It Is Time To Work Together

(Published in the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript on September 6, 2011)
On September 20, 2011, the voters of Hillsborough District 3 (Greenville, New Ipswich, Peterborough, Sharon) will be heading to the voting booth to elect a representative to the New Hampshire House.  
Before you cast your vote, I would like you to consider what has made our State so uniquely special. Over and above our scenic beauty, we have our people. In the past, our legislature (the people’s house), whether controlled by Republicans or Democrats, has put people before politics.   The majority party has recognized that the minority has an important role to play in shaping policy. Debate was expected and accepted. Often times the minority members of a committee had a better solution.

During my ten years in the House, I followed a non-partisan philosophy that it was “people before politics” and actions speak louder than words or party. During my last term as the Chair of Division 1 on the House Finance Committee, I chose Representative Lynne Ober, one of my most conservative Republican colleagues, to be the committee clerk. More often than not, Representative Ober suggested changes to the budget that were accepted by Democrats and Republicans alike. In 2010, I co-chaired a legislative study committee with Republican State Senator Bob Odell to review suggested District Court closures though out the State. We traveled around the State to listen to the people in those communities that would be affected by the proposed court closings. In the end, Senator Odell and I authored a report that suggested that the Claremont, Colebrook, Keene and Milford District courts remain open and funded. We then sponsored bi-partisan legislation to support our findings.
This past year, a troubling pattern has emerged in the NH House. The new Republican majority did not name one Democrat to the committee of conference for the State budget. When I served on the Finance committee the Democratic Speaker, Terie Norelli, named the former Republican Speaker W. Douglas Scamman, Jr. and former House Finance Committee Chairman, Neal Kurk to serve on this important policy committee. As a matter of fact, both Representative Kurk and Scamman offered suggestions throughout the budget process that were adopted by the Democratic majority.
I have never been one to march in “lockstep” with a political party.  At times I found myself in disagreement with my party’s leadership but I was never threatened with removal from a committee due to my differing views. This year Republican Representative Susan Emerson of Rindge and Marshall Quandt of Exeter offered opposition to the Republican Leadership’s budget and were removed from their assigned committee. Four years ago, I found myself in complete disagreement with my party and the Governor concerning the funding of public education.  I believe the State does have a responsibility to help communities fund public education.  In the end, a bi-partisan group of us prevailed and the State was required to provide, although limited, funding to help reduce the local school tax rate.    However, this is likely to change, as there is a constitutional amendment pending that would eliminate the State responsibility to fund public education.  If elected, I will again strongly oppose this effort.
The Democrats are often blamed for imposing a myriad of taxes. However, every major tax in New Hampshire was adopted by a Republican legislature. These taxes include the business profits tax (BBT), the business enterprise tax (BET), the interest and dividends tax, the real estate transfer tax, and the rooms and meals tax.  
However, you cannot blame the Republicans of the past for these taxes as they recognized that the State had a responsibility to raise revenue to provide for essential public services.  
This year the new Republican majority reduced a number of taxes, which in turn have limited the State’s ability to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in federal fund for roads and bridges and the most needy among us.   Additionally, these cuts have had a devastating impact on our State health care network. To date, nearly 2000 private and public sector jobs have been lost. Mental health care facilities, Alzheimer’s and dementia centers have been closed. A state budget should support the creation of jobs not the elimination of them.
I have spent most of my life here in New Hampshire. Whether it was teaching skiing on Temple Mountain or hiking to the top of many of the highest peaks of the White Mountains as a Boy Scout, I am deeply rooted here.  My two children and I are products of a superb NH public education system. In 1987, I created the Milford-Bennington Railroad Company with the objective of opening an abandoned railroad line to move mined stone by rail instead of truck. To date, my company has moved millions of tons of stone by rail that otherwise would have moved by truck over our state road.
This year the legislature needs to spend less time on social issues and focus on improving our State’s economy. If I am re-elected to the House, I will, as I have in the past, focus on putting people ahead of politics.  
Peter R. Leishman

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