State Senate Special Election Candidates Weigh In On Opioid Crisis, Sanctuary Cities, & More
State Senate candidates David Boutin, Republican and former state Senator, Kevin Cavanaugh, Democrat and Manchester alderman, and Jason Dubrow, a Libertarian active in town government in Dunbarton, joined The Exchange to discuss issues important to New Hampshire voters. Voting takes place on July 25.
Excerpts of candidate responses are found below.
How do you view the U.S. Senate decision to give up on Repeal & Replace of the Affordable Care Act? What is the state's role in healthcare?
Two years ago, I voted for the Medicaid expansion. I think it’s critically important. I believe we’re servicing now something in the order of 50,000 people, people who are no longer going to emergency rooms. So we’ve dropped our uncompensated care down very much. We’ve lowered the tax or the cost impact to premiums for people like myself and everybody else in the state. . .
I didn't support [the federal healthcare bill], either in the House or Senate side. … I think that a lot of people have expressed their concern, including senate leaders, that we have a deep and abiding concern about what Congress was potentially going to do in terms of cutting back Medicaid expansion and eventually eliminating it. We need to keep that. We need to keep people healthy in this state, and that’s what we need to focus on.
That would be devastating if they [repealed the Affordable Care Act]. I feel it’s going to affect a lot of people in the state. You can always fix things and make them better – just to repeal that whole bill, it would affect too many people in the state of New Hampshire. People are relying on this Medicaid expansion. It’s the biggest thing you have.
I mean, we all have health concerns and we need quality health care. It’s a safety net we should all have. Two years ago, in my family, my wife was diagnosed with cancer. If we didn’t have that, it would have been devastating to us. We have to have that. It does start at the federal level, and we have to talk to our federal delegation and make sure they don’t do that. They can’t put New Hampshire people in harm’s way when they do that.
Well, I think it’s very important that we actually get insurance costs under control. They have been spiraling up and up – they don’t seem to do down. And what I, as an outsider, see is that many times when the government comes in and interferes with the free market, costs go up. . .
I think there are a lot of things that we can do as a state that might be able to solve that issue. One of the things I think would be helpful is possibly allowing doctors to actually provide their own level of health insurance. There have been a number of states that have done similar plans where you pay a simple 10, 20 dollars a month to your doctor, and you can take your regular physicals there. If you get sick, you do go in, and you maybe pay a five-dollar co-pay with that. But that’s one way that we can actually work to lower the cost within our state.
How can the state improve the quality and strength of the workforce?
Well, we can start with the university system. . .Our kids are coming out of college with the biggest debt in the country. . .If we're going to keep people here with a family-friendly economy, we have to have the full day kindergarten. That’s going to attract and retain young families to stay in the area. Again, affordable, quality health care and affordable, quality housing is very important. That’s going to help keep people here. . . So there’s a lot of workforce development things we should do. This past budget didn’t touch on that at all. We’ve got to help businesses.
So what [the state] did in this budget is $7 million new dollars for community college. That money is going to kids who are getting training in trade skills, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC. We also put in $2-and-a-half million for workforce housing. Why does that relate to workforce development? It’s very critical, because right now our housing pricing and rents are going up. This will be about a multiple of six, so we’re looking at about $13 million new dollars that will provide affordable housing, so young people can actually afford to stay in New Hampshire, work in New Hampshire, and play in New Hampshire.
So I think one of the things is that we really need to start early. The actual education a child has really is going to drive what they do in their life. So I think it’s very important that we ensure that a child has the best possible education they can have, and that will prepare them for the future. That means education has to work for them, whether it’s a public school, a charter school, or a private school. We need to make sure that, regardless of their socioeconomic class, they can find those opportunities that work best for them. . .
On the higher education side, we really need people to look at – do they need a higher education through a college, or is a trade school what they need? All-too-often I’ve seen people who decide, ‘I’m going to college because that’s what seems to be written somewhere.’ They don’t know what they want to do, and they come out with this debt, still potentially not knowing what they want to do. … So I really think people need to have a slight change to decide – trade school, or what am I really going to do in the future?
Listener Tim from Durham asked about the status of sanctuary cities in New Hampshire. Would the candidates support Manchester becoming a sanctuary city?
I’m totally opposed to [sanctuary cities]. I’ve heard an earful from a lot of voters over the past couple weeks, who say that they believe that sanctuary cities are going to put the public safety at a significant risk in the city of Manchester, [which will] then spill out into other towns in the district. I do not support sanctuary cities; I think it’s the wrong thing to do.
As a libertarian, it’s important that we have the open borders that allow people to come and fit the needs and the job that people are taking. Per a sanctuary city. . .there should be a process. Unfortunately, that is a federal process that they would have to go through – not something we can control at a state level. I don’t think the city should be paying money towards it. But if people are here [illegally], I don’t think it’s cost effective necessarily to break up families, send them home, things like that.
We’ve got to protect our communities. . .I’m not looking to protect criminals. What I’m trying to do, is if someone is overdosing or sees a crime, [they shouldn’t be] nervous to call the police because they are undocumented. We’ve got to have people here that are going to protect our communities and stand up for our communities – good people who want to enjoy the American dream. Pushing them out and calling them criminals just because they’re undocumented is just fear mongering.
Should New Hampshire move toward full marijuana legalization?
Should the state raise its minimum wage above the federal minimum wage of $7.25?
Cavanaugh: Yes, it's embarrassing at $7.25.
Should New Hampshire pass Right to Work, which would prevent unions from collecting dues or partial dues from non-union members to cover the costs and benefits of collective bargaining?
Dubrow: Yes, but I think there are some laws that prevent it from being true.
Should New Hampshire consider a commuter rail that would connect the city of Manchester with Boston?
Listener Alison from Raymond, asked: What are the candidates' opinions on Northern Pass and, if elected, would they support it?
I have always supported The Northern Pass and I will support it. We need to have ways of expanding our electrical grid here in New Hampshire. We need to have more alternatives for electricity if we are going to keep the rates down.
I disagree with the Northern Pass because I do not believe that it will actually lower our electric rates. . .?We need to actually look for ways to lower that cost and the Northern Pass is absolutely not the right way to do it.
I’ve spoken to manufacturing plants and their biggest expense that they are worried about is electric rates. I support Northern Pass.
How can we end New Hampshire's drug crisis?
What we have to do is supply more beds. I would love to see a 90-day program where people are in-house and really [being treated for their] addiction. We have to have education, recovery, prevention - it’s not one quick answer.
I’ve seen the drug war my entire life and I don’t see us ever winning it – it comes in cycles. I think one thing we can look at in a country like Portugal in 2001, they decriminalized all drugs and actually provided a way for people to do needle exchanges and get medical treatments. We need to make sure that we’re treating this as a medical problem not a criminal problem.
Law enforcement is doing a great job with the Granite Hammer program – we’re getting dealers off the street. The other thing is the additional money, the $23 extra million dollars that are in the budget now for drug and alcohol. Thirdly. . .the Sununu Center. . .There was a proposal to turn the unused portions into. . .a juvenile treatment facility for drug, alcohol, mental health and eating disorder. There will be both in-patient and out-patient, so that is critically important.