(The Center Square) – Gov. Chris Sununu touted New Hampshire's response to the coronavirus pandemic in his inauguration speech Thursday night and pledged to help rebuild the state's economy by keeping taxes low and creating more jobs.
Sununu, who was sworn in for a third term earlier in the day, began his remarks by reflecting on the hardships Granite Staters have endured in the previous year as the state battled the COVID-19 outbreak and its economic fallout.
"2020 was a very tough year," Sununu said in the roughly half-hour speech livestreamed on YouTube. "For many individuals, life’s plans took a drastic turn as jobs were lost, businesses upended, weeks and sometimes months of isolation, massive disruptions in school."
The Republican chief executive, who is emboldened by a new Republican-controlled Legislature, didn't specifically outline any policy proposals but vowed to push for more workforce housing, lowering health care costs, reducing student debt and creating a paid family leave law "without an income tax."
"We will continue the work of rebuilding our economy by reducing taxes and growing jobs, we will work to maintain one of the best public education systems in the nation while also expanding educational opportunities for students and families," Sununu said. "And we will continue to lower the cost of prescription drugs and health insurance premiums."
Throughout much of the speech, Sununu struck a philosophical tone. He quoted from biblical scripture and Abraham Lincoln, invoked the state's "Live Free or Die" motto and talked about "new beginnings" amid the pandemic.
"This COVID crisis is a very messy situation, and it shook our communities to the core," Sununu said. "But sometimes a mess is an opportunity in disguise – a chance to re-imagine what can be."
He didn't specifically mention the rioting at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday by Republican President Donald Trump's supporters but talked about people with a "cynical belief in corruption" and chided those who "promote an agenda of discord."
"That results in a lasting damage to the public conscience as a whole," Sununu said. "It tears at the fabric of the 'Live Free or Die' spirit."
"And we mustn’t let COVID or politics rob us of our passion for neighborliness," he added.
Sununu, 46, handily won a third-term in the Nov. 3 election after beating back a challenge from Democrat Dan Feltes, a former Senate majority leader.
The inaugural events were moved online amid concerns about the governor's safety with "armed protesters" vowing to show up. Last week, at least one protester was arrested and several others fined for violating a new anti-picketing law outside Sununu's Newfields home.
Sununu has been lauded for his response to the coronavirus outbreak in the state, but has faced criticism from conservative groups that argue his actions to control the coronavirus have hurt businesses and individuals freedoms.
Local newspapers reported a group of about 100 protesters gathered outside the State House as Sununu was being sworn into office in a closed ceremony.
Meanwhile, Sununu has resisted calls to impose tougher restrictions on businesses and public gatherings amid a surge of COVID-19 infections, which has drawn criticism from Democrats.
Shortly after his speech, the state's Democratic Party posted a statement on social media blasting Sununu's response to the pandemic.
"Granite Staters are getting COVID-19 and dying at far greater rates than neighboring states’ residents, and Governor Sununu refuses to take action to save lives," the statement read. "His COVID response has been nothing short of a failure."