Why Republicans should support LCHIP

A little more than halfway through the six-month budget process, it’s clear that, as usual, the New Hampshire budget is pretty tight. It’s also clear that after the House passed a stripped-down version of the budget last month, there’s probably a very small amount of room for adding meat to the bones when it comes to key priorities. Here’s a suggestion for fellow Republicans as you weigh what to restore: Look at LCHIP.

Some of the Representatives and Senators who are new to the State House might be surprised at my suggestion. In the past few years, some have begun to look at the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program as a partisan issue; something Democrats are for and Republicans are against. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

As a Republican from Jaffrey, I chaired the House Resources Committee in 1999 when we created LCHIP. It was a Republican idea, and it passed the House with only six votes in opposition, out of 400. More importantly, it’s a program that is all about valuing tradition, strengthening business growth and doing it in a fiscally responsible way. In other words, the very things that make the Republican Party great.

New Hampshire is unique. That’s why we love it here — something about rugged independence is in our blood. Hunting and fishing are traditions we pass down to our kids, and pastimes that the Republican Party has always proudly supported.

We know that appreciating the outdoors means enjoying it, whether on a hunting trip or from the back of a snowmobile. We also know that being advocates for outdoorsmen is about more than gun rights. It’s about protecting the land and open spaces that are an integral part of our state’s character. LCHIP isn’t about saving trees; it’s about conserving the places that make our state unique, so we can keep traditions like hunting and fishing alive and well. That’s why the program has conserved land in dozens of communities across the state for exactly these activities: hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, camping, hiking and more.

But land conservation is only half of what LCHIP does. The other half is about strengthening local business and local economies by preserving the places that draw new visitors and new businesses to the state.

Tourism is New Hampshire’s second-largest industry, and I think it’s pretty obvious why tourists visit. Historic downtowns, working farms, preserved mill buildings and beautiful landscapes lend character to our state’s skiing, our fall foliage and other activities that bring tourists here. Preserving those unique New Hampshire places keeps tourism revenue coming, both for local businesses and for the state. That’s why the New Hampshire Travel Council and the New Hampshire Restaurant and Lodging Association have endorsed funding for LCHIP.

Finally, our party stands for being fiscally responsible. We didn’t create LCHIP as a handout. We created it as a way to leverage a small amount of state spending to get much larger matching grants from private donors, the federal government and local municipalities. Over the 112 projects LCHIP has successfully undertaken since we created it, the program has a pretty good track record for fiscal responsibility. Every dollar spent by the state has been matched with $5.95 in other funds. You’d be hard-pressed to find other state spending that gets a return like that.

With half of the budget process to go, there’s plenty of time to restore the $5 million in LCHIP funding that failed by two votes out of 400 in the House last month. I hope my fellow Republicans will take a good and hard look at it.

Charles Royce of Jaffrey served six terms in the New Hampshire House.

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