Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky played up his progressive politics in a radio debate with state Sen. Dan Feltes, embracing a state income tax and labeling the host a “Trump/Pence/Sununu/Edelblut/DeVos Republican.”
The debate, hosted and moderated by Jack Heath on WGIR radio, focused on tax and energy policy as well as Gov. Chris Sununu’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis. While Feltes pledged he would veto a broad-based income or sales tax, Volinsky rejected the question itself as “typical Republican rhetoric.”
Heath asked Volinsky for a “percentage number of what it would be, would it mirror our neighboring states?”
“It depends on what the legislature puts forward,” Volinsky said. “There is no number because we have to have a debate about how to do this.”
Volinsky’s argues that refusing to raise income taxes means a commitment to raise property taxes. At one point, he compared property taxes to pizza.
“A pizza in Moultonborough costs $7.25. In Manchester, it costs $25. In Claremont, it’s $42. And the pizza in Manchester and Claremont comes without cheese,” Volinsky said. “Those aren’t arbitrary numbers; those are the actual tax rates.”
“I like pizza, too,” Feltes said, “but the people making the pizza shouldn’t be paying an income tax.”
On energy policy, Volinsky stood by his pledge to “lead the charge to bring big, bold climate action in the framework of the Green New Deal.”
During Wednesday’s debate, Volinsky repeated his opposition to any increase in natural gas. “There are better choices,” Volinsky said, while acknowledging that New Hampshire currently gets just one percent of its power from solar. More than 80 percent of residents use home heating oil, natural gas or propane. Volinsky didn’t explain how he would make up that massive difference.
“Denying that there’s a winter heating need in New Hampshire is akin to denying climate change,” Feltes said. “People need to heat their homes in the winter in New Hampshire.”
“You can’t snap your fingers and transition everybody to clean energy right way,” Feltes said.
An income tax and the Green New Deal are popular among New Hampshire’s most progressive voters. But are they enough to win a New Hampshire primary — not to mention a general election against a Republican governor who’s approval rating remains around 60 percent?
Progressive candidates haven’t fared well in New Hampshire statewide primaries of late, with Democrats choosing more center-left candidates like Chris Pappas, Molly Kelly and Maggie Hassan to represent their party. But Volinsky is embracing his inner Bernie.
In fact, on Wednesday night, Volinsky had a series of posts about Sen. Sanders (who endorsed Volinsky) on his Twitter feed, but just one reference to Biden and Harris. Some N.H. progressives have expressed dissatisfaction with the Democratic ticket.
Those appear to be the voters Volinsky is targeting. In his closing remarks, the executive councilor turned his fire on the host, Jack Heath.
“It’s clear that you’re a Trump/Pence/Sununu/Edelblut/DeVos Republican, you ask those questions in that way,” Volinsky told Heath. “People who are going to vote on September 8 just got a chance to see who’s going to stand up better to the Republican line of attack. I think I do that.”
Heath thanked Volinsky for appearing on his radio show. “I always enjoy having you on.”
After the debate, Feltes spokesperson Emma Sands told NHJournal, “You heard one candidate who is focused on attacks and then you heard from Sen. Feltes who is focused on the issues, who is putting out comprehensive plans, who is right for this moment, and who is ready to step in day one as governor.”
Volinsky declined a request for comment.