Governor John Lynch used his final state of the state address to ask GOP lawmakers change the tone in Concord, and to reverse course on cuts to higher education and a reduction to the state tobacco tax.
Drawing sharp lines has never been Governor Lynch’s style, but in this speech, Lynch did, repeatedly.
“The cut in the tobacco tax was nonsensical……”
“We hear from some a lot of anti-government talk, but to me that doesn’t make any sense,
Sadly, it has become too commonplace to attack state employees, and that needs to stop.”
Lynch also laid down markers on major topics. He wants to take another crack at passing a constitutional amendment to make it easier to target school aid. But expanded gambling? Not on his watch.
“I will veto legislation allowing casinos in New Hampshire.”
Lynch made less definitive threats on other issues. He said he would “stand firm” against bills to weaken environmental protections and loosen guns laws. And though he didn’t state it explicitly, Lynch also seemed to indicate that if republicans want to repeal NH’s same sex marriage law, they will have to override his veto.
“New Hampshire has a long and proud tradition of fighting for the rights of all people, and a tradition of leaving people alone to pursue their own happiness. As Governor, I intend to uphold that centuries old tradition. I will stand firm against any legislation that would strip any of our citizens of their civil rights.”
House Speaker William O’Brien and Senate President Peter Bragdon sat behind Lynch at the podium. Neither man smiled during this part of the speech. The push to repeal gay marriage is coming from the house. Speaker O’Brien has staunchly opposes same-sex marriage, and hasn’t said when he’ll put the repeal to a vote. But O’Brien wasn’t shy in dismissing Lynch’s argument.
“I personally don’t recognize that the expansion of the definition of marriage to cover same gender relationships is a civil rights issue at all. I do find it interesting that he would use euphemisms rather that just come out and tell the people what he was talking about.”
Republicans leaders were also quick to say if Lynch hopes to spend more on higher education, for instance, or to raise the money needed to finish widening 1-93 by 2016, the funds won’t come from new or increased taxes.
“That is off the table for House Republican leadership.”
House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt added that Republicans are willing to work with Governor Lynch, but on their own terms.
“It’s about not sacrificing our core principles to go along to get along.’
If Lynch’s speech did nothing else, it surely highlighted the different styles of the House and Senate. Senate President Peter Bragdon lines up with the House on most policy matters, but seems to take
“We are certainly trying to maintain a bipartisan tone and work in a congenial manner, others may disagree but my job is to focus on the Senate.”
For Lynch himself, knowing his policy agenda faces strong headwind in his final legislative session, the tenor of debate might be the only thing he can hope to shape.
“There’s a harshness in the air in the one and nature of the communication, particularly in the building, and that’s not healthy for our state and not healthy for our democracy.”
Given the lopsided nature of the Republican majority, even a man who may be New Hampshire’s most popular Governor ever, will be challenged to be much more nuanced that simply threatening to wield the veto pen.