Governor Chris Sununu recently addressed a joint session of the Legislature to present his 2022 “State of the State” address. Of note to NHRLA, he announced a workforce housing incentive fund. He began his remarks by noting New Hampshire’s status in several categories, leading with being named the “freest state in the nation” by the CATO Institute, and noted our state has the strongest economy and fastest population growth in the northeast, the lowest poverty rate and some of the highest wages, and is #1 in public safety. He credited systems the state has put in place and prioritizing individuals that “separates us from the pack, and America is taking notice.” Moving to particulars of the past year, he noted the state cut taxes, including business taxes and the state’s rooms & meals tax, while sending more to cities and towns for revenue sharing. He then noted this has led to state revenue that “exceeded all expectations regarding surpluses and doubled the state’s rainy day fund” to over $200 million.
He said the state “took a forward looking perspective” in preparing for a winter COVID19 surge in hospitalizations by cutting red tape, and noted more Granite State superlatives – NH was the fastest state in the country in the initial vaccine rollout and first in the country to get vaccines to all who wanted it. He also pointed to the federal government copying the New Hampshire model getting COVID19 test kits delivered to homes for those that requested and summed up the COVID19 efforts by proudly mentioning his team approach. He recognized the efforts of doctors, nurses, national guard members, and others in assisting, but noted it is “time to turn the new normal back to the old normal” because the “tool’s in the toolbox” relative to COVID19 – vaccines, testing, science, etc. Then he turned to the forward-looking portion of his remarks.
He noted other achievements in the past year:
• Paid family leave – “one of the most innovative versions in the country”;
• Educational opportunity “zip code and income no longer determine educational outcome… education savings accounts provided opportunity for thousands of families”’
• Dramatically transforming the state’s mental health system – “the old system wasn’t delivering results”;
• And he highlighted an example of a “simple but brilliant idea” – every student ID now has a toll-free suicide prevention telephone number on it.
Saying “unlike Washington D.C. when we say we’ll do something… we deliver without partisan bickering and gridlock,” he reminded the legislators that there is “lots more to be done.”
Regarding mental health, he said in the next few weeks he “will bring forward opportunity for public private partnership for more beds for those in crisis” that will increase access to beds and increase the level of workforce, making New Hampshire one of the most attractive in the east for mental health workers. He observed that although in 2021 New Hampshire was one of few states where drug overdose deaths did not go up but went down, the battle is not won.
He said more broadband investments will follow the 2021 effort that delivered broadband to 4,500 households. This year new funds made available through ARPA we will be states to deliver highspeed broadband to “tens of thousands of individuals.” Comparing New Hampshire to Massachusetts, something he frequently does, Governor Sununu observed “over last five years energy costs in Massachusetts doubled” and of New Hampshire had followed suit it would have cost an extra $100 million on N.H. citizens including elderly and low income. Governor Sununu said “we took a different path” and “established the Department of Energy; some of the projects include:
• Putting low income residents first in line for solar projects, moving them from the lowest possibility to first in line for the benefits of solar projects;
• Establishing the office of offshore wind & development, saying “clean & reliable offshore wind will be a reality” and “finding a smarter way” after seeing how other projects played out.
Another effort he’s carrying forward is to address the availability of housing for working families – “we can find opportunity to make right investments.” Those investments include:
• $60 million in grants to match investments for multi-family housing that are ready to move quickly to building stage
• $30 million to reward municipalities that approve permits within 6 months of application
• $5 million in demolitions grants – saying projects can’t move forward because of cost of demolition of old properties that may also pose environmental problems
• $5 million in assistance for updates to planning & zoning regulations
He then announced a partnership with Easter Seals NH, proposing the New Hampshire Veterans Campus designed to integrate veterans, active militaries, and their families with all-encompassing services. He also noted more progress to be made against PFAS contamination. He asserted, “Those of us who are born in New Hampshire are lucky and those who move here are smart; people and businesses coming here” from all over the country looking for low taxes, good schools, and quality of life, and he “won’t let our progress be hijacked by radical elements on either side of the aisle.”
The full text of his remarks can be found here.
Further information on the Housing Incentive Fund can be found here.
In the legislature, House committees are limited in the number of days per week they can meet due to their need to use double rooms, which translates to some committees struggling to find time for their Executive (voting) Sessions. But with deadlines approaching in March, committees are shifting from hearings mode to voting and we expect a flurry of action over the next couple of weeks.