Editorial: What to look for on ballot Tuesday
Over the past four issues, we’ve opened our pages to would-be governors and Congressional hopefuls, to first-time candidates for the state Legislature to Concord’s political veterans. By hearing directly from them, hopefully you’ve gained a deeper understanding of who they are and for what they stand.
We heard many of the same themes come through as candidates detailed what they felt were the biggest challenges and the best solutions. Some addressed the issues in broad strokes. Others, like Democrat Jill Shaffer Hammond and Republican Bruce Marcus, who are running in the House District 24 race, offered specific remedies, and in doing so gave voters a much clearer picture of how they would legislate.
Now that we’ve finally made it to November, most voters have settled on which candidates they will support come Tuesday. They may vote party-line, or they may vote for the person rather than the party. In either case, there are some overriding themes we feel are important as we weigh in on the paths to be taken by our state and federal governments.
You can’t say “job growth” without saying “investment in education.” Yet New Hampshire’s state Legislature, in a misguided attempt to cut spending, gutted funding to the university system so badly that the state now ranks dead last in its support for higher education.
Our higher education system needs to better align itself with the types of businesses and workforce it hopes to attract. And this doesn’t stop at the university level. Critical state funding has been stripped from community and technical colleges as well. New Hampshire has a rapidly aging population because its young families and college graduates are moving elsewhere to find employment. An investment in education doesn’t pay itself off in one election cycle. But it is the building block for a strong economy, and right now we’re eroding our potential under the guise of smaller government. Legislators didn’t need to bring a gun to the Statehouse to shoot our state in the foot on this one.
Legislature overstepping its bounds
We find it curious that the rallying cry against Obama is that he has failed to create enough jobs. Yet in New Hampshire, where Republicans have firm control of both the House and Senate, the unemployment rate — though still low by national standards — has slowly crept up in recent months. Hopefully voters will realize that an eyes-closed, cut-baby-cut approach isn’t the wisest philosophy when trying to stimulate an economy. Overall, the Legislature has been too strident in its pursuit of a social agenda.
If it’s time to focus on the economy, let’s come up with real measures that will actually stimulate growth now and in the future. So far, we’ve seen too many unnecessary lines in the sand, like the cut to the cigarette tax, the push for stricter voter ID regulations and the approval of far-right initiatives that will appear as constitutional amendments on Tuesday’s ballot. We recently wrote about the shortsightedness of the amendment that would permanently make the state free of an income tax (really, it would only push new taxes in a different direction). Another constitutional amendment would effectively give the Legislature critical oversight over how are courts operate. This is seen by many within the court system as an assault on the executive, legislative and judicial balance of powers. Not exactly the smaller-government ideals espoused by leaders in the state Legislature.
Righting the ship back to center
If politics is a pendulum, momentum has shifted hard and to the right over the past two years. What we’ve seen, though, is an over-correction. It’s time to bring those politics back to the sane middle ground. This is true at the state and federal levels. Which brings us to the critical Congressional race between Republican Charlie Bass and Democrat Ann Kuster. In most respects, Bass is what we’d hope for from a New Hampshire Republican. He’s a traditional moderate, who stands apart from the more conservative members of his party on most social issues. He’s also been an advocate of true energy reform. While we feel Kuster would be a fine representative in the House — and we felt that way back in 2010 as well — we believe that Bass is in a unique position here. As one of the last of the moderates, will he be lured rightward as part of the majority during the intense budget and tax cut negotiations that will come following the election? Or will he be a leading voice for the center, and reconsider his past support for the Ryan budget? The Republican Party could sure use some strong, moderate voices from within, and we have high hopes that Bass will be a critical presence in guiding us back to center.