New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu used Thursday’s State of the State address to look back at the past year and call for the Democratic-led General Court to work with him in the months ahead. That may, though, be easier said than done as the Republican is running for his third two-year term as the state’s top executive later this year.
Nonetheless, he spoke to lawmakers in Concord for about 30 minutes, urging them to work with him as the state comes off what he called a banner year for the economy. Sununu noted that New Hampshire, unlike other New England states, is attracting more people and seeing fewer people in poverty.
“When times are good, we don’t raise taxes, we don’t create bureaucracy,” Sununu said. “We create opportunity.”
One opportunity he sees is a chance to pass a paid family leave bill this session. He called on the Legislature to back a bill by state Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, that would create a voluntary program. He said the bill has been vetted by stakeholders and insurance companies on its feasibility.
“It’s our only shot of delivering a viable, voluntary paid family leave program that doesn’t contain an income tax,” he said. “Let’s not miss an opportunity and get it done for the citizens of our state.”
Democrats were skeptical of the governor’s calls for working together.
Sununu vetoed a Democratic-supported bill that would have created a paid leave program last year. He also took out his veto pen earlier this week to reject a bipartisan measure that passed last year and would have expanded net metering and renewable energy efforts in the state.
“Granite State families are living with the consequences of Chris Sununu’s vetoes – no paid time off to spend with a newborn or sick family member, lower wages, increasing in equality, and surging electric rates,” state Democratic Party chairman Raymond Buckley said in a statement after the governor’s speech. "Sununu’s partisan agenda works fantastically for his corporate special interest donors, but it’s simply not working for New Hampshire.”
Sununu broached several topics during his remarks. On education, he touted the creation of career academies that allow high school students to earn their diploma and an associate's degree while being guaranteed a job interview.
He also supported a plan to lower prescription drug costs that would allow for medicines to be imported from Canada, and he pushed for common-sense approaches to environmental stewardship in the state, which includes support for generating energy through offshore wind farms.
Sununu also touted his decision to keep New Hampshire from joining the Transportation and Climate Initiative, which he said would have led to the state getting a gas tax increase to pay for other states’ failing infrastructure.
That decision earned him the support of Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire.
“Our low-tax, smart regulatory approach is precisely what has led to our recent economic boom,” state director Greg Moore said in a statement after the speech. “Gov. Sununu is right to protect Granite Staters from having their hard-earned tax dollars siphoned off on frivolous projects. We thank the governor for rejecting this top-down government mandate that would hit rural and fixed-income families the hardest.”