Sununu calls for bipartisan cooperation in 2nd inauguration
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Republican Gov. Chris Sununu started his second term Thursday seeking bipartisan cooperation from the newly Democratic Legislature on several proposals, including welfare reform and providing tuition-free college degrees.
While the state’s last five Democratic governors faced Republican-led Legislatures for at least part of their tenures, Sununu is the first in modern history to be in the opposite situation. In his inaugural address, he told lawmakers to avoid using the upcoming state budget to further partisan agendas and, instead, focus on finding common ground.
“In November, the voters in this state .... they really set us on a path, and it does require that we, as state leaders, come together, truly embrace a spirt of cooperation and work together to get things done for the state of New Hampshire,” he said. “We have to remember there are 1.35 million people counting on that, and they truly deserve nothing less.”
Sununu said he wants to reform public assistance programs “to ensure they are a ladder out of poverty and not a road block to those who want to work hard.” Without offering details, he challenged lawmakers to make changes that both save taxpayer money and help people who want independence but stay in low-wage jobs or even abusive relationships to keep their benefits.
“Frankly, the dynamic simply makes no sense,” he said.
Sununu said his priorities also include improving foster care, creating a commission to study New Hampshire’s high rate of pediatric cancer and mandating suicide prevention training for teachers. He proposed the creation of the “New Hampshire Career Academy,” which would combine a fifth year of high school with community college work, resulting in a high school diploma, free associate’s degree and a guaranteed job interview. The program would be modeled after an arrangement the Rochester school district has with a local manufacturing firm and Great Bay Community College.
“Government is not the solution to every problem, but government can help ensure that the doors of opportunity are open at every level,” he said.
He called the work requirements included in the state’s expanded Medicaid program another key component of strengthening the workforce and an example of bipartisanship. But he also praised changes made by the Trump administration that Senate Democrats are drafting legislation to reverse.
“It was truly bipartisan, it truly was give-and-take,” Senate President Donna Soucy said of the original proposal. “I think we struck a perfect balance.”
Soucy, D-Manchester, said she was reserving judgment on most of Sununu’s proposals given their lack of specificity.
“I think the shout-outs to the Legislature on our ability to work together were warranted and deserved. I think there are some things he mentioned that we can certainly work together on. Obviously the details are yet to surface on some of them,” she said.
House Republican Leader Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack, praised Sununu’s “positive vision” and leadership.
“He is committed to keeping our economy strong by keeping our tax burden and state spending as low as we responsibly can. That might be unpopular with Democrats in the Legislature, but it is the right thing to do,” Hinch said in a statement.
At just over an hour, Sununu’s address was more than three times longer than his notably brief first inaugural address two years ago. This one featured quotes from both the wizard Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series and actor Adam Sandler, along with family stories about growing up as the son of former Gov. John H. Sununu, who was in the audience. House Speaker Steve Shurtleff goofed and introduced the younger Sununu as the elder before correcting himself.
“It’s always got to be something,” the current governor quipped. “Can’t live that guy down.”
This story has been updated to correct the name of the education program to “New Hampshire Career Academy.”