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  • Photo by Jodie Andruskevich
    The image of NH House Speaker Bill O'Brien is captured on the monitor of a video camera during his talk to the Amherst Republican Committee on Saturday morning at Joey's Diner in Amherst.
Sunday, May 6, 2012

House Speaker O’Brien tells locals Republicans kept their promises, will continue to

AMHERST – New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O’Brien told locals Saturday that Republican legislators kept their promises this term – focusing on creating jobs and an affordable government and improving the state’s integrity – and that they will continue to do so in the next term.

O’Brien visited Joey’s Diner to speak with a group of residents at a monthly meeting of the Amherst Republican Committee.

Committee Chair Mark Vincent told the group of about 20 individuals, including local residents and state legislators, that O’Brien had visited with the group soon after the elections in 2010 and discussed his goals for the current term.

Since then, he said, the state has seen most of those goals come to fruition.

O’Brien agreed, and looked back on the years since those elections by highlighting the issues he said the state “doesn’t have to talk about” today.

Layoffs of state employees and new taxes are just two of these issues, he said, crediting the GOP majority in the legislature for keeping state spending within its revenues.

Faced with a $900 million deficit, he said, legislators made a decision to look at the core functions of the government and determine which were necessary and which the state could go without.

In doing so, the state spent hundreds of millions less in state money than the previous term and saved local families thousands of dollars, he said.

“If we had continued this spending spree, we would have had to ask every family of four for $3,600,” he said. “We couldn’t do that in the middle of a recession … the government was bleeding, and we stopped the bleeding.”

And while one attendee asked the speaker if he thought local communities had suffered in the process of reducing spending, bringing in less revenue from the state, O’Brien said the GOP majority worked hard to give towns and cities as much help as possible.

Still, he said, there is much more that needs to be done in the coming years, and he urged locals to vote for their Republican representatives running for state office.

“We need to move forward with transformative change,” he said.

To do so, O’Brien said, he and other legislators in the House will focus on three keys areas: jobs and the economy, an affordable government, and restoring integrity to state government.

The state already has made great gains in terms of creating jobs, O’Brien said. During this term, the state’s unemployment rate has dropped from 5.7 percent to 5.2 percent, he said, and more and more people are going back to work.

For the coming term, the speaker said he hopes to focus on changing taxes and regulations on local businesses to help more succeed.

He said the government needs to do more to educate small-business owners about the regulations imposed on their companies, instead of punishing them.

“It’s complicated to run a small business and to figure out all the regulations in the state,” he said. “The government should be a partner in making that happen, rather than using it as an opportunity to fine businesses.”

Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, also was in attendance Saturday, and he said creating jobs and improving the local economy is a key goal of the Senate, as well.

“There’s two weeks left in this session, and we’re looking at bills to help businesses succeed,” he said. “When they succeed, they hire people, and that’s what we need.”

Making the government more affordable is another one of O’Brien’s goals for the coming term, by reducing spending to $10 billion and creating a more streamlined, efficient government.

He said the legislature already began such work this term by bringing forth a constitutional amendment that would require a vote by 60 percent of the legislature to approve increased taxes or borrowing.

Increasing integrity in the state’s government, O’Brien told locals, starts at the ballot box.

Attendees applauded and cheered as the speaker discussed the importance of voter ID legislation in the state.

“There has to be integrity, we have to know who is voting in New Hampshire,” he said.

Similar measures also should be taken with regard to the state’s financial services, such as food stamps and Medicaid, he said.

The state participated in a free fraud detection test for those services earlier this year, he said, and discovered that 9.1 percent of those on food stamps in the state, or about 2,800 individuals, had primary addresses outside of New Hampshire. About 56 individuals receiving Medicaid benefits from the state were deceased, he said, including one person who had died in the 1980s.

While some of these numbers can be accounted for by people who recently moved to the state and had not yet changed their primary address, O’Brien said more needs to be done to increase integrity in these systems and save money – money that could be used to lower taxes for residents and small-business owners.

“We have to be good shepherds of taxpayer money,” he said. “There is a need for these programs, and those in need deserve a program that has integrity.”

The speaker told diners that he hoped these gains would be accomplished in the coming years and that the state would continue to be one of the healthiest in the nation.

“We’ve stopped the patient’s bleeding, but now we have to treat this patient,” he said.

Danielle Curtis can be reached at 594-6557 or dcurtis@nashuatelegraph.com.