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Friday, January 4, 2013

Lawmakers wary, supportive following Hassan’s inaugural comments

CONCORD – The state’s political elite gave new Gov. Maggie Hassan high marks for her collaborative tone, but Republicans warned the state may be unable to afford her veiled spending promises.

“I think she gave a strong speech. It’s clear she would like to work with members of both parties to reach solutions and that’s a goal we all share,’’ said U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of Nashua, R-NH, who in 2010 made history as the first Republican woman elected to major office in the state. “It’s a wonderful day for her family and I’m so thrilled many of them could be with her. You quickly learn that once in office you come to rely on the sacrifices they will make on your behalf even more than you did as a candidate.’’ ...

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CONCORD – The state’s political elite gave new Gov. Maggie Hassan high marks for her collaborative tone, but Republicans warned the state may be unable to afford her veiled spending promises.

“I think she gave a strong speech. It’s clear she would like to work with members of both parties to reach solutions and that’s a goal we all share,’’ said U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of Nashua, R-NH, who in 2010 made history as the first Republican woman elected to major office in the state. “It’s a wonderful day for her family and I’m so thrilled many of them could be with her. You quickly learn that once in office you come to rely on the sacrifices they will make on your behalf even more than you did as a candidate.’’

Outgoing Republican State Chairman Wayne MacDonald said Hassan’s soaring rhetoric can’t hide the pressure she will come under to dramatically increase state spending following a Republican-crafted budget in 2011 that cut state-financed expenses by 11 percent.

“I am concerned with her vague statements on funding certain initiatives that she is committed to,’’ MacDonald said. “I urge the Governor to be realistic about New Hampshire’s financial obligations and not add more taxes and fees onto the backs of taxpayers.”

State agency heads next week have to turn in to Hassan the fine print for her austere call for a 3 percent spending cut in 2014 and no increase in spending for 2015.

Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley said Hassan revealed her bipartisan nature that she first had in coming to the Republican-led Senate in 2005 when she worked with GOP senators to repeal restrictions on health insurance for small business owners.

“The tone she set is very much Maggie’s personality,’’ Buckley said.

Legislative leaders of both political stripes could celebrate the elevation of one of their own, the first time a former legislator like Hassan became governor since Jeanne Shaheen, the state’s other female governor, first took office in 1996.

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, now holds the State House power post Hassan had before the Republican tsunami election in 2010 swept her out of the State Senate.

“The tone is going to be difficult in the building,’’ Bradley said. “We all like and respect Governor Hassan. I want to say Maggie, she is a friend but friends at times disagree but it is going to be respectful.’’

Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, said the proof will be when Hassan presents her two-year state budget proposal next month and how she is to pay for restoring cuts to higher education and other programs.

“I think the budget address will be more interesting,’’ Bragdon said.

Hassan’s call to repeal a tobacco tax cut of 10 cents per pack or any other tax increase will face tough sledding in the Senate where the GOP holds a 13-11 edge.

“There’s not a lot of excitement in the Republican caucus of the Senate to increase any taxes,’’ Bragdon warned.

Democratic National Committeewoman Kathy Sullivan praised Hassan for emphasizing education and the need to stem to exodus of young, gifted students to out-of-state colleges because tuition at state colleges and universities is so high.

“This is an issue we need work on for New Hampshire to grow and prosper as a state,’’ Sullivan said.

Maverick GOP Rep. Steve Vaillancourt said much of Hassan’s speech contained “it goes without saying,’’ polemic statements calling for equality, accountability, innovation and common sense answers.

“All things considered, it was neither a bad day nor a bad speech. Perhaps the best we could have hoped for considering the dangerous economic times in which we live,’’ Vaillancourt said. “Clearly by not making any specific promises, Governor Hassan has put herself in a position not to break any specific promises.’’

The only markers Hassan laid down was to veto a sales or income tax and push for doubling a research and development tax credit that already had support from a more GOP-dominated State Senate a year ago.

“Her biggest two points were against an income tax and for marriage equality. I give Maggie all the credit in the world for getting a same-sex marriage signed into law by Governor Lynch,’’ said Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at
321-7040 or klandrigan@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow
Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).