Jilletta Jarvis, the Libertarian candidate for the New Hampshire governorship, believes she can appeal to Democrats and Republicans.
Her agenda of lower taxes and limited government should appeal to those on the right, Jarvis said in an interview Monday at The Sentinel’s offices.
As for Democratic voters? “I appeal to them by saying, ‘I am a person who comes into this with a lot more compassion,’ ” she said. “I have walked the streets of Manchester and sat down and spoken with the homeless people that are stuck there with no place to go.”
Though she has not held elected office before, Jarvis, of Sandown, touted her work in the private sector. Now a full-time political candidate, she previously worked at JPMorgan & Chase in compliance and other departments, and in managerial roles at other businesses.
Those positions involved knowing federal laws, bringing stakeholders together and holding people accountable for the goals they set — all important skills for a chief executive, she said.
This year marks the first state election since the 1990s in which the Libertarian Party has had major-party status, which makes it easier to place candidates on the ballot. That’s thanks to the 2016 election, in which the Libertarian Max Abramson of Seabrook won more than 4 percent of votes — the major-party threshold — in the governor’s race.
Jarvis faces incumbent Gov. Chris Sununu, a Newfields Republican, and former state senator Molly M. Kelly, a Harrisville Democrat, in the Nov. 6 general election.
On Monday, Jarvis said Libertarianism is about advancing both personal and economic freedom.
“I believe that the government is supposed to be here to protect your life, your property and your equal pursuit of happiness,” she said.
She said she would work to lower taxes, eliminate redundant government functions and reduce inefficient spending. Asked about specific spending cuts, she did not propose any, but said, “I really want to look through a line-item budget.”
She mentioned two particular changes she’d like to see in the state’s tax structure. One is a “tax ramp-up program” meant to ease the burden on new businesses. A startup would pay nothing in business taxes during its first year. Those taxes would gradually phase in over the next three years, with the full tax obligation beginning in year five.
“You’re growing into the business, and you’re growing into the tax burden at the same time,” Jarvis said. “And this will help people who want to start a business, because they wouldn’t have to worry about that one aspect the first year.”
She also pushed for an incentive that would allow people to donate to a charity of their choice — from a list approved by the Legislature — and reduce their property-tax burden by that amount.
“You’re choosing where that money is going, and the whole state doesn’t have to give to it,” she said.
Companies could do the same to reduce their business-tax liabilities, she said, adding that the Legislature would determine the maximum amount of the incentive.
In some realms, Jarvis said, the state government could do more, including committing additional resources to the mental-health system.
She also floated an idea to address homelessness. The state, she said, could purchase vacant buildings, divide them into small living spaces and lease them to people for a year on certain conditions — that they remain drug free, perform community service and find employment, which the state could help with.
“You put the money that you earn into an account so that at the end of the year, you now have enough to go get your own apartment … and that would help to get people on the road to being self-sustaining again,” she said.
Though it would be a taxpayer-funded program, it could ultimately reduce reliance on public assistance and on tax-funded homeless shelters, she said.
On public education, Jarvis criticized inequities in the current system, in which the state covers a small portion of the cost per student and leaves the bulk to local property taxpayers.
She proposed centralizing the taxation and funding mechanism to smooth out those disparities.
First, she said, a commission would work with education-system stakeholders to determine “what do we need to do to educate a student to get them so that they qualify for college, and then what does it actually cost to do that?”
Based on that, she’d propose creating a system under which the government would collect the tax revenue necessary for “meeting what we actually need” and then “distribute it per child throughout the state.”
Essentially, the state — rather than local school districts — would fund essential costs like personnel, facilities and school books, with the school tax burden shifting from a patchwork of local rates to a standardized statewide one.
That wouldn’t prevent a school district from asking voters to fund other projects, she said.
“If a school wants to do something additional — say they want to revamp their sports field — at that point they could go to the town,” she said.
In addition, Jarvis said New Hampshire should legalize casino gambling and allow municipalities to decide if they want to permit such establishments. The casino revenues would then be used to offset school funding costs on a statewide basis, she said.
When it comes to the opioid crisis, Jarvis spoke about the need to make sure support continues for people once they leave treatment programs. That includes helping them find housing and work situations that are conducive to recovery.
“We should be promoting those independent charities and groups and organizations who already do this,” she said.
Jarvis supports legalizing marijuana in New Hampshire, and said it should be regulated similarly to other legal substances, such as tobacco, but with 21 the minimum age to purchase.
Asked how to attract more young people to the state, she pointed to a lack of affordable multi-family housing in smaller towns.
She also said New Hampshire should create a regulatory framework that would allow for commercial hemp. She touted it as an exciting, environmentally friendly industry.
“This green science is something that a lot of younger people are really excited about,” she said. “So bring these new industries here.”