DERRY — Gov. Maggie Hassan is three months into one tough job.
Consider the challenges: a struggling economy; active or threatened legal challenges over mental health, corrections and hospitals; reduced federal aid; communities clamoring for more help from the state.
But Hassan is still smiling and sounding like someone who might like to stick around for more.
“I continue just to be totally humbled by having this job, which is a terrific job, and I’ve enjoyed my first couple of months enormously,” Hassan said in an interview last week.
The budget and the economy are the prime challenges.
“We are focused on making the state more innovative and stronger,” Hassan said, pointing to her proposed balanced budget without a sales or income tax.
She has a mission: “Making sure we all understand what kind of investments we need to really seize the opportunity to drive an innovation economy forward in this state.”
Hassan is encouraged by Senate passage of a casino bill that would raise $80 million in licensing revenue for the budget, plus more revenue once the casino opens.
She is optimistic about the House, too, though the outcome is far from sure.
“I think we will do well,” Hassan said.
House lawmakers are beginning to see the tradeoffs, the governor is convinced, and understand New Hampshire stands to lose if Massachusetts opens casinos and nothing happens here.
“Without the revenue from one high end and highly regulated casino ... we are not going to be able to fund critical priorities,” Hassan said.
Keno does not appear to be in the governor’s cards, though Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, won House approval for a keno study. Hassan said the focus needs to be on the casino proposal.
For Hassan, the casino represents an important choice.
“We can either choose to seize this innovation moment or slip backward,” she said.