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GOP lawmakers laud Sununu bipartisan outreach, Democrats lament insufficient 'substance'

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 15. 2018 1:15PM
State Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Whitefield, joins with fellow Democrats at a press conference in response to Gov. Chris Sununu's State of the State address at the State House in Concord on Thursday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

CONCORD — Legislative leaders broke largely along partisan lines reacting to Gov. Chris Sununu’s State of the State speech Thursday.

“This governor has amazing energy and enthusiasm about what’s happening in New Hampshire and he has every right to say we wouldn’t be there without a lot of hard bipartisan work over the past year,” said Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem.

Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn of Whitefield said Sununu made no commitment to beef up state spending this year to battle the opioid crisis. Woodburn promoted his proposed amendment to the state Constitution to set aside 5 percent of state liquor profits for substance abuse treatment and recovery.

“If we are peddling booze on our highways as a state, we should be making sure we are committing enough resources to substance abuse treatment,” Woodburn said.

Hours after calling for it, the Republican-led state Senate rejected that amendment (CACR 21) on a partisan vote.

David Mara, the state’s drug czar, said federal budget debate later this spring should shed light on how much more aid could be coming to New Hampshire to tackle the problem. 

Sen. Dan Feltes, D-Concord, said Sununu failed to offer any initiatives on workforce development and job training.

“Governor Sununu’s tax cuts for large corporations, many of them multinationals, are not working. We have lost 6,000 jobs in 2017,” said Feltes who hasn’t ruled out running for governor this fall.

On Medicaid expansion, Senate President Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said GOP leaders are awaiting word from the Trump administration on a proposed design he said would not require higher taxes and fees or raise current levels of state spending.

“We had hoped it would be ready to talk about today but there are still some details to work out,” Bradley said.

Morse said he fully expects the federal government will endorse the plan to expand Medicaid work requirements, as it has endorsed similar requirements in Kentucky and Indiana.

House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff, D-Concord, said Sununu and GOP legislative leaders are going to need Democrats for any future plan to pass.

“We have 170 House Republicans who have signed a pledge to Americans for Prosperity to oppose Medicaid expansion,” Shurtleff said.

Feltes said that, as members of a Medicaid solution commission, he and state Rep. Cindy Rosewald, D-Nashua, have taken part in private talks with GOP leaders and the Sununu administration.

“We’ve been involved in discussions for several months,” Feltes said.

Republican State Chairman Jeanie Forrester said Sununu in 13 months has a strong record of performance.

“Gov. Chris Sununu’s policies have resulted in lower taxes and fewer regulations on businesses large and small. The result? New Hampshire has the fastest-growing economy in New England,” Forrester said in a statement.

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Thank you, Sununu