A mandate for bipartisanship

Election indicates NH voters want the parties to work together

Somewhere between blue and red is purple New Hampshire. No state is more equally divided between Republicans and Democrats. By small margins, our state supported Hillary Clinton for president, made the federal congressional delegation fully Democratic and at the same time gave complete control of state government to the Republicans.

In the state Senate, where the GOP maintained a four-seat advantage, the total vote difference between the 24 Republican and Democratic Senate nominees was less than 1 percent, and we came very close (just over 800 votes) from an even 12-12 partisan split in the Senate.

While it is hard to interpret the exact intent of the voters, what is clear is they want us to work together. This should be a mandate for bipartisanship. 

As a former civics teacher, I taught my students that democracy is a process to distribute power and resources in society. And it is designed to tame clashing forces through good-old horse trading. New Hampshire has a long history of putting partisanship aside to do the people’s work.

During my four years in the Senate, our proudest achievements came when a coalition of Democrats and Republicans crafted policies that have lasted the test of time. 

As the Senate Democratic leader, my priority is to keep our hard-earned bipartisan accomplishments – by renewing immediately the NH Health Protection Plan that expanded Medicaid health coverage to 50,000 low-income workers at no cost to the state, retaining the transportation plan that has directed millions of dollars into fixing our roads and bridges and building on our investments to combat the heroin and opioid public health crisis.  

Beyond protecting these successful, bipartisan achievements, we need to listen and be responsive to our constituents, particularly those who are dissatisfied with a rigged economy where the most powerful get rewards of tax breaks and government spending.

Granite State workers and families deserve meaningful policies, not meaningless rhetoric. The growing income gap between the richest people and the rest of us is obscene and immoral. And the evidence is clear that trickle-down economics doesn’t bridge that gap, it widens it.

I welcome the opportunity to work with our new Republican governor and my Republican legislative colleagues. There is much we can work on together – renewing the NH Health Protection Program, improving our schools and reducing our property taxes by finally fully funding our state’s education aid commitment to local communities (including funding full-day kindergarten), increasing the economic security for our families by passing paid family leave, turning the tide on the heroin epidemic and expanding opportunities for all our people.

But I’m worried by Governor-elect Sununu’s and our Republican legislative colleagues’ focus on divisive priorities like more tax cuts for the wealthiest among us, upending our long-standing and locally driven election process, and union-busting legislation designed to drive down wages. These types of policies are partisan political tools to increase their hold on power, not to expand opportunity for all Granite Staters.

In the last legislative session, we passed a plethora of tax cuts for business owners. The wealthy elite have gotten their cut. Now, it is time to stand up for working people and working families.

I’ve reached out to Governor-elect Sununu to convey these priorities and to express my concerns, but unfortunately he has yet to respond. But when he does, I’ll tell him my door and heart are always open to them and their ideas, so long as they are willing to work with us to expand opportunity for all people and not just those at the top.

We have our work cut out for us. And I, for one, am ready to get going

Jeff Woodburn, D-Whitefield, is the NH Senate Democratic leader.

Categories: Opinion