All this week, Morning Edition is talking to the Republican candidates for governor.
Frank Edelblut is a first-term state representative from Wilton.
Your only legislative experience is one and a half years as a state Representative. Should voters see that as a positive or a negative?
I think it’s actually a positive. I came to the legislature with a lot of experience already in the private sector. I started my career as an accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers. I spent eight years auditing companies all over the world, digging into the finances, finding ways to improve shareholder value, finding and rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse in those organizations. And these are companies that are far larger than the state of New Hampshire. Their budgets dwarf the state budget in New Hampshire. So, did eight years there, then I was the Chief Financial Officer for a public company. I left, started a company at my kitchen table, it is the American dream. Hard work, good people, grew that business to more than 800 employees. After I sold my business in 2009, I looked around and thought it’s not as good as when I started out, so I started to look for opportunities to give back. I ran for the legislature and have been up there for a year and a half. I bring the executive experience as well as the legislative experience. And in spite of the fact that I am in my first term, I was able to bring legislation through the process. I was able to engage on important and substantive issues for the state and help moves things along.
Regarding the state’s economy, what would you be your plan to attract new businesses, particularly to the North Country, where the economy has really been stagnating?
I want to talk about the North Country in particular, but more broadly when we look at the economy in New Hampshire, we really have neglected our economy in the last four years under Governor Hassan. Government doesn’t create jobs, but government does have a role in creating an environment in which people are willing to take a risk, whether people want to invest. It takes a lot of guts to cash in your 401(k) or mortgage your house and start a business. You have to believe if you’re going to do that, you’re going to get something in return. So what we need to as the government is focus on that environment we’re creating, and I think there are five priorities that I would have when it comes to making sure we set up that environment. Number one is the skills of the workforce. Number two is our healthcare costs, which are very high, actually the highest in the country. Number three is our energy costs, which are also high. Sometimes they vary as the highest or close to the highest, but we need to do something about that. Our business taxes are high, and our regulatory environment is just difficult for businesses to succeed in because it just stifles that growth.
Let's get back to the North Country, a specific area of concern. What are your ideas there?
I’ve actually worked on several different types of job programs to get stuff up there. But they have opportunity for the tourism industry and we see some positive things happening with the trail system up there, and there are some more things we can develop. But I think we need a longer-term solution, a long-term view to that economy up there. I would like to see, and here’s a proposal I would throw out on the table, is a limited access highway that heads north. Instead of always being worried about heading south, we build a limited access highway that heads north. We work with the Canadians, we connect the North Country with I-20, which is approximate to Sherbrook, Montreal, Quebec City, and so we can anchor their economy to the economic activity on the other side of the border up in Canada. And so that becomes kind of a long-term economic engine for that economy, because otherwise it’s always going to be difficult locating businesses up in the North Country if the logistics are difficult. But I do think we have a long-term solution in terms of trying to anchor them to the economic activity north of them.
You’ve said the state’s Medicaid expansion program essentially locks people into a cycle of poverty. This is a program that some 50,000 low-income Granite Staters now rely on for health coverage, so what’s your alternative to ensure those people still have access to health care?
We absolutely want to have access to health care. We’ve talked about some of the issues associated with health care, both from the insurer perspective and the provider perspective. What we have done is we have created an entire class of individuals that are the insured-uninsured. And what’s happened is even the ones who can afford insurance can’t afford to get medical services because their deductibles are so high. I read a recent study just the other day dealing with this idea that was reinforcing some of the concepts that I’m talking about in terms of locking individuals into poverty. And so what happens is because of the benefits that are being offered, if you’re working a job and your employer offers you a weekend shift or they offer you some overtime, that additional income that you earn is going to result in kicking you out of some of the benefits you would otherwise receive, you’re not going to want to improve yourself. You’d say it’s a net loss. I might earn an additional one day’s worth of wages, but I’m going to lose all these benefits and it will cost me more to take the extra time and to improve my situation. So we need to structure programs that are going to allow people to get lifted out of poverty, not lock them into poverty.
How do you create that system?
What you need is a system that ensures everyone has skin in the game. You know, because nothing is free. So you need to make sure you’re reinforcing that from the very beginning. And I think what you need to do is you need to encourage people to work, create incentives where people are going to want to get into the workforce and engage in productive activity. You’re able to earn funds, because you are working, but there’s also the advantage of knowing there’s a benefit from a hard day’s work. You have a sense of pride in the things that you do. I think that plays to human nature and I think that’s the kind of thing we want to be focusing on.
On the state’s substance abuse crisis, I noticed you mention on your campaign website not ruling out faith based solutions to this problem. What were you referring to there and what do you see as your overall approach on this issue?
So what I have seen is on the state list of resources, they’re not listing faith-based solutions.
What are faith-based solutions?
So they come out of a Christian or some other faith community that’s trying to do good in their communities, so those are resources that are available to try and help individuals. But if we exclude those from the solution, I think we’re short circuiting and we’re short cutting everybody’s options in terms of trying to find solutions. There are therapies that are scientific and they’re proven and they work, but they happen to be run by faith-based organizations.
A poll released just in the last few days found among the Republican candidates for governor, voters know the least about you. So what’s something you want them to know about you that could help them make up their minds in this race?
Obviously, I’m going to be the least known because I’ve been in this process for less time than anybody else. But I think what we have to keep in mind is that we do need to be able to move this state forward. My competitors in this race sort of see this goal of winning this race for governorship as the ultimate goal. But that’s not really the goal and winning isn’t even necessarily the achievement in this process. It’s really just the beginning of the process. Let’s make this state work for the people of New Hampshire. And so I think voters have a choice when they come out to vote on Sept. 13 to pick someone who is not beholden to the lobbyists, who is not beholden to the special interests, but is interested in making sure the state once again is working for the people of New Hampshire.