Democrat Maggie Hassan said it early, and she said it often: NH’s leaders need to reach across the aisle.
“The people if NH have made it clear that they want to restore balance, that they want us to work together.”
Achieving some measure of bipartisanship would be prudent for any Governor. But for Hassan, who will serve with a democratically-controlled house and a GOP-led Senate, it’s essential. Hassan, a lawyer and former state senator, won election by casting herself as being like Governor Lynch -- and by casting Republican Ovide Lamontagne as being like former House Speaker Bill O’Brien. Hassan singled Lynch out for his service at the top of her speech, and she implored lawmaker to learn from the partisan rancor that’s lately marked policymaking in Concord.
“Let us promise ourselves today that we will meet our challenges by focusing on commonsense solutions born of collaboration. That we will together end the era of hasty, reactive government. “
Hassan spoke at some length about how NH is at its best when all are respected. She touted the benefits of the same sex marriage law she helped pass as a senator, and stressed the need for all the state’s children to receive a good education.
She also said that all need to find ways to make schools and towns “better and safer” in light of the Newtown Connecticut school shootings, but she hinted at no specific polices.
As is common in inauguration speeches, the details were few.
But there were some: Hassan did say she’d plans to reverse a 50 percent cut to state college and university system funding.
She said she’d also like to double a research and development tax credit, and invest in the state’s infrastructure.
At the same time Hassan also reiterated a message she been delivering ever since she won election.
“We must acknowledge that we will not be able to do everything all at once.”
And Hassan laid down a few markers. To democrats, she reiterated her opposition to new broad-based taxes.
"I will veto a sales or income tax."
To republicans, Hassan, offered this:
“I ask you to recognize that 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.”
We will learn a lot more about Hassan’s approach to leading the state when she presents her budget to lawmakers in 6 weeks. But top lawmakers from both parties praised her first speech as Governor as realistic and appropriate given the divided nature of NH government. It probably didn’t hurt, several added, that Hassan was once a lawmaker herself. Republican Jeb Bradley is the state senate’s majority leader.
"We all know her. We like her. We respect her. It doesn’t mean we are always going to agree on things. We will have our disagreements. That’s the way it should be. But the tone will be good. “
Optimistic predictions are common on inauguration day. But if Governor Hassan, and legislative leaders want to get things done over the next two years, keeping a good tone, is a good place to start.