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In New Hampshire Governor's Race, Democrats Support Raising Taxes for Opioid Battle

Three Democratic gubernatorial candidates took to the stage during a televised debate Tuesday night, looking to convince a majority of party voters they are the most qualified.

By Mark Hayward

Three Democratic gubernatorial candidates took to the stage during a televised debate Tuesday night, looking to convince a majority of party voters they are the most qualified.

Two Democratic candidates laid out what taxes they would increase to raise revenues for the state, money they said could be used to tackle the opioid epidemic.

Former Deputy Secretary of State Mark Connolly said he would increase the gas tax and raise the tobacco tax by 10 cents, generating $17 million. The Bedford resident said modernization of the business profits tax without changing the rate would bring in $20 million to $30 million a year.

Former Portsmouth mayor Steve Marchand said he would increase the gas tax, return the business profits tax to its higher rate and legalize and tax marijuana, a move he said would raise $30 million in revenues.

The two spoke during Tuesday night's Granite State Debate, co-sponsored by the New Hampshire Union Leader and WMUR TV.

The third candidate, Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern of Concord, said he is passionate about Medicaid expansion because of the money it brings into the state -- $680 million.

"That's a great way to keep taxes low," Van Ostern said.

Marchand, 42, portrayed himself as the progressive candidate in the race, the only one of the three to support Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary, a supporter of paid family leave and an opponent of Northern Pass.

He said he grew up on the West Side of Manchester in a family that struggled with bankruptcy because of a family illness. Had Medicaid been expanded then, the family would not have gone broke, he said.

"That toughens you up, makes you independent but makes you realize you can't do it all by yourself no matter how hard you try," he said.

Van Ostern, 37, said he was raised by a single mom and didn't always have health insurance; New Hampshire was the 18th home he had when he moved here 15 years ago.

Connolly, 61, said he was coded as a remedial learner at a young age, but he ended up being an advanced student who went on to attend and graduate from Dartmouth College.

"My whole life has been about understanding what it's like not to have much," he said.

When asked if they support the death penalty, all three candidates said they oppose it, with Marchand saying he said would toss out the death sentence of convicted murderer Michael Addison, currently on death row for the Oct. 16, 2006, shooting death of Manchester police officer Michael Briggs.

New Hampshire Union Leader staff reporter Paul Feely contributed to this report.

(c)2016 The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.)

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
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