Speaker Sherm Packard’s Agenda

by | Jan 13, 2021 | Opinion, Special Alerts

Packard has narrow, conservative House agenda.
By Patrick Hynes, president of Hynes Communications.
His comments in the January 1, 2021 New Hampshire Union Leader are presented with permission.

Packard has narrow, conservative House agenda.

WORDS CANNOT express how strongly newly elected Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives Sherm Packard disavows the atrocious violence and criminal behavior in the U.S. Capitol last week.

“I just can’t condemn what happened in Washington, D.C., enough,” he says. “I hope to God it doesn’t happen anyplace else and never happens again in Washington. I hope the FBI takes a real deep dive and looks at who was actually the cause of that.”

Packard’s repugnance for that orgy of radicalism bespeaks the modesty of his own governing style and the genuine conservatism of his own agenda for the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

Balancing the state budget and redistricting are the first two priorities Packard mentions in our recent interview. It so happens both of these are constitutional requirements. That is to say, in an era defined by dysfunction and extravagant ideological experiments, Packard assumes the Speakership with a humble commitment to the fundamentals of governing.

“Our first priority is to pass a balanced budget,” Packard says. “Under these circumstances that’s going to be difficult.”

These circumstances include a COVID-19-induced budget deficit that, while it is much smaller than feared a few months ago, still leaves the state operating from within a hole. The House Ways and Means Committee is still calculating exactly how deep that hole is. Its calculations will guide the House’s approach to the budget, says Packard.

“Would I like to see some tax cuts? Absolutely,” he tells me. “It was our goal to continue to reduce the Business Profits Tax but with the Democratic legislature the past two years we weren’t able to do that. We wanted to go down to 7.5 percent. So we’re going to be looking at that.”

The speaker is also open to looking at ways to reduce the Rooms and Meals Tax and perhaps others. “Lower taxes allow businesses to invest in new employees and improve their equipment, buy new equipment if they need it. The more money in their pocket, the more money they are going to put back into the economy,” he says.

“We’ve also got redistricting to do by the beginning of next year so it’ll be ready for the elections in 2022,” he says. Every 10 years, the state redraws Executive Council and state legislative districts based on population changes reflected in the decennial census.

“And also the two congressional seats,” he adds. “Which might need some tweaking.”

Packard of Londonderry was thrust into the role of acting speaker of the House upon the tragic passing of Speaker Dick Hinch of Merrimack from COVID-19 in December. He was subsequently elected speaker himself and assumed leadership of the House of Representatives in which he has served since 1990. He is known as a mainstream conservative who has the respect of all Republican Party factions.

On education policy, Packard says, “we have the education freedom accounts we’re looking at getting passed. This is a high priority for us in both the House and the Senate. We have some terrific people working on it.”

A January 2020 Morning Consult poll shows three-fourths of Granite Staters support the idea of education freedom accounts. Proponents believe these accounts can help meet the demand for more education options for families looking for relief from remote learning and hybrid schooling.

“We want to do what we can to help expand the charter school system so that if a child does better at a charter school then they have that option and it’s not taken away from them.” Packard adds.

“Basically, what we’re trying to do is make sure that every child in New Hampshire has the ability to get the education that’s going to help them the best,” he concludes.

And what about the unique drive-in legislative session conducted in a University of New Hampshire parking lot last week?

“We met, we got our business done fairly efficiently — maybe not perfect — but fairly efficiently and I think overall it went off pretty well,” Packard says.

He credits UNH and House staff for doing “an absolutely fantastic job putting it together.

“We had to meet,” he concludes, but adds, “it’s not something I plan on doing again.”

Patrick Hynes is the president of Hynes Communications. He can be reached on Twitter @patjhynes.

Posted by GST Chairman Ray Chadwick


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