DERRY — Both current state Sen. Regina Birdsell, R-Hampstead, and Democrat challenger Joshua Bourdon, of Derry, promised not to raise business taxes at a virtual candidate meet and greet last Friday afternoon, but each offered differing visions about how to get more out of the state budget.
The two contenders for the District 19 seat — which covers Derry, Hampstead and Windham — spoke at the virtual event hosted by the Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce.
Birdsell wants to keep state taxes low, allowing businesses to "boom" and eventually pay more in taxes, while Bourdon said the state needs to focus on finding "creative solutions" to grow the budget.
Continuing to keep business taxes low and cutting them when possible allows businesses to thrive and pay taxes to "fund as much, if not more, than what we were funding," Birdsell said, in explaining her approach to taxes and economic growth.
Bourdon agreed with not increasing business, taxes as a former small business owner himself. As a former silent partner of The Grind Rail Trail Cafe in Derry for two years, he knows the business would have been negatively impacted by more taxes, he said.
Name: Regina Birdsell
Age: Not provided
Occupation: Human resources specialist
Education: Bachelor's degree in business management from Merrimack College
Elected experience: Incumbent state senator, 2014-present; state representative for Rockingham District 13, 2010-2014
Family: Husband Mark, two adult children, one grandchild
Why are you running for office? I am running to keep New Hampshire the beacon of freedom in the Northeast and to continue serving the community I love by supporting small businesses, protecting the tax dollars of our working families, advocating for our students, ensuring we have access to clean water, and always answering my phone or email when a constituent needs help. I feel there is still so much more to do to keep New Hampshire the greatest state in the union and to help the communities of Derry, Hampstead and Windham continue to provide a high quality of life, vibrant local economies and good schools.
What would you do to trim the state budget? We are looking at a revenue shortfall and we will likely have tough choices ahead of us this next budget cycle. One of the first suggestions I would make is to look at unfilled positions and ask ourselves if they need to be filled right away. State agencies have been asked to look at making significant budget cuts for the time begin and this is one way to find immediate savings. We will also look at any lapses or unspent money from departments that could go back into next session's budget.
What should the state do to address climate change? New Hampshire is already on the forefront to do its part to address climate change through our Renewable Portfolio Standard which currently mandates our electric providers to purchase a certain amount of power from renewable sources and we are also members of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. New Hampshire is also home to one of the largest carbon-neutral power generators in New England — the Seabrook power plant.
Do you support raising the minimum wage? I do not support a mandate on businesses. I am a firm believer in the market setting its own wage rates and currently we have many businesses with starting wages well over the minimum wage.
Do you support any kind of income tax? No. Not now, not ever.
Do you support increased business taxes? No, When we decreased business taxes we saw a huge increase in state revenue. Let's allow businesses to flourish
Do you support regulations to protect water sources? This past session, the Senate voted to pass clean water protections and regulations on water testing. The fight for clean water is an issue now and will be long into the future. I support all efforts for access to clean water and I'm glad to be active in all three towns in my district, working to ensure their homes and businesses have clean water.
Do you support state funding for charter schools? I do. I support all students and families and I respect their decisions when it comes to their education, whether it's public, private, charter, religious or home school. I do not think a student's education should be dictated by their zip code.
Do you support stricter gun laws? No, New Hampshire is one of the safest states in the country and I stand with our state and U.S. constitutions.
Do you support paid family leave? I do not support a paid family leave program that institutes a mandatory income tax. I would be more open to a paid family leave program that is optional for employees and businesses. I do not support mandates on individuals or businesses.
Do you support access to abortion? I am pro-life, I do not believe we should allow third-term or partial-birth abortions in New Hampshire and I do not believe tax dollars should be used for abortion services.
Name: Joshua Bourdon
Occupation: Healthcare recruiter
Education: Bachelor's degree from Plymouth State University; earning a master's in public education
Elected experience: Derry Town Council, third term
Family: Wife Leah, two children, Sasha, 7 and Miles, 5
Why are you running for office? To reduce property taxes, create new revenues, legalize cannabis, and expand renewable energy
What would you do to trim the state budget? COVID-19 has left this state facing a projected $500 million budget hole that will get passed down to cities and towns across this state. We have spent the last six years trimming the budget. It is time for our legislators to create new revenues and stop downshifting everything on to our schools and municipalities.
What should the state do to address climate change? I am proud of what we have accomplished in Derry. We created the Net Zero Task Force, set a goal to be a net-zero community by 2025, built a solar array at the transfer station that is helping our climate and reducing your taxes. As senator, I will vote for legislation that allows us to scale up these types of projects throughout the state. Residents will save millions rather than continue to pay Eversource. Our leaders are owned and bought by big companies and they are focused on pleasing them rather than helping you. That will end.
Do you support raising the minimum wage? No. I have owned a small business and have had the privilege of speaking with hundreds of business owners. Not one of them pays their employees minimum wage. This is a non-issue in New Hampshire.
Do you support any kind of income tax? No
Do you support increased business taxes? No
Do you support regulations to protect water sources? Absolutely. We cannot live with water. Residents throughout Hampstead and southern New Hampshire are hurting. I will never let what happened in Hampstead happen again. Water issues, Exit 4A falling apart, and school adequacy funding are all examples of failed leadership in our district. I have a history of fighting for people in need.
Do you support state funding for charter schools? I will support state funding for charter schools when our public schools are properly funded.
Do you support stricter gun laws? No, I support improving mental health. Nearly every case of gun violence can be brought back to mental health. New Hampshire ranks one of the worst in the country when it comes to mental health. We must address mental health and we can do that without increasing taxes by legalizing cannabis and using a portion of that money.
Do you support paid family leave? 100%
Do you support access to abortion? Yes. This is a private decision that needs to be left between women and their doctor. I support smaller government, I believe in our Constitution and our state motto "Live Free or Die." We need to stop being hypocrites and put more faith in the residents of this great state.