N.H., N.D. governors consider state issues
By Bridgette Taylor
Published on Monday, November 9, 2009
While Gov. John Lynch, D-N.H., and Gov. John Hoeven ’79, R-N.D., have different policy priorities, they found common ground during a public discussion of the recession and its effect on their respective states in the Rockefeller Center on Friday. The governors largely agreed on federal and state policies for education, health care reform and increasing state rights.
Hoeven and Lynch both stressed the importance of education and business expansion.
“As governors, we need to do what we can to promote an environment that allows businesses to compete and prosper,” Lynch said. “We have a goal in New Hampshire to have zero dropouts by 2012. Education drives jobs.”
Hoeven also linked education to economic growth.
“Economic development and education go together,” he said. “You can’t create the jobs of the future and build your workforce without really focusing on education both on a high school level, college and even graduate level.”
To provide students with corporate experience, the state government in North Dakota gives public universities funding to collaborate with companies, Hoeven said.
Both governors criticized the rigid standardized testing regulations required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
“I think there’s a role for standardized tests,” Lynch said. “But I think we do too much, and we have to be careful of it. It has to be done in moderation.”
Lynch and Hoeven also both expressed concerns about the scope of the federal health care reform effort.
Lynch said he is worried health care costs will become the states’ responsibility.
“I support health care reform, but at the same time, we need to figure out how to pay for it,” Lynch said. “Our state budget has been under a lot of pressure.”
Congress may not be adequately taking the input of health care providers into account, Hoeven said.
“I want to be talking to doctors, nurses and health care providers, and make sure that what we’re doing will allow them to provide better health care service,” Hoeven said.
Both governors agreed, however, that health care reform is not currently their most urgent issue.
Hoeven said that decreasing the federal debt should be Washington’s main priority, because of its effect on every state.
“With the level of debt that we’re getting to, I’m very concerned about our ability to preach a higher standard of living in this country,” Hoeven said.
Lynch said he is directly concerned about the national H1N1 vaccine shortage.
“We need more of this vaccine in New Hampshire,” Lynch said. “That’s my main focus — to get that vaccine and distribute it to the high-risk population.”
Lynch also went on to emphasize the importance of states’ rights in response to a question from the audience.
“Governors are a lot closer to people than Washington is,” he said. “The closer we get to where decisions are made at the local level, the better the decisions will be.”
Hoeven agreed, highlighting that the United States originally existed largely as a commonwealth of states.
“Over time, it has become a much more federalized system,” he said. “Most governors are advocates for state rights.”
The governors’ general agreement on policies and the overall bipartisan spirit of the panel conversation was unexpected, Nathan Bruschi ’10, speaker of the College’s Political Union, said.
“I’m really surprised at how moderate both governors are,” Bruschi said. “It was interesting to see two groups governing from the perspective as to what’s best for the state, and not what’s best for my party.”