FILE - NH Chris Sununu 1-14-2020

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu speaks Jan. 14, 2020, at an event in Nashua, New Hampshire.

(The Center Square) – New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu is advising state lawmakers that his administration has started making plans in case the coronavirus outbreak takes a toll on state revenue.

The governor sent a letter Friday to state Rep. Mary Jane Wallner, chairwoman of the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee, and the other members of the committee warning that the national economic effects of the virus were still unknown. Given that uncertainty, Sununu said, it was prudent to begin looking at ways to trim costs now.

“Accordingly, I have asked all Department heads to start making plans to potentially reduce expenditures in the future,” Sununu wrote. “In the coming days, I am going to ask some Department heads to take immediate actions to cut expenses and, in other cases, will be providing departments with guidance to identify savings.”

The governor stated that his administration would still be committed to maintaining needed services, but he said that taking action now could prevent more painful measures down the road.

“[W]e must be prepared to make adjustments as the full extent of the economic disruption of COVID-19 [is] understood, including its impact on travel and tourism, trade, and business revenues,” Sununu said, referencing the disease caused by the coronavirus. “It would be financial malpractice to wait until revenues decline so substantially that even greater cuts would be necessary.”

Sununu also announced Friday that he had activated the Emergency Operations Center at the Incident Planning and Operations Center in Concord. That action will allow the center to coordinate the coronavirus response between the Departments of Safety, Health and Human Services, Business and Economic Affairs, Administrative Services and Justice.

“The State Emergency Operations Center is the state’s incident coordination center,” Department of Safety Assistant Commissioner Perry Plummer said. “The SEOC brings together the necessary state agencies to manage response communication, coordination of supply and equipment delivery, monitor response activities and provide essential resources to our local, state and federal partners.”

In light of school closures in other states, Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut sent a message to school superintendents across the state describing how New Hampshire might decide to make such a decision and how students’ needs should continue to be met.

“The determination to disrupt your educational system is of course a difficult one and we all play a role,” Edelblut wrote. “Public health may order such an action. If I felt it was necessary statewide, I would act. More likely, however, it will be a community by community determination. We may not want to close schools in Berlin, but may close schools in towns bordering [Massachusetts], as an example.”

As of Friday afternoon, New Hampshire had six diagnosed cases of coronavirus.

Regional Editor

Dave Lemery is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience. He was the editor of Suburban Life Media when its flagship newspaper was named best weekly in Illinois, and he has worked at papers in South Carolina, Indiana, Idaho and New York.