Sununu set to make first State of the State address as N.H. governor

  • Gov. Chris Sununu will give his first State of the State address as New Hampshire’s governor Thursday, where he’s expected to demonstrate how life has improved in the state under his watch. AP file

For the Monitor
Thursday, February 15, 2018

In his first State of the State address, Gov. Chris Sununu plans to demonstrate how life has improved in New Hampshire under his watch as he highlights his legislative achievements from the last 13 months.

“Life in New Hampshire is better today than it was one year ago – and that’s no accident,” Sununu will say Thursday, according to quotes released by the governor’s office in advance of the speech.

The governor’s office said Sununu will spotlight issues such as new STEM-focused educational initiatives and improvements to New Hampshire’s management of veterans care.

With such issues as Medicare expansion renewal and paid family leave currently in front of the Legislature, the governor’s expected to call on lawmakers to find areas of agreement that will result in better outcomes for New Hampshire residents.

The governor is expected to address the state’s acute drug crisis, saying “our mission to reverse the terrible effects of the opioid epidemic rests on our ability as leaders to embrace a spirit of cooperation, innovation, and compassion when we craft the solutions to meet the needs of our families and neighbors.”

Sununu is also expected to make another push for a proposed constitutional amendment, known as Marsy’s Law, that aims to make sure victims of crime have the same basic rights as defendants under the state constitution.

“Victims of crime deserve equal constitutional rights – the same rights as defendants. No more, no less,” Sununu is expected to say.

He will also push for increased cutting of state regulations and tout the state’s two-year budget that he signed into law last summer, which includes business tax cuts.

New Hampshire’s first Republican governor in a dozen years saw much of his agenda passed in 2017 by the GOP-controlled state House and state Senate. Sununu is expected to contrast that with the partisan gridlock in the nation’s capital, saying “despite Washington’s dysfunction, here in New Hampshire, we’re finally focused on the individual, not just the system. We’re putting people over politics.”

The top Democrat in the state Senate’s hoping for some “clear direction” when Sununu gives his address.

“I wish we had a clear direction of where the governor is going,” Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn said in a recent interview with the Monitor and WKXL radio in Concord. “He seems to be impulsive in a lot of ways. Says one thing and does something different.”

“When you talk about family leave. He campaigned on it and then the day it passed he had very critical comments,” the Democrat from the North Country added.

And Woodburn urged that Sununu “has to be more of a player in the day to day operations of state government. We’re looking forward to working with him on issues we agree with and sitting down and ironing out differences that we do have.”

One of the biggest issues facing the state this year is renewal of New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion program, which currently sunsets in December. Some 50,000 low-income Granite Staters obtain their health insurance through the program.

Woodburn said he’s “looking for (Sununu’s) leadership on Medicaid expansion. He needs to be a partner. He needs to convince Republicans to support this plan. The majority of the Democrats if not all of the Democrats in the legislature will support Medicaid expansion or at least support it in concept.”

But Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, an author of the current Medicaid expansion program who’s leading bipartisan efforts to come up with a five-year renewal, disagreed with Woodburn. He said that the governor is very much engaged in the negotiations.

“I think that people are going to be very happy about where the governor is leading the state to protect those 50,000 people,” the Republican senator from Wolfeboro said.

Bradley highlighted the state’s budget surplus, the doubling of funds for alcohol and drug prevention, beefing up staffing at the Division for Children, Youth and Family and increased mental health funding.

“I think at the end of the day, what people in New Hampshire really care about is opportunity in their jobs and their take-home pay. And all those are improving under the leadership of Chris Sununu,” Bradley said.

Sounding like a Sununu surrogate, Bradley also touted Sununu’s signature first-term accomplishments, expansion of full-day kindergarten and reducing the state’s regulatory burden.

“I think that the governor has a great record of accomplishment to talk about,” Bradley declared.