CONCORD – Republican Gov. Chris Sununu touted his past successes and set goals for the future in his annual State of the State address as Democrats were quick to criticize and state employees without a contract picketed in front of the State House on Thursday.
“New Hampshire does things a little differently. We challenge ourselves to find innovative solutions. We don’t subscribe to a one-size fits-all approach and that has allowed the state to be stronger and better than ever before,” Sununu told the joint session of the House and Senate in Representatives Hall.
Sununu was quick to praise the handling of the first-in-the-nation primary Tuesday “in a year of record turnout,” singling out Secretary of State Bill Gardner and Deputy Secretary Dave Scanlan for a round of applause.
“We say thank you, thank you, thank you, sir, great job,” Sununu said.
Sununu spoke about creating pregnancy protections for working women, economic issues and health care, and the state’s opioid crisis among others.
“When times are good, we do not raise taxes and create bureaucracy – we create opportunity. Doors of opportunity that solve problems,” he said.
Other states follow New Hampshire, Sununu said.
“In just the last year, we stopped unnecessary new taxes. We’ve eliminated the Merrimack tolls once and for all,” Sununu said. “And took historic action to protect our environment. We prevented business tax increases and made record investments into our education system, child protection programs, and mental health.”
The developmentally disabled waitlist is now fully funded, he said.
“That was just the beginning,” Sununu said.
Sununu said the state has lowered health insurance costs and protected pre-existing conditions.
“2019 was a banner year for the New Hampshire economy. Over the last year, New Hampshire families have benefited greatly from record levels of unemployment and focus on our workforce while making high-paying quality jobs available,” Sununu said.
“We see business taxes are at their lowest ever this century, and more people are working than ever before. The model works — and it’s proven.”
He said when people come together, no one does it better than New Hampshire.
“Washington could learn a thing or two from us up here. We don’t spend countless days locked in gridlock, we roll up our sleeves and get to work. There is so much more we still have to accomplish. Let’s Get It Done,” Sununu concluded.
Reaction to Sununu’s Address
Sununu will face the winner of the Democratic primary for governor with currently two seeking that nomination, Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky and state Sen. Dan Feltes, D-Concord. They both criticized Sununu.
“Granite Staters deserve a governor who sides with working and middle-class families, not special interests,” Volinsky said.
“He’s vetoed a bill to raise the minimum wage while taking a $31,000 raise for himself. He’s complicated Medicaid funding at every turn, even as providers struggle to provide basic mental health and opioid treatment services. He’s vetoed multiple bipartisan clean energy initiatives while taking nearly $95,000 from fossil fuel companies. And he and Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut have prioritized funding for new charter schools at great expense to our already under-funded public schools,” Volinsky said.
Sen. Feltes said, “We heard a lot of political rhetoric from Governor Sununu today, but the reality is too many Granite Staters are still struggling with the highest health care costs in the country right here in New Hampshire, the third-highest electric rates, and record-high property taxes. Governor Sununu says the economy is booming, but the people on the ground I talk to aren’t feeling it. We have the lowest wage growth in New England and we are the only state in New England where unemployment has gone up. He’ll keep talking about popular ideas since he’s running for a rare third term, but if he truly considered these issues priorities he’d have worked in a bipartisan way to get results.”
Republican Leader Dick Hinch of Merrimack said: “The governor laid out a compelling case as to why New Hampshire stands out from its neighbors, and why we shouldn’t look to adopt high-tax, high-regulation policies like our neighbors.”
House Speaker Stephen Shurtleff said: “While we can find areas of agreement with the Governor’s remarks today, his failure to mention the current state employee contract was a glaring omission. For nearly eight months, our dedicated state employees have worked without a contract.”
Senate President Donna Soucy said: “We will work with the governor when we can, but he has yet to demonstrate his own bipartisanship following a year of record-breaking vetoes—most on bills that had bipartisan support. Unfortunately, his veto just this week of a third bipartisan net metering proposal, sponsored by a Republican, is not a good sign. Still, House and Senate Democrats remain committed to seeking opportunities for compromise as we lead efforts to pass comprehensive paid family and medical leave, raise the minimum wage, and protect Granite Staters from skyrocketing prescription drug costs.”