NH Democrat Hassan inaugurated 81st governor
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Issuing a call for bipartisanship, Democrat Maggie Hassan was sworn in Thursday as New Hampshire’s 81st chief executive and the second female to lead the state.
The 54-year-old business attorney from Exeter succeeds popular Democrat John Lynch, the governor since 2005 who retired after serving four two-year terms. Hassan won the governorship in November by beating conservative Republican Ovide Lamontagne, who she characterized as too extreme for New Hampshire.
Despite the harshly negative tone of the campaign, Hassan has repeatedly called for bipartisanship and included Republicans in her transition team.
In her inaugural speech, Hassan reiterated the themes of her campaign, focusing especially on the need to support education and innovation as the keys to a strong economy.
She again called for bipartisanship to solve the state’s problems.
‘‘The people of our state collaborate and make things work all the time, and their elected leaders must be able to do the same. The people of New Hampshire have made it clear that they want to restore balance, that they want us to work together,’’ she said.
Hassan urged people to focus on commonsense solutions ‘‘born of collaboration.’’
‘‘Then we will together end the era of hasty, reactive government,’’ she said in a reference to the partisanship that was the hallmark of Statehouse politics over the past two years. Republicans held supermajorities in the Senate and House until November. Democrats now control the House and Republicans hold a narrow margin in the Senate.
A former state Senate majority leader, Hassan is familiar with the inner workings of state government.
Hassan stressed the need to repair damage done by the Republican Legislature in its last budget, particularly by restoring deep cuts to public colleges. She said the way to grow the economy is to invest in education so business has the workforce it needs.
Her most challenging task will be writing a budget that reins in pent up demand by Democrats, particularly in the House, which is now in their control.
At budget hearings in November, Hassan cautioned state agencies that their requests for $321 million in new funding from state tax sources was unrealistic. She later directed agencies to submit new, lower spending requests for the two-year budget taking effect in July. She submits her budget to lawmakers in mid-February.
She asked lawmakers Thursday to embrace her Innovate New Hampshire jobs plan, which focuses on building an educated workforce, doubling a business research and development tax credit and giving technical assistance to businesses.
She repeated her promise to veto personal income and general sales taxes. New Hampshire has neither a general sales nor personal income tax.
‘‘To those of you who believe deeply in an income tax, I ask you to put that aside. I will veto an income or sales tax. And as we build the next budget, though we have much to address, we must acknowledge that we will not be able to do everything all at once,’’ she said.
‘‘To those on the other side,’’ she added, ‘‘I ask you to recognize there are some things that government must do — not only to help our most vulnerable citizens, but also to provide the platform for economic growth. Needs do not go away simply because we don’t fund them. And opportunities for innovation and growth can evaporate if we fail to make smart investments in a timely way.’’
Senate President Peter Bragdon, a Milford Republican, said he expects to work collaboratively with Hassan, a former Senate colleague, to try to find compromise.
‘‘After listening to Gov. Hassan’s speech, I am convinced the emphasis of this legislative session will be on finding solutions instead of fighting,’’ he said.
House Republican Leader Gene Chandler of Bartlett said he still wants to know how she will fund her spending priorities. Hassan delivers her budget to lawmakers next month.
Hassan supports the rights of workers to unionize, for women to have access to abortions and birth control and for gays to marry. Hassan was instrumental in the Senate passing the state’s law legalizing same-sex unions in 2009. An effort to repeal it fell short last year.
She pointed to the importance of New Hampshire’s gay marriage law in making the state welcoming to business.
‘‘As has been true throughout our history, every time we bring more people in from the margins — into the heart and soul of our democracy — we get stronger,’’ she said.
New Hampshire Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan led attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance. Morgan, who has terminal breast cancer, is fighting to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act that bars her wife from receiving federal benefits that would help care for their 5-year-old daughter.Continued...