Benson gives welcome to Free State
|Title:||Benson gives welcome to Free State|
|Publication:||Nashua Telegraph (AP)|
Benson gives welcome to Free Stateby Katharine Webster The Associated Press 11/02/03
MANCHESTER Gov. Craig Benson welcomed members of the Free State Project to New Hampshire on Saturday, saying he was excited about their plans to move to the state and promote their agenda of smaller government.
"We'd love to have you," Benson told several Free Staters at the annual convention of the state Libertarian Party, held at the Highlander Inn.
"We don't have to agree on everything to make things happen. What we have to agree on is that we're going to leave things better than we found them," he said.
The Libertarian Party and the Free State Project share members and political goals: scaling back government, taxes and reliance on public schools.
Saturday marked one month since supporters of the Free State Project announced they had chosen New Hampshire as the stage for their political "revolution." They hope to move 20,000 "liberty-minded individuals" to the state to transform the political system from within.
Some of the project's 5,000 members want to decriminalize drug use and prostitution and lift restrictions on gun ownership and gambling, as well.
Benson said he disagrees with some of those goals, but agrees with the Free Staters on "the important issues."
"What we're standing for is smaller government," he told reporters after his formal remarks.
"They don't want government on their backs, in their businesses, or in their private lives."
In his speech, Benson described various initiatives he has gotten funded by private businesses, as well as two proposed amendments to the state constitution that he supports.
One, dubbed the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, would limit increases in state spending to the rate of inflation, adjusted for increases in population. It also would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to increase existing taxes.
Members of the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance, a new political action committee formed by members of the Free State Project living in the state, have already said they probably will support that amendment.
The other proposed constitutional amendment would give the Legislature exclusive control over state spending on education.
State Supreme Court decisions have found the state constitution includes a guarantee of public education for every child, paid for by state taxes. Those decisions led to the statewide property tax for schools.
Benson also called for putting the "passion" back into education, in part by letting students get credit for educational experiences outside classrooms.
He characterized public education standards as inflexible, based on a model of learning everything inside four walls, 180 days a year, six hours a day.
"Why do we make someone like my daughter, who's trying out for the Olympics, take gym class, too?" he said, to vigorous applause.
Kelton Baker, president of the Free State Project, presented Benson with a stuffed toy porcupine the movement's mascot after his speech.
"We're very happy and very excited about our work in the state of New Hampshire," he said. "And we're very happy to have a governor who supports us."
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