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Editorial: Let’s end the legislative freeloading

Democratic Rep. Gary Coulombe of Berlin, his fellow sponsors of House Bill 514 and Republican Rep. Daniel Tamburello of Londonderry, whose arguments in favor of free lift tickets at the Cannon Mountain Ski Area for state lawmakers appeared in the Monitor yesterday, have performed a valuable public service. Their bill – highlighted in a Sunday column by Monitor writer Grant Bosse – alerted the public to the potential conflicts of interest inherent in this legislative perquisite.

Less obviously, the legislators seeking free skiing have alerted taxpayers and lovers of the state’s 92 parks and historic sites to a supreme irony. The same Legislature that insists that New Hampshire operate the only self-funded state park system in the nation, to the great detriment of the parks and those who use them, exempts itself from paying to use the parks. Lawmakers and one guest can enjoy any park for free, and they do not pay to park. In a state with 424 lawmakers the loss to park system, if not great, is probably enough money to give some kid a job for the summer painting park buildings sorely in need of maintenance.

We realize that legislators are paid a paltry $100 per year, for they are seldom loath to remind the public of that fact. But in New Hampshire, representing one’s fellow citizens is not a job but an honor people volunteer to undertake. It’s an honor that shouldn’t be sullied by the tinge of impropriety that comes with accepting freebies on the job. That includes paying nothing to enjoy the benefits of a park system that can barely afford to keep historic sites from sinking into the dirt. Instead of passing Coulombe’s bill, lawmakers should amend it and put an end to legislative freeloading on a system in distress.

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