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Monday, October 17, 2016

Wheeler enjoys "watchdog" role


Staff Writer

NASHUA – David Wheeler takes a very traditional view of his role as an executive councilor.

“For me, I like being the watchdog,” Wheeler said. ...

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NASHUA – David Wheeler takes a very traditional view of his role as an executive councilor.

“For me, I like being the watchdog,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler, a Milford Republican, is running against Nashua Democrat Dan Weeks for the District 5 seat on New Hampshire’s Executive Council. The council serves as a brake on the powers of the governor and Legislature, showing the distrust that the framers of New Hampshire’s constitution had for concentrated political power, he said.

“They did not like the colonial governors, so the came up with the council to weaken the power of the governor intentionally,” he said.

As a councilor, Wheeler has taken to the role, like when he

opposed the Legislature and the governor when he voted against the Medicaid expansion in New Hampshire, saying it simply put 50,000 more people on welfare.

The Medicaid expansion did allow that number of New Hampshire residents to get health insurance coverage as part of the Affordable Care Act, and Wheeler sees it as a problem. He thinks the expansion will lead to an unaffordable system that will eventually require a state income or sales tax, or worse.

“This is part of moving to a single-payer health care system, this is part of Obamacare,” he said.

Wheeler wants to roll back the expansion, and he’d like to see the whole Affordable Care Act done in. In its place, Wheeler advocates some form of what he calls a free-market solution, though he is not sure how it will look. He’s not sure how to get uninsured people health care, but said allowing for more competition, and scaling back regulations, should help. The alternative is to stay with the current system.

“I don’t have 100 percent of the answers, but I know this is unsustainable,” Wheeler said.

When asked about the people who are now able to get addiction and recovery treatment for the first time, thanks to the Medicaid expansion, Wheeler did not waver in wanting to roll back the program. He said the state already pays for recovery services outside of the Medicaid services.

“I don’t have all the answers for this crisis,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler offered that he supports the faith-based treatment centers.

“They have different opinions on what works and what doesn’t,” Wheeler said.

New Hampshire has taken positive steps to combat the opioid addiction crisis gripping the state, he said. Wheeler pointed to Operation Granite Hammer, getting Narcan into the hands of first responders and other positive steps. He acknowledged that the state has a ways to go to fight the addiction epidemic.

“We’re not there yet,” he said.

Wheeler, who himself was accused of child abuse in 1998 and later cleared, does not support adding staff to the Division of Children Youth & Families as called for in the independent report released last week. The report states that DCYF has been understaffed for at least 10 years and needs to double the number of social workers in order to keep up with new reports. The review of DCYF was initiated by the state after the deaths of Brielle Gage and Sadie Willott, two children who died as a result of reported or alleged abuse, even though DCYF had been involved in their homes.

“I don’t know who they are, but I don’t buy it,” Wheeler said.

The review was conducted by the Center for the Support of Families, based in Maryland, at the direction of Gov. Maggie Hassan, and the contract for the review was approved by a unanimous vote of the Executive Council.

The Center for the Support of Families review found New Hampshire’s staffing levels to be

well below what is considered best practices, with staffing shortages known as far back at 2006. Wheeler supports adding some staff to DCYF, but he does not want to see the numbers added as stated as required by the Center for the Support of Families review.

Wheeler is also opposed to sending taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood, saying that the funding would be used to pay for abortions. Wheeler added that all non-abortion related services that can be obtained from Planned Parenthood are available through Medicaid.

Wheeler is also concerned about the proposals to bring a commuter rail service to Nashua and Manchester, saying that it would not be economically prudent to go through sit such a big project. He said the fare for the train service will need to be subsidized with taxpayer money.

“If you charge what it costs to run that train, people won’t take that train,” Wheeler said.

He is skeptical of the promised economic benefits from having the train service, and said it would be more cost-effective to invest more in bus service to Boston, and add high-capacity travel lanes on the highway.

Wheeler said he’s heard from constituents who are also opposed to the train service, saying it would change Nashua.

“They are afraid that the trains would make (Nashua) look like Boston North, or worse yet, Lowell North,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler is also opposed to raising to minimum wage to any extent. He said current proposals to bring the wage up to $15 an hour do not make sense for New Hampshire.

“Let the market set the minimum wage, and let the worker’s skill set the minimum wage,” Wheeler said. “Fifteen dollars an hour sometimes is too much for that entry-level job.

Asked if he supported raising the wage any amount, Wheeler said no.

“Not right now,” he said.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-6531 or