Nashua Telegraph: Governor can point to solid accomplishments in past year
A calm and confident Gov. Maggie Hassan spelled out, in her usual careful and deliberate fashion, the state of the state Tuesday morning to a crowd assembled by the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce.
Of course, the governor presented her official state of the state address to a joint session of the New Hampshire Legislature in February. So why two state of the state speeches just four months apart? The biggest difference between the two is that in February the governor spells out what she wants to do, while in June she recounts what she was able to accomplish.
On balance, it was a pretty good Legislative session for the first-term governor. For a second year in a row, she failed to get her coveted destination casino in southern New Hampshire. This time, though, the margin in the historically hostile House was the closest ever – one vote. That seemingly bodes well for the future, depending on the outcome of November’s elections. The casino question will likely be a prime topic of debate.
Otherwise, Hassan can point to a solid list of achievements that no doubt came to fruition thanks to her increasingly pragmatic management style. Perhaps the biggest difference between first-session and second-session Hassan was the thoughtful sophistication of her leadership skills.
During the 2013 legislative session, Hassan more often appeared to go public with her battles in hopes of building a groundswell of support. This past legislative session, she stepped away from the bully pulpit, choosing instead to put a greater emphasis on building bipartisan coalitions that allowed other key players to share credit.
There is perhaps no better example of that than Medicaid expansion. The first time around in 2013, Hassan took a hard line and made a public deal about it. In the process, she hardened opposition of some key Republicans she needed to get the measure passed.
This year, though, Hassan stayed out of the spotlight, choosing instead to work closely with Senate President Chuck Morris, of Salem, to address his concerns with the legislation. She smartly dovetailed those negotiations with convincing the Obama administration to grant federal waivers to make the whole thing work.
The Medicaid deal bodes well for Hassan’s re-election aspirations. While expansion has been a contentious partisan fight in other states, the governor can tout a compromise that addressed the need to provide health care insurance for more than 50,000 state residents while also addressing Republican concerns.
Hassan also can take credit for shepherding through the legislature the first gasoline tax increase in more than 20 years. Hassan countered potential criticism of the hike Tuesday by underscoring that a dependable transportation system is vital to the state’s economy.
The funds raised through the higher gas tax will pay for the widening of Interstate 93, which is crucial to generating untold millions of dollars in tourist revenues over the next few decades. Candidates who oppose her on the gas tax also will have to confront the fact that business interests were important supporters of the measure – including the Nashua chamber.
With the obvious caveat that anything can happen between now and the November general election, Hassan kicked off her re-election campaign Tuesday from a position of strength. That’s more than can be said of the four virtually unknown Republican candidates who filed for office last week.
Daniel J. Greene, Walt Havenstein, Andrew Hemingway and Jonathan Smolin have a lot of work to do, and not much time to do it.