Round 2 For Sununu
CONCORD – Divided government is reality in New Hampshire, as one day after House Democrats passed a gun ban and Senate Democrats expressed support for higher business taxes, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu asked those who now control the Legislature to help him reach common goals.
“I implore this legislature to learn from the mistakes of the past. The last thing we should be doing is raising taxes or pushing a budget that does not live within our means. And it should go without saying: There will be no sales or income tax of any kind on my watch,” Sununu said Thursday during his second inauguration speech.
Despite the Democratic “blue wave” that drenched most of New Hampshire – and much of the nation – during the November general election, Sununu managed to win a second two-year term by defeating former state senator Molly Kelly.
“Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, Independent or Libertarian, we all share a passion for making our communities the strongest they can be,” Sununu said Thursday. “A commitment to making sure that New Hampshire remains the best place to live, work and raise a family.”
Sununu also discussed the difficult balance of battling climate change and meeting ever-increasing energy demands.
He said the Office of Strategic Initiatives and Public Utilities Commission are currently working on a plan for the multi-million-dollar Clean Energy Fund, which will be made available this year. He wants to see renewable energy projects for low-income families and communities be a priority for those investment dollars.
“Whether it’s solar, or wind, or battery storage, we need to ensure that the benefits of these well-intentioned programs deliver results to the people who are struggling to pay the bill each month,” Sununu said.
Sununu is the state’s first GOP governor in more than a decade. He highlighted several of his first-term successes, while discussing his plans for his next two years serving Granite Staters in Concord. During his second inaugural address in Representatives Hall, he stood before lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. With his wife Valerie by his side, he proudly proclaimed the progress already made, while acknowledging there is still a lot to do.
Some accomplishments include establishing full-day kindergarten, signing comprehensive child protection and welfare bills and providing tax relief for small businesses. He also discussed implementing the Hub and Spoke Model, which serves as a model for the country’s response to creating long-term solutions for the substance use disorder (SUD) crisis reaching every corner of the state.
Additionally, he said 50,000 low-income New Hampshire residents got to keep their health care as a result of the work being done in Concord.
“That’s the New Hampshire way: designing innovative systems that put individuals first, giving them a chance to thrive,” Sununu said.
Moreover, he placed a heavy emphasis on the importance of children growing up in New Hampshire. Citing statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sununu said New Hampshire had the highest rate of pediatric cancer for all 50 states from 2003 to 2014. For Sununu, that is unacceptable, as he said officials must work together to find answers, create solutions and lead the way out of this crisis.
“Answers will not come overnight, but starting today, this crisis is a top priority of my administration and the state of New Hampshire,” Sununu said.
Sununu also said $30 million was invested into safe schools, with 500 schools receiving grants to make their schools safer. However, aside from prioritizing the safety of students, Sununu also has plans to boost education across the state. One such plan he announced during his address is the creation of New Hampshire Career Academies, which would work with the community college system to allow students to take on an optional fifth year of high school. That will then enable them to not only receive a high school diploma, but also a certificate and a college associate’s degree for free. Additionally, he said it comes with a guaranteed interview with a New Hampshire company for a job in the state.
Another initiative Sununu unveiled Thursday relative to schools is the Jason Flatt Act, in which teachers will complete two hours of youth suicide awareness and prevention training each year. The training can be provided at no cost to the state or local school district due to the support of the Jason Foundation.
Additionally, he said suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people in New Hampshire, citing that while there is no single answer, there is more that can be done to change that statistic.
“Talking about suicide is difficult – it’s heartbreaking,” Sununu said. “But sometimes, all it takes is one conversation to save a life.”
He said work is being done to rebuild and re-engineer the entire mental health system, and that officials are now in greater compliance with the Community Mental Health Agreement than previously. Additionally, mobile crisis teams and 40 additional community residential beds with wrap-around services have been added.
“In the coming weeks, we will be releasing a new 10-Year Mental Health Plan,” Sununu said.
He also said the State Psychiatric Unit will be moved out of the State Prison this year.
Moreover, New Hampshire’s Hub and Spoke Model opened its doors this week for the first time across the state, which is now known as ‘The Doorway.’ Also, as of Thursday, Sununu said 63 businesses, with over 40,000 employees, have signed up to join the Recovery Friendly Workplace initiative, which creates workplaces that become part of someone’s recovery journey.
Another highlight from his address is that lowering the cost of doing business through tax relief has allowed businesses to invest in their workforce, which he said is a key factor in the state’s significant wage growth.
Sununu said New Hampshire has the lowest poverty rate in the nation, while at the same time, business taxes are at their lowest in decades. However, Sununu still sees ways to improve the lives of those less fortunate.
With much accomplished already and future plans brewing, Sununu also mentioned new ideas for next month. On Valentine’s Day, he will be submitting a state budget, and sometime during February, will be proposing a significant investment into growing New Hampshire’s workforce.
“I will be proposing the state’s single largest ever investment into workforce training – a $24 million one-time investment – to grow our state’s nursing and health care workforce and double the number of those graduates in New Hampshire schools,” Sununu said.
Sununu covered a lot of topics in his hour or so speech, but early on said, “There is no doubt New Hampshire is better off today than it was two years ago.”
Adam Urquhart may be reached at 594-1206, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.