Anti-tax pledges are just plain irresponsible public policy
John Crosier, the former president of New Hampshire's Business and Industry Association, was feted by a group of his friends at a gathering in Concord on July 20.Crosier, a Massachusetts state department head before coming to New Hampshire to lead the BIA from 1998 to 2004, has served as a longtime trustee of the University System of New Hampshire, New Hampshire Public Broadcasting and the New Hampshire Public Policy Institute, among other activities.During his tenure, Crosier was known as a thoughtful analyst of public policy and a representative of the business community who recognized that its participation in public affairs necessitated flexibility, compromise, searching for the common good and bringing people together. He avoided taking rigid positions, showed creativity and demonstrated his conviction that the best environment for business was a healthy state with good public policy.Often, his willingness to discuss issues and explore solutions, especially at the request of governors of various parties, got him in trouble with certain rigid elements in the business community who thought that any discussion of additional revenue, state spending or social and educational policies somehow was not the business of business.That attitude, Crosier demonstrated in practice, is wrong and counterproductive. However, recently, it seems to be the dominant attitude in much of the public discourse."Pledges" of all kinds seem to be more important than policy. Well-funded national efforts by unelected interest groups have persuaded Republican congressmen, with few exceptions, to take a mindless "pledge" not to raise taxes under any circumstances.With trillions of dollars in debt facing us, thoughtful analysts from groups like the Concord Coalition, bipartisan study groups and the like all recognize that the only way to solve the deficit problem is to both reduce spending and raise revenue moderately, to say nothing about ending expensive wars that have been "off-balance sheet items."To pledge to refuse to consider any revenue increases (that's taxes, folks) certainly is not the reason I sent any of our representatives to Congress when I voted for them, and I bet it isn't what the majority of voters had in mind when they sent people to Washington, or Concord, either. Polls seem to bear that out.In New Hampshire, "The Pledge" to veto any broad-based which has been around since the early 1970s seems now to have been joined by the pledge to refuse to raise any revenue sources, again among Republicans. This is just nutty. It is also irresponsible public policy.It would be refreshing if we as a state and as members of both political parties and independents, required the following pledge from our elected officials: "I pledge to work for the best interests of my constituents and my country/state. I will consider all viable options to solve the nation's/state's problems and I will dedicate myself to working toward those solutions that I believe are in our best interest, whether or not this leads to my re-election."Other than that, elected officials should not be required to nor take any pledge. The stakes are too high.*****There are many heroes among us who are unknown by most but who by their volunteer efforts every day help the state. One such person, John D. Sheehan of New London -- a volunteer helping to protect New Hampshire lakes, including Little Lake Sunapee and Lake Sunapee, among others -- is scheduled to be honored by the New Hampshire Lakes Association at its "LakeFest" at Church Landing at Mill Falls July 29 in Meredith.The John F. Morten Memorial Award for Exemplary Lakes Stewardship is awarded annually to someone whose volunteer efforts have preserved lake quality.Jack Sheehan has served as a volunteer town official, as president of the Little Sunapee Protective Association, as a volunteer lake host, inspecting boats to make sure invasive weeds do not enter the lake, testing water in the lake to assure its continued quality, and otherwise involving himself in efforts to help the environment.One notable activity in which Jack Sheehan involved himself this year was placing a "loon nest" on Little Sunapee, which provided the opportunity for nesting loons to produce two young loons who have delighted residents as they grow and prosper.Jack Sheehan is just one example of someone who has come to New Hampshire, contributed to it greatly, and enhanced its quality of life and, it is fitting that he has been recognized for his efforts.The Lakes Association is dedicated to the quality of New Hampshire lakes. It is a worthy organization for those concerned about our bodies of water. More information on the New Hampshire Lakes Association can be found at nhlakes.org. Check out the website, become a volunteer, and emulate Jack Sheehan.Congratulations to John Crosier and Jack Sheehan on a lifetime of contributions. Keep up the good work.Brad Cook, a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green, heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He also serves as secretary of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.