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GOP’s governor hopefuls square off in N.H. debate

Candidates seeking the Republican nomination for governor said at a debate last night that the economy is the key issue facing New Hampshire.

Walt Havenstein, Andrew Hemingway and Jonathan Smolin debated at The Monadnock Debates at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge.

Answering questions submitted by residents, all agreed the next governor must focus on attracting businesses and creating jobs.

Hemingway and Havenstein are seen as the most likely to vie for the nomination. Havenstein is a former defense industry executive who is backed by prominent names in the party, while Hemingway is an entrepreneur and Tea Party activist. Smolin was a surgical assistant and director of the Salter School of Nursing in Manchester.

Havenstein sought to establish himself as the capable business leader who managed budgets three times the size of the state’s $10.5 billion, two-year spending plan. He said his economic plan, keyed to reducing the business profits tax from 8.4 percent to 7.5 percent in the first year, will help create 25,000 new jobs by 2017. He’d pay for his plan with 2.5 percent across-the-board budget cuts.

“We’re falling behind our neighboring states,” he said. “It’s an embarrassment. We’re ranked 35th in the country when it comes to new business startups. We’re seeing people leave our state for job opportunities and new business opportunities outside of New Hampshire. We have to do better.”

Hemingway brandished his Tea Party philosophy of smaller government repeatedly, stressing that free market forces, and not the person sitting in the governor’s office, would be the economic driver in the state. He proposes a flat tax, eliminating the businesses enterprise tax and business profit tax, lowering the overall corporate tax rate and trimming or eliminating regulations he says are choking the state’s businesses.

“Our economy is flat and if it’s flat, it’s really going backward,” he said. “The two biggest reasons are taxation and regulation. We need to reduce the tax burden on small business.”

Smolin also took the less-is-more approach to government. He stressed that one way to improve the economy is to offer free or greatly reduced college tuition to more young people who might then stay in the state.

“We have to find a way to keep our kids here,” he said. “We are, right now, a state divided into the very young or the very old.”

The candidates maintained that the state’s unemployment rate of 4.4 percent is misleading because it doesn’t account for New Hampshire residents who work in Massachusetts or other neighboring states.

“If all the people who are employed are going to Massachusetts to go to work, it doesn’t do New Hampshire one bit of good,” Havenstein said. “I’m all about the economic development of New Hampshire, not Massachusetts.”

And Hemingway said the number is likely higher because it doesn’t factor in the underemployed.

“It’s not the governor’s job to lower unemployment,” he said. “Our job is to get our government out of the way. We have to be serious about breathing life back into our economy, and we do that by getting our government out of the way.”

All three were unsparing in their criticism of the Affordable Care Act, which they said has hurt New Hampshire and should be repealed.

They also disagreed on whether the state should have casino gambling. Havenstein opposes casino gambling as an economic development platform while Hemingway suggested allowing the existing charity gambling entities to develop casino gambling. Smolin also said limited gambling would be an economic engine.

On education, all three stressed school choice in K-12 and getting rid of the much-criticized common core.

The winner takes on Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan in November.

The debates were co-sponsored by the Fitzwater Center for Communication, New Hampshire Public Television and Monadnock Ledger-Transcript.

Legacy Comments8

Yawn.

1st question in the debate should be if they know how big the HASSAN / Democrat deficit is today and how would they fix the massive over budget spending by HASSAN. Don't forget the last time Hassan and the democrats were in charge they left NH with an almost $1 BILLION structural deficit.

We ought to view companies taking money off shore in a different way. The number of corporations like Walgreen's that are doing the same thing are increasing because of the fact that our tax system is broken. We have the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world. I never hear a progressive call for government being frugal, more efficient or spending less. Never. The fact that we spend and spend and spend more makes our situation "progressively" worse.

Businesses hire employees for one reason - demand for their product or service. To create jobs you need to get people buying, once the buying starts then the business will hire to fill the need. You can let a company pay zero taxes but if the "PEOPLE" are not buying the product then that company is not going to hire anyone. The flip side would be to give the "people" a tax cut, then they would have more money to buy the product or service. That drives the company’s need to hire more employees and it makes more money. It'd called that growth of the economy vs. just letting the company sick more money in their pocket. If those big companies really need cash then bring some of the $1.6Trillion setting in off shore accounts back.

Or one can follow FDR's lead: tax those who have and government spending that money to create more aggregate demand (that's economics talk). Despite what the conservatives claim, it makes little difference whether demand comes from individuals or the government. It's much more accurate to say that government is people than to make the same claim for corporations. We've had a 30 year failed experiment in supply-side economics. It's time to get back to what works.

So untrue on several fronts. First and foremost, I will take those years of supply side economics for the last 30 years over the government economy of the last 6 years where you have to worry about when the next shoe will drop. Creating make work government jobs and recirculating the same dollars is a Keynesian failure and Keynes never viewed that as a permanent solution. Corporations are people working for their best interests. No recent event demonstrates that better than the Market Basket story. Corporations and not evil and you can't have GDP without a strong private sector. Demand for goods creates jobs and economy. If I buy a new stove and you buy a new stove and Fred buys a new stove, someone gets hired to build stoves. Your quote leans towards: "from those according to their ability to those according to their need". Marxism. No thank you.

""If I buy a new stove and you buy a new stove and Fred buys a new stove, someone gets hired to build stoves."?" That use to be good for America, that is what grew America but now days that stove is made outside the US so the jobs get created outside the US. The only way to get back to that is for people to stop buying products from the offshore companies – one company at a time if needed. So much is made offshore now days it would be impossible to only buy US made. …..I partially agree on your Market Basket statement. A few and it is only a few of the owners, want to take more from the employees and customers to put in their pocket even though they were all already making a very fine living - pure greed. MB is seeing what happens when CUSTOMERS stop buying their product.

besides liberals like Gracchus think Americans are too stupid to know how to spend their own hard earned money

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