Sununu’s Inaugural Speech: Getting Laughs, Going Long and Drawing Lines
The most memorable thing about Gov.
John Chris Sununu’s second inaugural address (other than Speaker Shurtleff’s gaffe) was how much fun the governor had giving it. It’s the defining aspect of the Sununu style of governance: In a time of seemingly non-stop political anger and partisan anguish, Chris Sununu is having a great time.
A little too great, based on the 60+ minutes run time. (“This was 20 minutes when I read it at home last night,” Sununu assured the assembled). Still, by peppering the speech with personal stories and anecdotes– along with classic Sununu self-deprecation–the governor kept things moving. And any speech that can work in quotes from Harry Potter and Adam Sandler can’t be all bad.
Most of the speech was spent cheerleading–another Sununu staple. He celebrated the state’s economy, the previous work of the legislature, the efforts of healthcare and public safety employees, the life of George H. W. Bush, his wife’s charity work with Bridges House, etc.
If Gov. Sununu’s speech had a soundtrack, it would have been “Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie.
But everything isn’t quite awesome, as the governor acknowledged, as he spoke about suicide rates in a way that echoed the discussion of opioid addiction a few years ago. He also talked about the ongoing drug abuse issue, the “hub and spoke” approach, and lingering concerns about the performance of DCYF, etc.
Not surprisingly for a Republican governor who must work with a Democratic-controlled legislature, Sununu avoided partisanship. In fact, the words “Republican” and “Democrat” appear but once in his prepared remarks:
“Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, Independent or Libertarian — we all share a passion for making our communities the strongest they can be.”
But that doesn’t mean Sununu avoided partisan politics. New Hampshire Democrats haven’t been shy talking about the tax increases that are part of their “Granite State Opportunity Plan.” Though the Democrats in the House and Senate haven’t come together on a single approach, they all involve at a minimum taking away tax reductions scheduled for the future, if not raising tax rates on businesses outright.
Gov Sununu didn’t pick any fights from the podium, but he was very clear:
“Look at the data. Revenues are rising. Costly regulations have been eliminated, and we are investing surplus funds into smart one-time investments.
I implore this legislature to learn from the mistakes of the past. The last thing we should be doing is raising taxes or pushing a budget that does not live within our means. And it should go without saying -There will be no sales or income tax of any kind on my watch.”
Sununu also used that rarely-heard word in energy-policy debates: “ratepayer.”
“I have always said we should view energy policy through the lens of the ratepayer. And I hear a lot of talk from legislators that say YES, they will fight for lower electric rates, but then vote for legislation that raises rates and burden our citizens. You can’t have it both ways.”
The irony is that Sununu has his own “both ways” policy on energy, calling for continued subsides of inefficient/expensive wind/solar, but targeted to benefit low-income residents.
“The Office of Strategic Initiatives and Public Utility Commission are currently working out a plan for the multi-million-dollar Clean Energy Fund which is being made available this year. I want to see renewable energy projects for low income families and communities to be a priority for those investment dollars.”
Not exactly the policy of a full-throated free marketer, but a politically-smart position for a Republican who just survived a #BlueWave in a purple state and doesn’t want to lose a job he loves.