Granite Staters are heading to the polls Tuesday for New Hampshire's state primary election, and there's also still time to drop off an absentee ballot with your local town or city clerk.
NHPR's Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley is talking with the gubernatorial candidates this week about their plans for the state's economy, given the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here's Franklin City Councilor Karen Testerman, a Republican challenging incumbent Gov. Chris Sununu in the GOP primary Sept. 8:
Rick Ganley: I want to ask you about the past five months and how they might have changed your priorities for how to better manage the state's economy. Have you adapted any economic plans that you have, given that were in kind of a recession from the pandemic?
Karen Testerman: Absolutely, and one of the things that we're going to have to look at very carefully is while the current budget has already been approved, obviously there are going to be some shortfalls in that budget and that we are going to have to address those very carefully. One of the major things that I would be doing immediately would be to rescind all of the emergency orders and the executive orders that have been issued since the beginning of 2020 -- I would say probably at best starting in March. Because the people of New Hampshire are the ones that should be entrusted with making the right decisions. And currently, the emergency orders are in minute detail on what you can and cannot do, including how you should be receiving your communion, whether or not you should be singing in church. Even though we're opening up our restaurants at this point 100 percent, it is not 100 percent when you have to exercise the social distancing and the mask mandates.
Rick Ganley: So, you are opposed to what most public health experts have recommended then?
Karen Testerman: I question what the public health experts are recommending, and I also question about their validity, their ability to actually tell healthy people to put their health in danger by constantly wearing the masks.
Rick Ganley: I want to get back to talking a bit about economic fallout from the pandemic. There's likely to be tens of millions of dollars in the budget deficit going forward. What would your plans be to balance the state budget? What would be your priorities?
Karen Testerman: Well, my priority would be to, first of all, open up the state as much as possible so that those people who are still having businesses, that they can still operate their businesses. Because that's where a lot of our income comes from, is from our small businesses, at least at the state level. We have to then look at every department that is being run in the state to see where can we cut back, where are we less efficient. [It's] an analysis that needs to be done almost immediately before we implement anything. We have to look at the amount of spending. I have often held that we don't necessarily have a revenue problem. We really have a spending problem. So that's the first thing I would be tackling.
Rick Ganley: So where do you trim?
Karen Testerman: Well, there's inefficiencies in every operation. Even in your own home, I'm sure you find that there are places where maybe we have to do without something, or maybe we are spending too much on it or maybe it's not even necessary for us to spend there. But I would not be able to assess that until I get into the situation where I would be preparing to take office, because I don't have access to a lot of those documents at this point.
Rick Ganley: The pandemic has highlighted some ongoing economic and social inequities within New Hampshire. What would be some steps that you'd take to address economic inequity?
Karen Testerman: You know, the interesting thing is, is that we live in America. At least the whole idea of the American dream is that you come, you put forth the hard work and then you are able to provide not only for yourself, but if you are fortunate enough to make some extra funds, that you can then share it with other people. So the idea that we could ever completely get rid of the inequities is really a pipe dream in many ways because the poor will always be with us. And as a society, we do want to take care of them. But it is not always government's responsibility to take care of them. It is really the responsibility of our communities to take from the excesses that we have to share with those that are less fortunate. And that would be something that the governor can foster that through the bully pulpit, through practices that we put forth in encouraging our individuals to use their excess dollars for charity.
Rick Ganley: What do you make of Chris Sununu's COVID-19 Equity Task Force and its recommendations?
Karen Testerman: I think there's a lot of task forces that are being put forth primarily to not necessarily solve the problem, not necessarily to get to the root of the problem, but basically to make it look like we are doing something. And there are a number of his task force and commissions that are not really accomplishing what should be done, which is finding out if there is a problem, what is the root problem, and then let's find out what we can do. And he has to be operating with the consent of the Executive Council or the advice of the and the involvement of the legislature.
Rick Ganley: What's your take on the debate on the divestment of funds from police agencies into social programs?
Karen Testerman: You know, I think it's wrong to attack the New Hampshire law enforcement. Because New Hampshire's law enforcement is noted nationwide as being one of the best trained law enforcements there are. Every location, every area of life has bad players. But I think that the New Hampshire law enforcement has taken measures to try and investigate those. And you deal with them on a one by one situation. There's not a blanket, one size fits all.
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