It is also essential that Republican legislative leadership understand that the race for 2014 started as soon as the vote counting ended in 2012, and act in a manner that helps, not hurts, the next GOP gubernatorial nominee. Shaheen and Lynch were able to portray themselves as bipartisan while governing as pragmatic partisans, and look at the political success they enjoyed. Hassan, obviously, means to follow in their footsteps.
This doesn’t mean that Republicans in the House and Senate should obstruct simply for the sake of obstructing. But they must not compromise simply for the sake of compromising. There is considerable cause for concern because Senate Republicans and, based on their selection of Gene Chandler as House minority leader, a small majority of House Republicans are smaller-government conservatives rather than small-government conservatives.
Smaller-government conservatism — moderating Democrat policies rather than presenting alternatives — plays into the hands of pragmatic partisans like Shaheen, Lynch and Hassan. They get to grow government while wearing the mantle of bipartisanship. While their base may grouse about the pace of change being too slow, the base clearly learned its lesson from the Mark Fernald debacle in 2002. Just ask Jackie Cilley.
Two areas are particularly concerning: gambling and an education funding amendment.
Any gambling bill that does not dedicate all gambling-generated revenues to reducing existing taxes is a grow-the-government bill. If the state Senate passes a gambling bill that provides some tax relief, but also materially increases spending, we might as well just ask Hassan how long she would like to serve and then tell Bill Gardner to leave the governor’s race off the ballot until that point. She will be able to run as a tax-cutter while doling out cash to her special interest supporters. No Republican support for gambling unless it is a true tax-relief measure.