CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Republican Gov. Chris Sununu touted economic, educational and environmental successes in his State of the State address Thursday, while offering a handful of initiatives spanning life stages from pre-birth to old age.
Sununu, who is seeking a third term in November, urged lawmakers to reflect on how “here in New Hampshire, we do it a little bit different, and we do it a lot better.”
“When times are good, we do not raise taxes, we don’t create bureaucracy,” he said. “We create opportunity — doors of opportunity. We solve problems, innovate and simply get the job done.”
Sununu said 2019 was a banner year for the state’s economy, thanks in part to his deliberate pro-jobs, pro-growth agenda. He boasted about preventing new taxes and tax increases, investing in public education and supporting the development of tough drinking water standards. And said he will continue working to increase opportunity for all, across the lifespan.
Following up on a recent initiative to allow state employees to bring infants to work, Sununu said he will back legislation to ensure pregnant women are treated fairly on the job and are provided with reasonable workplace accommodations. At the opposite end of the spectrum, he announced that the state’s new health and human services commissioner will spend the next 90 days developing solutions “to get long term care back on track in New Hampshire.”
Too many seniors are waiting in hospital beds for placement in assisted living facilities or nursing homes, he said.
“We cannot wait for the current challenges surrounding senior health care to turn into a crisis,” he said.
For the population in between pregnant women and seniors, Sununu also repeated his support for a paid family leave program. But that remains a contentious issue — he vetoed a Democratic bill last year, tried unsuccessfully to launch a bi-state program with Vermont and is now backing a Republican bill that would allow participants to take time off to care for a sick family member but not to tend to their own medical conditions.
“The governor says he wants something, but he always comes a step short of something that is actually going to help people,” said House Speaker Steve Shurtleff, D-Concord.
Senate President Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, agreed.
“It’s clearly an election year. Talking about paid family medical leave and some of the other legislation the governor proposed, his idea of compromise and bipartisanship I don’t think is demonstrated in those pieces of legislation,” she said.
Soucy said she hasn’t seen Sununu’s legislation about pregnant women because it was filed late, but noted that Democrats have proposed multiple bills related to family friendly workplaces.
“I don’t think those measures we’re hearing about really measure up. I think they’re sort of halfway there,” she said.
Democrats won control of both the House and Senate in 2018, setting up a pattern of dozens of bills passing both chambers only to be vetoed by Sununu. That included the $13 billion, two-year state budget last year, though he signed a compromise spending plan in September three months behind schedule.
Republican leaders praised the speech. House Minority Leader Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack, said previous Republican-led Legislatures laid the groundwork for the state’s sustained economic growth and protection of personal liberty, and that Sununu has been “the firewall” against Democrats who want to roll back that progress and make New Hampshire resemble “high-tax, nanny state neighbors like Massachusetts.”
Watching the speech from the upper gallery of Representatives Hall were two survivors of a a motorcycle crash that killed seven people in Randolph last summer, along with several men who organized a memorial ride that attracted thousands of people to the state.
“It’s that spirit that we have to remember,” he said. “The job is so much bigger than ourselves.”
While Sununu praised state transportation workers and others who ensured the event went smoothly, Democrats later said they wished Sununu had addressed an ongoing contract impasse with state employees. Dozens of state workers protested outside the Statehouse before the speech.
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