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  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Governor John Lynch talks with the Editorial Board at The Telegraph Thursday afternoon, April 14, 2011.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Governor John Lynch talks with the Editorial Board at The Telegraph Thursday afternoon, April 14, 2011.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Governor John Lynch talks with the Editorial Board at The Telegraph Thursday afternoon, April 14, 2011.
Friday, April 15, 2011

Lynch vows to veto rail panel repeal

Gov. John Lynch said he would veto a House-passed bill to repeal the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority and predicted he’d win such a veto override fight in the state Senate.

During an interview with The Telegraph editorial board, Lynch said he’s confident the state Senate will not go along with the authority repeal bill (HB 218), but is likely to embrace trimming some of the group’s powers.

“I don’t think there is the support in the Senate to do away with rail authority. I don’t think that is going to happen,” Lynch said.

“If the Senate were to pass it, they don’t have the votes to override the veto and I would veto a bill that disbanded the authority.”

Lynch delivered the same message earlier Thursday during a luncheon with Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau.

Bringing Boston rail service to Nashua and on to Concord would be an economic boon to the southern tier, Lynch said.

“I think rail would be an economic driver for this region,” Lynch said. “Ultimately, we would realize more money than we could even contemplate at this point.

“We subsidize transportation all the time. To talk about rail as different from highways and buses and trucks in the costs to us is fool hardy.”

On other issues, Lynch said restoring House-approved cuts to mental health, State Police and higher education programs in a State Senate-approved state budget are his top priorities.

The House-passed spending bill is nearly more than $300 million less than the plan Governor Lynch presented to the Legislature in mid-February.

The four-term, Hopkinton Democrat said he’s confident the Senate will raise what he called “unrealistically low” revenue estimates the House relied upon in writing its spending blueprint.

Despite what should be deep differences between the two budgets, Lynch said the two sides ultimately will come together on a plan.

“I am optimistic that when it gets into a committee of conference that the House and Senate will be able to compromise and can come to a budget that is approved by both sides and can earn my support,” Lynch declared.

“Oftentimes, they begin with sides being polarized and then they get pushed together towards agreement as opposed to continuing to have to work all summer long in a non-air conditioned building.”

On education funding, Lynch said he’s looking for both House and Senate Republican leaders to agree with him that a constitutional amendment proposal must include a statement affirming the state’s obligation to ensure school districts are accountable to meeting education standards.

Lynch noted that both House and Senate-endorsed amendments do contain his other requirement for an amendment. This is that the language identifies the state as being the arbiter to decide which property or income-poor school districts should receive more state aid than richer ones.

“It needs to have an affirming statement giving the state responsibility,” Lynch said.

But Lynch said he’s willing to negotiate the specifics and is for example open to language that embraced local control of public schools.

On retirement reform, Lynch said he’s certain at the very least lawmakers will pass and he will embrace changes that make new public employees contribute more to their retirement and have to work longer before qualifying for a pension.

“I think there is a lot of overlap to what I propose and what the State Senate and House have approved for reform. That overlap at a minimum will end up becoming law,” Lynch concluded.

The major stumbling block that remains is the opposition of union leaders to a Senate-passed plan (SB 3) to making these changes apply to public employees with less than 10 years on the job, he continued.

While New Hampshire’s public retirement system level of funding is among the lowest in the country, Lynch stressed that accounting changes approved three years ago put the system over time on a glide path to meeting its unfunded liability.

“The retirement isn’t broken now; it’s not bankrupt; it’s funded, there are $5 billion there now,” Lynch said.

“It’s on a sound foundation and we have already made some significant changes.”

Kevin Landrigan can be reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com.