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Hassan says governor can set civil tone for N.H. government

Maggie Hassan ; Wednesday, August 22, 2012. 

( Alexander Cohn/ Monitor staff)

Maggie Hassan ; Wednesday, August 22, 2012. ( Alexander Cohn/ Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

Maggie Hassan believes she can work with the Legislature and set a tone of civility and respect as governor – even, she said, if Republicans hold on to their large majorities in both chambers at the State House.

“You can certainly try,” Hassan, a Democrat, told the Monitor’s editorial board in an interview last week, “and governors do have to set the tone. I have a strong record of working well with people who disagree with me on a number of issues.”

She added, “If you have people who just believe that their agenda needs to be followed without compromise, you could be courteous and you can be civil, but you also have to stand up for the people of New Hampshire. . . . I am hopeful that we will see some moderation, and I am hopeful that people will take to heart the fact that most Granite Staters I talk to really want us to move forward and solve problems and build on the foundation that we set with Gov. (John) Lynch.”

Hassan, 54, an Exeter attorney, first ran for the state Senate in 2002 and won the first of three terms in 2004, rising to the post of majority leader before losing her seat in 2010. She announced her gubernatorial run after Lynch, the Democratic incumbent, said he would not seek a fifth term, and she defeated two opponents in the Sept. 11 primary.

Her late father, Robert Wood, briefly served in President Lyndon Johnson’s Cabinet as the U.S. secretary of housing and urban development and was succeeded by Michigan Gov. George Romney, who was appointed by President Richard Nixon. Wood, a college professor, later served as head of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, president of the University of Massachusetts and superintendent of the Boston school system.

Hassan faces Republican Ovide Lamontagne, a Manchester lawyer, in the Nov. 6 election.

In last week’s interview, Hassan said New Hampshire’s infrastructure needs, including roads and bridges, must be a priority. She didn’t rule out any possibilities when asked if she’d support an increase of the gas tax, an increase in tolls or a surcharge on vehicle registrations to pay for those projects.

“We have to find a way to come together and fund our basic infrastructure needs,” she said. “It’s a matter of safety, and it’s a matter of economic development; it’s a matter of environmental protection and economic and business efficiency. So we have to do it. The best way to do it, in New Hampshire tradition, is to bring people together and acknowledge that we’ve got a challenge and then find a strategy that will get us to our solutions, and that’s what I will do as governor.”

Hassan discussed her “Innovate NH” economic plan, which includes doubling the state’s research-and-development tax credit and restoring funding for community colleges and the university system, the latter in exchange for a two-year tuition freeze.

But she also said social issues like abortion and women’s access to health care should be front and center in the election, even though Lamontagne has said such issues are not central to a race he says should focus on jobs and the economy.

“It’s been interesting in the debates that we’ve had to date – all 10 of them, and we’ve got two more to go – what has been really interesting to me is how hard Ovide has been trying to either distance himself from actually current positions, but try to tell people that they’re not important somehow, they’re not central,” Hassan said.

Hassan opposes restrictions on abortion, backs government funding for Planned Parenthood and supports the state’s gay-marriage law; Lamontagne is pro-life, opposes government funding for Planned Parenthood and says he’d sign legislation to repeal gay marriage as long as the state kept existing same-sex marriages and re-introduced civil unions.

“One of the things that we’ve really been focused on is, these are of course economic issues,” Hassan said, adding, “On women’s issues, this is a fundamental issue of freedom, obviously. It’s a fundamental issue in health care and self-determination. But it’s also an economic issue, and when you really look at whether women are going to have to pay more for basic health care than men and what that does to their ability to compete in the economy and to be breadwinners in their families, it’s a signature issue. And Ovide’s most recent comments on the whole equalpay issue has kind of reconfirmed for me that he doesn’t understand what women and families are challenged with, and isn’t really in touch with their lives.”

Lamontagne, in a recent interview, said he supports equal pay for women and men and believes women should have legal remedies in the case of discrimination, “but I don’t know that it’s appropriate for the government to continue to micromanage the workplace.”

There are a number of federal lawsuits pending against the state, including a suit by hospitals over Medicaid funding and a lawsuit alleging the state has failed to provide adequate mental-health services.

Hassan said she hasn’t examined those cases in detail, but said, in general, such suits are filed to force an issue and resolutions could be possible with a more moderate Legislature.

“As a lawyer, I will say generally about lawsuits . . . that there is usually room to work out a plan for how you’re going to address the concerns that the plaintiffs bring to you,” she said.

Hassan and Lamontagne disagree on the state’s pension system for public employees. Lamontagne has said he supports introducing some kind of 401(k)-style definedcontribution plan for new employees to replace the existing defined-benefit system. Hassan said implementing such a system could create additional costs that would fall on local governments and property taxpayers.

“I wouldn’t support a defined-contribution plan,” she said, adding, “I do think we’re going to continue to need to work with public employees to find a way to reform the system.”

Hassan has been endorsed by Lynch and has often said she wants to continue on the path set by the popular, moderate incumbent.

In one area in particular, Lynch has been stingy over the years: He didn’t grant a single pardon during his first three terms, approving his first (and so far, only) just last year. Hassan said she’d examine pardon requests on a caseby- case basis but didn’t indicate that her approach would be much different.

“I have great respect for our judicial system and our criminal justice system, and I think it’s really important for citizens to have confidence in that system and confidence that their governor will respect that system,” she said.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

Legacy Comments6

The problem with Maggie Hassan is her inability to assimilate proper implementation of her "ideas". She's much like Obama in her approach to just do it and don't worry about if it's actuallay feasible or workable in the long term. She's the type that will just come up with a new fee or tax without even doing any type of analysis or planning. Just because some politician has grand and lofty ideals, doesn't men the realities of implementing those ideas is well timed or logistically supported with all the right resource management. Sure, I am all for shoring up a state account totally designated to priority projects, I'm just not all that supportive of giving her the freedom to just impose her interpretations of how to implement our priorities. I think she's a little to reckless in her approach to evaluating the budget and a little too quick to just impose willy nilly taxes in a way that proves her inability to truly evaluate how the tax policy will be implemented in a utilitarian manner. That is not a very balanced or prudent type of a governor. That is a lazy and subjective type of a person and one who is not best suited to run our state

Correct......very true. The word for that is called a naive ideologue. This is the same kind of person who keeps doing the same thing and expects different results. In fact, that is a progressive I guess.

We have quite a few Dems that are trying to do what our President did 4 years ago to get elected. They are presenting themselves as moderates, centralists etc. They are aware that folks are in the middle on most issues and see radicals from both parties as wrong. This election is about jobs and the economy period. A good economy benefits everyone. That includes women who are out of work struggling. Any candidate that does not focus on jobs and the economy is hiding their true agenda.

Maggie al-Hassan will be a more ambitious Lynch. I don't think we need marshmallow management with an edge. Informed voters will cast their ballots for Ovide.

Why wouldn't she agree to a defined contribution pension reform?...if it's good enough for the people paying the bill, it should be good enough for the employees...the unfunded state retirement system liability is going to fall primarily on NH's taxpayers...all across America these similar type retirement systems are crushing state economies...if Sen Hassan was serious about getting NH's economy growing she wouldn't resist appropriate ate employee retirement system reform...and where was all this civility talk nonsense when they were burying NH taxpayers?...is it civil to lie to people about how she wanted to pay for things?...

One sure way to get the state retirement system under control is to do a top to bottom review and build efficiency and productivity into the system. When you have a news source (not the Monitor) do the hard reporting of state employees blogging on this site and other national sites at all times of the day at their state job, it cries for efficiency, productivity and tells us that maybe, just maybe we need to take a look at state employee ranks.

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