Taxes, wages tops at forum

MILFORD – If voters were looking to distinguish policy differences between the three candidates for the District 40 seat in the House of Representatives, the forum last week in Milford Town Hall was not the place to do it.

The Democrat and Libertarian candidates seemed to have few differences, and the Republican candidate wasn’t there. Keith Ammon, of New Boston, who is finishing his first term, had declined an invitation to the forum saying in an email to organizers that he wanted a different moderator, without saying why.

Democrat Kat McGhee, of Hollis, and Libertarian Mark Linn, of Milford, both agreed that high property taxes are a serious burden on homeowners. Both want to raise the minimum wage and provide more prevention, education and treatment of opioid abuse and more money for public school security, but no training in gun use for teachers.

Linn cited his priorities as property taxes, energy costs, health care costs, investment in education at all levels and more compromise among Republicans and Democrats.

The forum was organized by George Hoyt and moderated by Rob Canty. They will have another forum this Friday evening at 6 p.m. for the two candidates for state Senate District 11, incumbent state Sen. Gary Daniels (R-Milford) and state Rep. Shannon Chandley (D-Amherst).

McGhee said no one in her working class family had ever gone to college until she did. She worked hard, obtained a masters degree and was adaptable in her careers, a trait that would be valuable in the Legislature, she said.

When she started paying attention to politics and government, she was surprised at what she saw, including “outside actors” coming to New Hampshire to press their own agendas.

“ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), shouldn’t be writing our bills,” she said.

People in the four towns in District 40 have the same concerns, she said, especially about the continuing burden of property taxes.

“When the Legislature is not working together,” she said, “it makes it impossible to meet the challenges.”

Linn and McGhee said red flag laws that allow family members or law enforcement to seek a court order to temporarily restrict an individual’s access to firearms would not impinge on gun owners’ rights. Linn wants more mental health and more anti-bullying programs.

McGhee said New Hampshire, ranking 50 out of 50 states in the money it spends on higher education, needs to spend more, and it also needs to properly fund public schools and enact family-friendly policies like paid leave.

As for property taxes, she said she is not suggesting broad-based taxes as an alternative, “but we try so hard to live up to an ideology … we do silly things, like cut the cigarette taxes.”

Linn said New Hampshire needs reasonable taxes – on cigarettes, alcohol, medical marijuana and recreational marijuana if it is legalized. He is running as a third party candidate, he said, because “it’s time to change a broken two-party system” so the Legislature can deal with major problems like the opioid crisis and the aging population and the out-migration of talented young people.

To questions about the environment, Linn said the state needs to double down on programs that could mitigate global warming and McGhee mentioned her efforts to fight the Kinder Morgan pipeline after Hollis selectmen put her in charge of a task force.

Both candidates said they support the public school system, which McGhee said is under assault by a school voucher bill framed as choice that would take millions of dollars out of public schools.

“It’s a lose-lose” proposal that will “destroy communities,” she said. “Education is probably the best investment any state could make in the future.”

In closing remarks, Linn said New Hampshire “is thirsty for a third-party movement to bring stability” to government, and McGhee said she would be an independent voice in Concord who would bring a lifetime’s worth of problem-solving skills.

Linn is a 20-year resident of Milford, and he talked about losing his job at Hewlett -Packard during the Great Recession and now works for the U.S. Postal Service in Nashua.

District 40 is a floterial district, meaning it is composed of two or more towns. It gives Milford, Mont Vernon, New Boston and Hollis representation that isn’t covered by District 23 (Milford), District 5 (Mont Vernon and New Boston) and District 27 (Hollis).

The general election is Nov. 6.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

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