Thursday, March 04, 2010

Our State is Broken

John Stephen, former Congressional candidate, is now running for governor of NH. Stephen ran for Congress in 2002, and again in 2008. He lost both times, in the primaries, to Jeb Bradley, who lost the Congressional seat in 2006. Bradley will co chair Stephen’s campaign.

It’s long been rumored that Bradley was going to run for governor, but apparently he’s decided to help throw his old foe to the wolves. The GOP hasn’t had much success in fielding candidates against the popular Governor John Lynch. The last human sacrifice was former District 3 state senator Joe Kenney. The best that can be said about that matchup is that in other parts of the state people are still asking, “Joe who?

The toughest gubernatorial race faced by John Lynch was his first. He ran against incumbent Craig Benson, a man who was almost universally hated. It’s interesting to note that his name is never fondly invoked by the NH GOP, nor are his accomplishments ever touted. Governor Hummer was indeed a real bummer. The GOP doesn’t want to brag about Benson’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) who was paid $150,000 a year to oversee and update the state’s information systems.

Robert Anderson was one of Benson’s Cabletron cronies, and was appointed in 2003. After doing nothing but picking up a paycheck, he quietly resigned in 2004. There were a lot of problems with Benson appointees. Another Cabletron crony, Linda Pepin was the focus of corruption charges. Pepin was one of Benson’s “volunteers” who were allegedly donating their time to the state of NH, to save us all money. Pepin was acting as an insurance broker for the state, negotiating health and dental contracts, even though she wasn’t licensed to do so. She did collect $187,000 for her “volunteer” efforts. Why am I bringing up Benson? Simple - John Stephen was a Benson appointee. There seems to be a common thread amongst all Benson appointees – dishonesty and/or incompetence.

Stephen is continually praised in the mainstream conservative press for being a “fiscal conservative.” Apparently, in order to be labeled a fiscal conservative, all one has to do is repeat the NH GOP mantra, “cut spending, no new taxes.” One doesn’t have to actually DO any such thing, only say it. Over and over. Earlier this week, Stephen announced his candidacy at a press conference in the Legislative Office Building in Concord. He told his supporters “our state is broken. “ I was surprised to hear this, given how often our state has been voted the best state to live in. Why would John Stephen willingly live in a broken state? Why aren’t we all moving out in droves? At this same press conference, Stephen cited a report by the Independent Tax Foundation. He claimed that the foundation ranked NH as coming in last in terms of the business tax climate. Oddly, on the foundation’s own website, there is a report ranking NH as seventh best in the nation. John Stephen showing, once again, why he was a Benson appointee.

It’s typical GOP rhetoric, and dates back to the golden years of St. Ronnie Reagan, who told us that “government is the problem,” a sentiment echoed by GOP candidates for the last 30 years or so. Government is bad they tell us, yet they keep running for bad, spending buckets of money to get into the bad, to become part of the problem. This is no different. New Hampshire isn’t broken. There are states having some serious problems – like California, where the Governor is having yard sales to scrape up cash for the government.

Does Stephen really have street cred as a fiscal conservative? In 2005, there was a $70 million shortfall in the state budget because DHHS Commissioner John Stephen double counted that amount in the DHHS budget. In 2006, Stephen was called to testify before the legislature, as to why he discounted the state’s share of nursing home costs for a few years. Stephen claimed that his practice of “budget neutrality” was the reason that nursing homes were underpaid by about $20 million. The term “budget neutrality” as used by Commissioner Stephen could be replaced correctly by the term “cost shifting.”

The NH Supreme Court ruled that Stephen’s budget neutrality was invalid, because it was unauthorized by law or by department rules. Commissioner Stephen appealed that finding. He lost.

Commissioner Stephen then filed for an emergency rule to continue budget neutrality. In response, the NH legislature passed HB 721, which blocked his ability to engage in cost shifting hijinks. They ordered him to repay the nursing homes approximately $9 million in shifted costs. He never did. When he resigned from DHHS to run for Congress in 2007, that bill was unpaid.

John Stephen’s record shows he lacks any credibility as a fiscal conservative. He just knows how to repeat the mantra, which is, apparently all that is needed to win that coveted title from the NH GOP. He proposes nothing new – it’s the same old “cut spending, no new taxes” that we’ve heard from every Republican candidate to run for office in our state. Lather, rinse, and repeat.

“As long as the governor stays at 50 percent or above, it's clear that voters aren't in the mood to fire him, at least the majority ... And that's the key thing for John Stephen. He's got to make this race all about John Lynch. Every day that it's a story about John Lynch, about taxes and so forth, is a good day for John Stephen. Every day the story is about John Stephen is a bad day for John Stephen.” ~ Dante Scala

© 2010 sbruce published as an op-ed in the March 5, 2010 edition of the Conway Daily Sun

1 comment:

DissedBelief said...

Why on earth do people support individuals such as these? Who clearly, are nothing other than career polititians wishing to get on the band wagon of high living and not caring a jot for the rest of us. Stephen exemplifies just such an individual. Following him and his say-nothing speeches and statements over the years, he strikes me as a "crony", part and parcel of the problem the rest of us have to deal with daily. Stephen and Bradley make up a real Laurel and Hardy Repub team.

On another subject I must say I'm not 100% on board with tax breaks for small businesses. I have rarely worked for a small business that deserved tax payer dollars. Should I command tax dollars purely because I wish to hang my name plate on the side of a building? There are many small business owners who struggle terribly but in many cases, this may have nothing to do with economy but instead with other factors that impact owning a small business. Susan, another excellent article, thank you.