By John Celock
New Hampshire’s governor made veterans, the opioid crisis and his 2017 record the centerpiece of his State of the State address
Gov. Chris Sununu (R) used his speech to lawmakers Thursday to announce a new initiative to combine veterans’ services in the state, along with a new opioid prevention program and a new STEM initiative. Sununu, who is seeking a second term this year, also used much of his speech to discuss his first-year record in office.
“I ran for governor because I knew that with good management, New Hampshire could become the gold standard for civic engagement, community service, and entrepreneurial opportunity,” Sununu said. “Today in New Hampshire, businesses have lower taxes, fewer regulations, and a stronger workforce, allowing them to reinvest in their communities.”
Sununu made his 2017 record the highlight of much of his speech, touting his work on creating educational savings accounts, taxes, elimination of tolls and growth of the state’s rainy day fund. He also focused on the creation of new educational programs, including several scholarships.
Sununu made infrastructure issues a center piece of his speech, noting that last year the state was able to provide checks to every community for infrastructure improvements. He also noted that the state’s public school infrastructure fund was able to provide grants to school districts statewide for new security programs.
Sununu announced the creation of a new Governor’s Cup robotics competition. He said that the program – sponsored by the state’s university and community college system and the FIRST Robotics corporation – would allow another way for students to engage in the STEM professions. The winner of the competition will win a semester’s tuition at either a state university or community college.
Sununu announced in the speech that he would be signing an executive order on Thursday to combine the state’s veterans’ services under one umbrella. He said this would allow for a more coordinated approach to assisting veterans statewide.
“Going forward, we must recognize a fundamental truth, that once a person signs those enlistment papers, they are a soldier for life,” he said. “Which means as civilians we carry the obligation of ensuring we will be there for them just as they stood for us.”
In the area of mental health and drug addiction, Sununu said the state is continuing in the development of a comprehensive long term mental health plan.
Sununu also tackled the state’s ongoing opioid crisis noting that the state would create a recovery friendly workplace initiative. He said this would allow companies in the state to create workplaces friendly to the recovery process in order to help those battling an opioid addiction.
“This is an opportunity for New Hampshire to help change the culture around addiction by engaging employers in being a proactive part of the conversation by providing tools, resources, and opening up access to treatment like never before,” he said.
The opioid crisis has been a top issue in New Hampshire politics for several years, becoming a center piece for most leaders in the state. U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D) and Maggie Hassan (D) have made the issue a top concern in Washington, and state legislators routinely have the issue on the agenda. Hassan, Sununu’s predecessor as governor, made opioid issues a centerpiece of her State of the State addresses.
New Hampshire Democrats were critical of Sununu’s speech, saying that he left out a variety of issues that have top on the list of Democratic lawmakers, including creation of new commuter rail lines in the state, addressing gun control, LGBT rights and climate change.