peggy Gilmour strongly opposes Right to Work (for less) legislation.  In an emailed statement she said:

“Right to Work is not good for NH.  Right to Work states typically have lower wages.  Business groups acknowledge that prospective employers rarely, if ever, consider right to work part of the decision to locate in NH.  And, the government should not interfere with the right of employers and employees to negotiate between themselves.  NH families will not be well served by right to work legislation.”

If you want a strong advocate for the middle class and a State Senator who will work to protect your rights in the workplace, Peggy Gilmour is your only choice.  Unlike Sen. Luther she will fight for funding for the UNH Schools before the cuts are made, not after.  She will oppose Right to Work (for less) and attacks on collective bargaining in any form.

 

NH State Rep Urges You To Vote No On Ballot Question 1 & 2

NHLN Note: Below is an editorial submitted to NHLN from Chris Serlin State Rep from Portsmouth. He also published this article on the Portsmouth Patch

New Hampshire Voters Should Reject Amendment Questions 1 and 2 this November

By Chris Serlin
State Rep 

This November election day, in New Hampshire, we will not only be voting to elect a President, 2 US Representatives, a new Governor and on down through the ballot – but we will all have a chance to voice our opinions on 3 questions that involve our State Constitution. They are referred to, simply, as “Question 1”, etc., and they will be at the bottom / reverse side of your ballots.

It is VERY important that voters make their thinking known on these questions.

Two of those questions, 1 and 2, are of great potential consequence to New Hampshire for decades to come, and I urge everyone to reject them – soundly. What follows are my thoughts on why we all should do so for Question 1. I’ll address Question 2 in a separate post – but I’ll give you a hint about why you should reject it: “Separation of Powers”. It’s what makes our system work, let’s not change it.

On to the question at hand.

Question 1 seeks to amend our constitution to forever prohibit an Income Tax. It’s “The Pledge” on super-duper steroids. The darling of today’s Republicans in New Hampshire; something they have dreamt about for so long, they used their super-majorities this past session to put this question to the people this November.

I believe this initiative is, at least in part, a typical GOTV effort. After all, in New Hampshire, how do you get your right-wing base to the polls? Talk about same-sex marriage? No, not really – not here. An Income Tax question? You betcha!

But taken as is, the question is, IMO, a cynical effort to play on the emotions of voters instead of a logical argument that might garner rational support. When people hear “income tax”, they say “where!? Yikes!” – and that’s what the New Hampshire GOP wants you to do. Don’t fall for it.

A bit of history: New Hampshire has no income tax. We never have, at least, in a manner that fits a modern definition of one (calculated upon a stated amount of actual revenue). In colonial times, pre and post Revolution, in reality we did have an income tax because then “Property” taxes were established based on a presumption of one’s ability to generate revenue based on the amount of property held and its use (timber, apples, grains, etc.). But that’s another conversation for another day – one which I hope we do have.

So, with no income tax, never having had one, and with current majorities and candidates opposed to one (for the most part), what’s the risk? Why must we enshrine a prohibition against a very specific revenue policy choice in the instrument that documents the core morals and beliefs we all agree to live by, and which establishes our system of government and defines its powers?

Well, I do not believe there is good reason to do so. Quite obviously our system works. We don’t have one and we’re not getting one anytime soon. Even if we did, magically, have an income tax passed through some (currently unimaginable) confluence of events – we have a unique political system in New Hampshire that allows “we the people” to completely change government every 2 years, from the Governor on down all the way into County offices. A repeal, under that bizarre circumstance, is all that would be needed to eliminate the tax if that was what the people wanted.

“Well”, proponents are arguing, “isn’t it better just to change the Constitution to eliminate even that chance?”

No. It is not.

Our constitution is not a sandbox to play with and see what ideas stick. As proponents most certainly know, (in fact they’re counting on this), once done it is *very* difficult to undo a change to our constitution. That’s the mechanism we have for such changes and it is a good one – assuming our constitution is changed with good reason, and careful consideration. But our system is setup so that only 34% of people voting on a given constitutional question (not 34% of the electorate and not 34% of those casting ballots on any given election day – 34% of voters who vote on the question(s) specifically) can hold the remaining 66% “hostage”. It’s a firewall against radical changes, in perhaps radical times. But as it applies to what revenue policy choices future generations, and their elected representatives *may* make, we will not be well served if such a minority can thwart the will of so many in some later time even during a period of crisis or national emergency. Revenue policy is best left to the fluid nature of our Legislative process – not set in concrete. None of us should feel safe giving such power to such a small group of the voting public.

But if a constitutional argument isn’t quite your cup of tea, I’ll offer another – the “law of unintended consequences”.

Question 1 specifically allows any tax already in place to stay in place, and provides that they will not be impacted by this amendment language. Also, though not currently in place, this amendment would *not* prohibit a sales tax in New Hampshire.

Spending and revenue to match will always be a controversial subjects. As well they ought to be in a republic like ours. But let’s agree that at times in the future the legislature will need to increase revenues to suit the needs of the day. To what sources might they turn, if an Income Tax is 100% off the table?

Property taxes. Hate seeing your property taxes always go up – wish there were a more equitable way to spread the cost of government, education, services? Don’t vote for Question 1.

Are you a business owner? If you vote for Question 1, BET and BPT are on the table for hikes in some future scenario even if most people would prefer to spread any necessary increases to the wealthiest among us . Own a business bordering VT, ME or MA? A sales tax is on the table. Will that make you more or less competitive? Are you retired, know someone who is – or otherwise derive any income from investments? Dividend and Interest tax is on the table. Restaurant or hotel in the family? Meals and rooms tax ripe for a bump.

Hunt? Renewing your car registration? Selling real estate? Enjoy our park system? The list goes on. All of those taxes and fees would be fair game in any effort to raise revenue if an Income Tax is off the table until such amendment could be repealed; itself an arduous process matching passage. Regardless of how severe the need, the process of repeal could take years – even generations. It’s very difficult to get 67% of voters to agree on something.

“Well [Chris] we’ll keep spending super low, and none of those scenarios you just discussed will occur – we won’t need more revenue.”

Come again?

It’s fantasy to believe that we can keep cutting gov’t spending and not *ever* have to raise new revenue dollars or hike existing streams. That’s not because government is wasteful, it’s math and common sense.

Anyone try running a business w 2012-rate expenses but 1980s revenue streams? How well does anyone think that would really work? In many cases here in NH, that’s what we do. Our deficit is structural. And you can only cut so much. Sooner or later the Legislature will be forced to consider other revenue sources. And not necessarily to add to what we pay now. I personally favor an income tax to replace some or all of our property taxes. It is, IMO, a far more equitable way in which to generate revenue. But even replacing existing taxes w an income tax is off the table if Question 1 passes.

Some proponents of the question have said that the greatest legacy of this Legislature will be that we made it possible for the people to forever prohibit an income tax in New Hampshire.

As a legislator, citizen and father I believe the greatest legacy we can leave our children (and theirs, and theirs, etc.) is the freedom to make their own choices in their own time, just as we have been able to do. About all things. Revenue and spending most of all. That’s not risky – that’s liberty.

It most certainly will not be to bequeath to them a New Hampshire where in a single area of tax policy, we have forever tied their hands.

Cecile Richards (Planned Parenthood) Calls Maggie Hassan a Champion for Women’s Health

Blasts Ovide Lamontagne’s Radical Ideas That Will Increase Health Care Costs for Women and Families

CONCORD – Cecile Richards, the President of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund*, praised Democratic candidate for Governor Maggie Hassan as a “longtime champion of women’s right to control their own health care” at a Women for Maggie press conference today.  Richards and Hassan were joined by Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen, House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli, and numerous Women for Maggie members who came out to show their support for Maggie Hassan’s vision to keep New Hampshire’s economy moving forward by including everyone as equals.

“The stakes for women’s health and rights are higher than ever in this election, and I am proud to support Maggie Hassan for governor of New Hampshire,” said Richards.  “Access to affordable health care, including birth control, is a basic economic issue for women and families. Ovide Lamontagne is far outside the mainstream on women’s health, and New Hampshire can’t afford his extreme agenda. Maggie Hassan will stand up to the Tea Party agenda and she has the right plan to keep New Hampshire moving forward.”

Ovide Lamontagne has tried to dismiss issues related to “reproductive rights … whatever those are.” In response to questions from voters, he has said, it is not “topical” and not “central” to the campaign, and criticized people for raising the issue. He has even tried to suggest that a Governor couldn’t impact access to birth control or abortion, although his allies have already filed legislation that would ban abortion in the first six weeks.

“We face a clear choice in this election. ” said Hassan.  “My ‘Innovate NH’ jobs plan focuses on making sure all of our citizens can participate equally in our economy.  Ovide thinks women should sacrifice their freedom, their economic security and control over their health care to his radical agenda. I believe that we can have a strong economy, create jobs and still protect the freedom and liberty of all of our citizens. In this election, we can either move forward, building on the foundation established by Governor Lynch, to help our businesses and families succeed, or we can go radically backward in the direction proposed by Ovide Lamontagne and the Tea Party legislature.”

Like Ovide Lamontagne, the current legislature claimed that it was focused on “jobs and the economy,” and then pushed numerous bills aimed at restricting access to abortion; defunding Planned Parenthood; and letting insurance companies drop coverage for birth control.

“The only thing slowing down some of these bills was the promise of a veto from Governor John Lynch. Just like this legislature, Ovide Lamontagne is not being straight with us about what he would do as Governor,” said House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli. “While he has repeatedly said women’s health care issues don’t matter, Ovide Lamontagne has confessed that he will sign any anti-choice legislation that comes to his desk – even if it banned abortion for victims of rape and incest.”

Ovide Lamontagne has been endorsed by the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List, and has long supported an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would ban abortion, even for the victims of rape and incest. He has said he would sign legislation defunding Planned Parenthood and bills restricting access to abortion.

“The good news is that women don’t have to choose between their health care and the economy. Maggie Hassan has a plan to build our economy and support the efforts of our businesses to create jobs – without sacrificing the health care or equality of women,” said Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen.

Maggie Hassan has a strong record of standing up for a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, and strongly opposes the legislature’s recent attacks on women’s health care, such as measures to restrict the right to choose and to defund Planned Parenthood, making services like cancer screenings, fertility treatments, and access to birth control more expensive and less available.

Hassan’s “Innovate NH” jobs plan will help businesses grow and keep New Hampshire’s economy moving forward by focusing on education to build the best workforce in the country, providing tax credits to businesses, and giving businesses technical assistance to help them create jobs.

Ovide Lamontagne has said he would be a “radically different” governor than Governor Lynch, with extreme positions like repealing the guarantee of public kindergarten; rejecting federal funds for local schools;  and ignoring rising tuition costs caused by cuts to higher education. He supports plans to dismantle Medicare, criminalize abortion – even in the case of rape or incest – and limit insurance coverage for birth control, and defund Planned Parenthood, increasing costs for critical health care services for New Hampshire women and families.

Kevin Smith Invites DC Lobby Group to Change New Hampshire’s Constitution

Kevin Smith admits Manchester tax cap gimmick funded by outside interests; promises to bring DC lobby group back to influence New Hampshire voters

CONCORD, NH – In the Union Leader yesterday, Kevin Smith admitted that the Manchester tax cap gimmick was pushed by out of state corporate interests – and said that he’s inviting the DC Lobby group back to change New Hampshire’s constitution.

NO INCOME TAX RALLY

Kevin Smith, former candidate for governor and current chair of the “No Income Tax PAC,” and Jennifer Horn, founder of “We The People,” will host a rally promoting a “yes” vote on Question 1 (no income tax) on Oct. 24 at Norton’s Classic Cafe in Nashua. Rep. Bass will be the featured speaker. Smith said the national issues advocacy group Americans for Limited Government will soon become involved in the campaign to pass the amendment. He said it was involved in efforts to pass a tax cap in Manchester several years ago, working with the New Hampshire Advantage Coalition.

Previously, former NH Advantage Coalition Executive Directors Mike Biundo and Tammy Simmons, as well as former Honorary Chair now-Congressman Frank Guinta, had worked hard to present the Manchester cap as a homegrown initiative. According to a Politico story from June 2012, Americans for a Limited Government is funded in part by Charles and David Koch.

“Kevin Smith is wrong to invite Washington DC lobby groups to mess with New Hampshire’s constitution.  We need to protect New Hampshire’s constitution and reject questions one, two and three,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. “We should not be embedding fiscal policy in the state’s founding documents, nor should we eliminate checks and balances in the branches of government or open the door to extreme, radical attempts to change our constitution. Voters who want to protect New Hampshire’s constitution will reject all three of these ballot questions.”

According to Ballotpedia, “Americans for Limited Government is a national libertarian political advocacy organization headquartered in Virginia. The group has had high-profile involvement in a number of ballot initiative campaigns, especially in 2006.” Other issues for the group include diverting taxpayer dollars to fund private and religious schools, and a campaign to defund public broadcasting. The logo for that campaign slyly includes a multi-colored graphic that highlights the letters “DeFUnd public broadcasting“.

 

CACR 26: We need to keep those ‘Checks and Balances’

On election day, Granite Staters will not only choose who will lead us for the next few years, we will also vote on proposed changes to the New Hampshire Constitution.

One of those constitutional amendments, CACR 26, would give the Legislature direct control over all operations of the Judicial Branch.  Think about that for a minute. Remember all the horse-trading and last-minute surprises that happen every budget season.  Do we really want the Legislature writing the Court’s Rules?

  • Do we want the Legislature deciding what to tell juries about the burden of proof, and what constitutes “reasonable doubt”?
  • Do we want the Legislature to decide Rules of Evidence such as whether the jury can rely on hearsay; whether the jury can hear testimony that is irrelevant but prejudicial; whether a lawyer, spouse or ordained minister can be compelled to testify?
  • Do we want the Legislature involved in the process of setting bail?
  • Do we want the Legislature telling courts how to treat victims of child abuse?

CACR 26 would take New Hampshire on a voyage to a strange new world, where the Legislature has direct control of the Judiciary.  Where Court Rules would likely change every two years, depending on who is elected House Speaker and Senate President, and who gets named to the Judiciary Committee.  Where the branch of government that is supposed to protect our rights – supposed to protect us from Legislative excesses – would be run by the very politicians that we need to be protected against.

It would be the fox guarding the hen house.

Except in this case, New Hampshire citizens would be the hens.  Do we really want to trust the Legislature to protect us from laws that trample on our constitutional rights?

This brainstorm may have come from Bill O’Brien’s leadership team, but that doesn’t mean it’s actually a “conservative” idea.  Pick whatever politician you hate – Democrat or Republican – and then imagine that politician is in charge of the New Hampshire court system.  Now, imagine that you are a prisoner awaiting trial, or a divorced parent waiting for a custody decision, or a small business owner who is being sued by a customer, or an injured worker trying to get your employer to pay your medical bills.  If that politician you hate has control of the Judicial Branch, how many different ways could he (or she) keep you from getting the justice you deserve?

There is no limit to the different ways the Legislature could muck up New Hampshire’s court system, if we give them that power through CACR 26.

And then two years and another election later, the other political party could take control of the Legislature and ramrod through a set of changes in exactly the opposite direction.

As John Broderick, the former Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, told the Union Leader,

[the original framers of the Constitution] sought to protect the separation of governmental powers because they had lived under regimes that respected no dividing lines, when the Legislature could invade the province of the judiciary for purely partisan reasons or, perhaps, without any reason at all.

[J]udicial independence is not just about keeping the Legislature in check, as important as that is. It is also about fulfilling the constitutional guarantee to each citizen that the courts will act impartially and free from the influence of political interests.

As former Governor Steve Merrill and former New Hampshire Supreme Court Justice Joseph Nadeau told the NH Bar Association,

oversight of [Court] rules is oversight of administrative activities. And there is no place in a constitutional democracy for legislative intervention of the judicial branch. Political oversight of courts existed in dictatorships of Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and the former Russian Republics before they embraced democracy. We all know that resulted in judicial systems without independence, and without equal access or impartial justice.

If you’re a Democrat, imagine that the Republicans would be deciding Court Rules.

If you’re a Republican, imagine that the Democrats would be deciding Court Rules.

Either way, it’s probably not a very comfortable picture – especially if you end up looking to the court system for justice or to protect your rights.

In the case of CACR 26, the “conservative” vote is to keep our Constitution just the way it is.  The system of checks and balances between the Legislature and the Court system has worked for the past two centuries.  It’s protected our rights through Republican-led Legislatures – and sessions when the Democrats were in control.

Giving the Legislature control of the Court system wouldn’t work.  Maintaining the “balance of power” between branches of the government does.

 

CACR 13: Putting New Hampshire in a Financial Straightjacket

Photo by Joseph Sawicki

On election day Granite Staters will not only choose who will lead us for the next few years, we will also vote on proposed changes to the New Hampshire Constitution.

One of those changes, CACR 13, would put our state into a financial straightjacket.

Right now, New Hampshire has a “crazy-quilt” approach to funding state government.

  • Business taxes account for almost one-third of the revenue necessary to run our state government.  New Hampshire has a business profits tax and a business enterprise tax.  We tax health care facilities and utilities.  Another 2% of state revenues come from a court settlement with tobacco companies.
  • So-called “sin taxes” and gambling revenue account for one-fifth of the state budget.  Between the tobacco tax, the beer tax, and transfers from the Liquor Commission, the Lottery Commission and the Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission, almost $450 million in annual revenues comes from sources that the “religious right” would condemn as immoral.
  • Property taxes don’t just fund local governments – they also account for a whopping 16% of state revenues.
  • Then there are so-called “consumption taxes”.  Taxes on meals and lodging are 11% of revenues.  Then we have taxes on insurance policies, telecommunications services, utility consumption, and real estate transfers.  Taxes on dividends and securities revenue.  Court fees.  Fees to register your car, boat, snowmobile, trailer.  License fees.  Transaction fees.  It seems like every time you turn around, there’s another small tax or large fee.

It’s the “crazy-quilt” to funding state government: New Hampshire raises revenue just about every way possible except by taxing wage income or retail sales.

Is that really the best way to fund state government?

And even if we decide it’s how WE want to fund state government… do we really have the right to decide for future generations how THEY are going to fund New Hampshire’s government?

If we change the state Constitution to eliminate any possibility of an income tax – at any time in the future – we would be putting a financial straightjacket on the state’s revenue system.

We’ve been dealing with nickel-and-dime fee-hikes and tax hikes for decades now.  CACR 13 would enshrine that “crazy-quilt” funding method in the state Constitution forever.

What moral right do we have, to tie the hands of future generations?

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