The way government should be
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Matthew Gagnon of Yarmouth is the CEO of the Maine Policy Institute, a Portland-based free market policy think tank. A native of Hampden, he previously served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, DC
New Hampshire and Maine are both northern states of New England and are very similar in many ways. They are both rural in character, with a population of around 1.3 million people, and both are filled with hardy, hardworking people with distinct cultures.
Yet for all their similarities, Maine and New Hampshire are also different in many ways, not least in the political culture that has developed in each.
This has never been more exposed than during the period surrounding the pandemic, as Governor Chris Sununu and Governor Janet Mills – and their respective legislatures – have pursued very different approaches to managing the public health challenge presented by COVID. 19.
Generally speaking, lawmakers in Sununu and New Hampshire favored a lighter touch – and seemed slower to put in restrictions – while insisting on the participation and collaboration of the elected legislature, which has resumed work. in June.
Maine’s instinct, on the other hand, seemed to be much more cautious and restrictive on everything from mask wear to crowd size limitations and travel restrictions. And, of course, the lawmakers of Maine adjourned last March for most of the year, simply allowing Mills to rule the state through emergency powers.
These different reactions ultimately stem from the very different philosophies of the peoples of each state. By the way, this observation is reasonably non-partisan. Even New Hampshire Democrats have historically championed a much more passive approach to governance and taxation, and have favored greater restraint on spending matters.
But where does this difference come from? For my part, I think back to the beginning of the 1970s.
In 1971, Maine envisioned a referendum asking citizens whether or not they wanted to repeal the income tax, which had been created at the request of Governor Ken Curtis in 1969. In the end, voters chose to reject the attempt to repeal it.
In New Hampshire, on the other hand, something interesting happened in 1972. That year, a little-known politician by the name of Meldrim Thomson was trying to win a race for governor of New Hampshire and was looking for a way to stand out from the crowd. He decided to try a new approach, making his main message a message of antipathy to taxes, coining the term “chopping tax” and asking candidates for office to join him in committing to tax. “To practice economy and frugality”.
At the time, many were calling for New Hampshire to adopt an income tax, like Maine had done, in order to generate more revenue for the state and provide more services to citizens. Unlike Maine, however, the anti-tax message caught on and Thomson managed to defeat incumbent Republican Governor Walter Peterson in a primary, then gain the governorship this november.
To observers, it’s pretty clear that after this point, the divergent philosophies ended up producing two radically different political climates.
As New Hampshire became more prosperous economically, politicians and voters in Granite State came to regard the difference in their state as “New Hampshire’s advantage” and fiercely defended their approach as a selling point for the economic development of their state.
This month, however, the differences between the two states became even more marked as each moved towards passing their respect state budgets.
In Maine, spending continues to rise, while in New Hampshire it has actually reduced – yes cut – The expenses of the General and Education Fund in trust of 172.5 million dollars. New Hampshire has also eliminated the interest and dividend tax, making the state fully tax exempt for the first time. They also cut corporate tax rates and cut state property tax. In addition, New Hampshire has pursued major reforms, such as the creation of education savings accounts, which will dramatically increase educational choice for students and parents.
But most astonishingly, in New Hampshire’s new budget, lawmakers agreed to language that grant to the state legislature more authority during states of emergency. Despite the fact that the state – like Maine – is entirely controlled by a single party, lawmakers have now limited the powers of the governor, requiring that a session of the Legislative Assembly be called after 90 days of statehood. official emergency. Once in session, it would be up to lawmakers, not the governor, to maintain or end the declaration of emergency.
Maine is proud of its motto, “the way life should be”. I have a suggestion, however, for our New Hampshire neighbors. Consider your own motto: “The way government should be”.