The Hippo


May 19, 2019








Molly Kelly (D)

Chris Sununu (R) & Molly Kelly (D)
Candidate Q&A


 Chris Sununu (R)

Gov. Chris Sununu was elected to the top job in Concord in 2016. Before taking office, Gov. Sununu served three terms as an Executive Councilor starting in 2010, representing 32 cities and towns in Rockingham and Hillsborough counties. In the private sector, he previously worked as CEO of Waterville Valley Resort and as an environmental engineer. 
What is the best flavor of ice cream?
Chocolate chip. It’s the best. Period.
What do you view as your most important accomplishment in your first term?
We really tried to do a couple different things. We’ve tried to put kids first and foremost, which is why I’m proud of getting full-day kindergarten passed. Being able to put funds exactly where they need to be has allowed us to focus on the economy and create opportunity. My philosophy is to return property taxes back to the taxpayers. People talk about creating property tax relief, but we’ve actually done it, including the $275 million we’re investing in our clean drinking water infrastructure. Health care is always a real central issue as well. We made sure we got Medicaid expansion done so that no one loses coverage, as well as focusing on veteran health care reform. We developed a gold standard in the country by allowing [Veterans Affairs] doctors to practice at any medical facility in New Hampshire. That’s the first time ever that had been done. There’s nothing we’ve left on the table. I’m a big believer that even when things are difficult, we have to give 110 percent and have tough discussions. 
Two of the most contested bills of your first term were related to the state’s energy industry. Why did you feel these bills took the wrong approach, and what do you feel is the best path forward instead?
Those bills took the wrong approach because they raised what are already among the highest [electricity] rates in the country. The folks who end up paying those bills are regular New Hampshire residents who can’t afford to pay those high rates anymore. I don’t believe in supporting massive amounts of subsidies that only fund a small group of special interests. That’s not a viable plan for what we have to do to continue lowering energy rates. I took a very firm stand, and it was unfortunate one of the bills barely passed [with an override vote]. Other people talk about lowering energy rates, but we have a plan to do so. First we have to invest in our infrastructure, which will bring in better diversity of sources, like bringing hydro power down through Maine. But we have to be smart about how we invest in renewable energy like solar power. I’m all for solar power, but I want to see panels on roofs of low-income people’s houses and make sure they’re benefiting from solar energy as well. We have to look at the social as well as the environmental impacts. 
You supported a bill that would have created a voucher system families could use to enroll their kids in private schools. How do you balance your support for investing in public education as well as increasing school choice?
SB 193 would have provided families with some other choice or option for their child. All the local money for that child stayed in the school. The actual dollars in the school per pupil went up. Nobody wants to talk about that, but that’s the reality. The student wouldn’t be there, but all the local money would be there. So the dollars in those schools per student actually went up under our plan, and the individual families were given a pathway for them to decide what’s best for their family. It’s not about the government deciding what’s best. I don’t believe in that. It works for 98 percent of the kids out there, but it doesn’t for the 2 percent, where the traditional four walls of the school down the road for whatever reason don’t work for them. We have to allow those families to have some flexibility. Our plan only focused on low-income families; it only focused on those in the most need. That’s why it’s such a travesty that Democrats stood up and voted against this bill in block. I’d like to know how they explain to their constituents why they wouldn’t support those low-income families, providing them just a few options.  
New Hampshire’s $7.25 minimum wage is the lowest in New England, and there’s a growing movement to bump that up to $15. Would you be for or against this, and why?
Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would be drastic to our economy. When you look at the fact we have the lowest poverty rate in the country, we have one of the highest per capita incomes by household in the country, we’ve had the highest wage growth in the Northeast — these are all the results of a vibrant economy focusing on the things that matter to businesses and matter to employees to allow them to create their own opportunity. When you talk about doubling the minimum wage, which the Democrats are talking about, that would create such a crunch within some of these businesses, both large and small. A lot of the small business in our state don’t have the financial flexibility to manage that. There’s a certain amount of money that each business allocates to their labor force. When you double the minimum wage, everybody gets bumped up — those making $10 now go to $15, $12 go to $16, $14 go to $19. Everybody gets crunched, so at the end of the day, what happens? Well, you’ve seen in places like Seattle, people’s hours get cut. Their overall net income can drop, actually, because their hours are being cut back because the business now has to manage to do more with less. For some reason the Democrats think it’s a nice political talking point, but there’s almost nothing you could do to bring our economy more to a grinding halt than to just arbitrarily double the minimum wage for political reasons and then hope for the best. It doesn’t work. We’ve tied ourselves to the federal minimum wage, and it has worked. We have one of the most robust economies in the country.   
What do you feel were the most effective measures you supported for combating the opioid crisis, and what areas would you look to improve on in your second term?
The most important thing we’ve done is to start completely rebuilding the system. ... Traditionally, the idea has been to throw money at problem and hope for the best. We’re focused on creating a network of nine hubs across the state to offer better quality of services. We have a very centralized system in Concord and Manchester, and we want to make sure people no longer have to drive 200 miles south to receive care. There will be treatment options right in folks’ backyards. We will start building systems out this January. We have to make sure we’re providing quality of services around the entire state and really expanding the number of services. Our program is also going to make sure we’re enhancing and working for public-private partnerships. The state was putting $3.5 million into the [Alcohol Abuse Prevention and Treatment Fund]. Now, we’re putting in tens of millions through a public-private partnership with our state hospitals. That will allow us to invest approximately $50 million over the next five years, which is almost a tenfold increase in the amount of funding. 
Expanding Medicaid has been a divisive issue among Republican governors. Why did you sign the Medicaid extension this past May, and how will this benefit New Hampshire?
Looking at what we had, I knew we could figure out a way to do it and still save taxpayer dollars. I didn’t feel the way we were doing it was the right way. We worked directly with administration in Washington, which provided us with more flexibility with combating the opioid crisis. We are saving money while working with folks on both sides of the aisle. I also believe the work requirement makes perfect sense. We are asking able-bodied, working adults to participate at a job or at a nonprofit, volunteer or go to school. We’ve created it so it’s actually quite flexible, so they have time to go back to work and still support their families. At the end of the day, we’re asking for about 20 or 25 hours a week, which is very little to provide. 
Why should or shouldn’t New Hampshire join the rest of northern New England in legalizing recreational marijuana? How have you directed the state’s law enforcement agencies to respond to a potential influx in out-of-state pot? 
I haven’t directed our law enforcement to do anything other than to uphold the law, which they always have and I trust they always will. Our laws are actually very clear on the issue. They know what to do; they don’t need a governor telling them what to do. Will there be issues of it potentially coming across the border? Of course. But the law is the law and we expect them to carry it out. Those who say we should fully legalize marijuana right now because other states are doing so, that is not a reason to do anything, frankly, especially when you see some of the difficulties that these other states are having implementing those kinds of laws. When you have the biggest opioid and addiction crisis that this state has ever had, now’s just not the time to do that, especially when you look at all the indirect negative effects that such actions can have. People look at Colorado all the time, but their opioid crisis isn’t getting any better. Seventy-five percent of the cities and towns in Colorado have banned it, because it really does affect the quality of life in a very negative way.  
What’s something nobody is talking about right now that you think will become a critical issue in the next few years?
Maybe some of the issues we didn’t get done this time around, like Marcy’s Law, which provides equal rights of the assaulted as the accuser has in matters of assault. You have to make sure that the victims are represented appropriately in the court. It’s a fairly controversial issue, but I believe in it very strongly, and we were able to join with a lot of advocates against domestic assault and violence and try to make the case. It got through the Senate, I think, but it didn’t get very far in the House, obviously. I want to keep making sure that those are the kinds of issues we stay on the forefront of, because I believe one of the foremost jobs of the governor is to ensure equal opportunity for everyone in the state, no matter what the issue is. Equal opportunity comes with fairness; fairness in the courts, fairness for victims of assault. I think that’s one of the issues we just really started talking about this past year. … A lot of times it’s about the ability to maintain an individual’s privacy while also affording them the rights to certain information and communication through a court proceeding, which can get very sensitive. … Now, there was obviously the ACLU and a few others who used their power of the union to fight this thing, because that’s just what they do. Thirty-five other states have these types of laws in place. There’s no reason we should be an outlier there. 
Molly Kelly (D)
Molly Kelly of Harrisville started her tenure as a state senator in 2006 and was re-elected four times. She served as chair of the Governor’s Advanced Manufacturing Education Advisory Council and as a member of the New Hampshire Rail Authority and the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Intervention and Treatment. After leaving office in 2016, Kelly began working for the Center for Civic Engagement at Antioch University New England in Keene. 

What is the best flavor of ice cream?
Mint chocolate chip. I love chocolate, and in the summer, mint is always so refreshing with vanilla ice cream. 
What is one accomplishment you would want to achieve in your first term?
It’s always hard to pick one accomplishment when you’re looking forward to being governor and to address so many of the issues. I think one of the biggest issues we’re facing is the opioid epidemic. I would certainly want to see putting an end to all the suffering and devastation that the epidemic has caused. I just don’t meet a family today that has not been affected by this epidemic. As governor, I think there are some really necessary things that need to be done. Enough has not been done. What we need to do to begin with is to look at this epidemic and treat it as an illness as we would any other medical epidemic. I don’t think we are there yet, and I would definitely work and fight every day to make sure we address it in that manner. Also, as governor, I would put forth an emergency, comprehensive plan that deals with prevention, treatment and recovery, and as I said, treats [the epidemic] as an illness. In that plan, I would be putting in support for children, who are real victims of this epidemic. We’re seeing the next generation being affected, and we need to put a stop to that, as well as supporting grandparents and foster parents and others who are really caring for these children, to try to keep these families as intact as we can. I have also always supported the drug courts, which I feel have been very successful.     
To combat the opioid crisis, you’ve proposed increasing access to treatment while ensuring “long-term stable funding.” How would you secure that funding, and what priorities would you plan on investing in first?
Certainly an increase in state funding. We know that under our current governor, Chris Sununu, there have been $100 million in tax breaks to [some of the state’s] wealthiest corporations. I feel like if we can do that in our state, then we should be able to address and provide stable funding for this epidemic. Also, I would pass state laws to continue protecting people with pre-existing conditions so that those who are in recovery have access to insurance to continue to stay in recovery. I am so very grateful to our federal delegation, who have been providing funding here in our state and they continue to do that. I will continue to work very closely with them to be able to provide that funding. It will then go to be applied to funding my comprehensive plan.  
You’ve argued that health care is a right for everyone in the Granite State. Why do you believe that, and what would you do to expand access to care? 
I do believe that health care is a right for everyone here in New Hampshire. It’s a right to access, and also to quality health care. As governor, I want a New Hampshire that works for everyone, and not just a few. It’s not that we look at one child and say that child deserves health care, but maybe not for that other child. That’s unacceptable. As governor, I will always put the people first, and I believe that everyone deserves the right to quality health care. We can make Medicaid expansion permanent, and I will propose that as governor as well so that everyone has access to quality health care. And as governor I will continue to support Planned Parenthood, as they are a provider for women’s health care throughout our state. And as I said before, we will pass state laws to protect [people] with preexisting conditions and support our New Hampshire community health centers, which make a real difference to our rural communities throughout the state.      
You’ve said you would veto legislation that redirects public education funding toward voucher programs for private or religious schools. Why? What would you say to people who support giving parents more choice over their children’s education?
I want to strengthen public education. Chris Sununu does support school voucher programs, which we know takes money directly from our public schools and moves it to private and religious schools. This weakens public education and then would raise our property taxes. As I said, I want to strengthen public education so that every child is able to reach their potential. We know that children all learn differently. We all learn differently, and we know that our children learn differently too. We have many choices within our public schools as options for children. ... Our public schools teach to the child, and that’s what’s important to them. ... I have been endorsed by the [National Education Association] and the [American Federation of Teachers], because they know my record in the state senate of supporting education. 
You’ve proposed more than doubling New Hampshire’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. Why $15, and how would you help local businesses phase in that change?
New Hampshire actually does not even have a minimum wage. We default to the federal [minimum wage], which is very low at $7.25 [an hour]. That would equate to about $15,000 a year over a 40-hour workweek. To increase to $15 an hour in a 40-hour workweek would be closer to $30,000 a year, and that’s still very low for many people to be able to put food on the table and provide for their families. You and I know there are many people working two or three jobs just to get by. And as I said, as governor, I want to build a New Hampshire that works for everyone and not just a few. I’ve met with people as I’ve campaigned, and they’ve told me that it would really affect and improve their lives if we could increase the minimum wage here in New Hampshire. I met with a woman who spent all of her life working very hard in a nursing home, and now that she’s retired, her pension and Social Security don’t cover enough to meet her needs. She said, “If I could just earn $15 an hour, I could make it.” That’s all she was asking from me. Of course, I would collaborate with local businesses and need their input to determine how we can move to $15 an hour and to consider their needs and their thoughts in a collaborative manner.
As a supporter of legalizing recreational marijuana, what benefits would legalization have for New Hampshire? What do you say to opponents claim who claim marijuana is harmful and a “gateway drug”?
We are surrounded by states who have legalized [marijuana], and I do support legalizing, and also regulating, marijuana. And that’s important. We need to regulate to make sure those who are using recreational marijuana are the right age, and that we understand their use and where and when they are using it, just as we regulate alcohol in our state. If we regulate marijuana, we also know what is contained in marijuana, and we have more control and it’s less dangerous. I would also tax marijuana, and I think that would certainly be a benefit to our state. I believe if we legalize and regulate marijuana, it would not be a gateway drug to other drugs because we have regulated it and we will have laws about how we use it. I think if we don’t, then there’s a better chance that there could result in some access to other drugs. But [legalization] would bring it out from the dark and to the open, and as a state, we’ll have more control.
You helped pass the state’s first group net metering law as a state senator. Why do you support renewable energy, and what policies would you aim to put in place as governor?
We need to wean ourselves from fossil fuels and move to 100 percent renewable energy. The legislation that I introduced and was able to pass together across party lines propelled solar and hydro energy in our state. I would certainly want to continue to do that. I’m very disappointed that our governor vetoed the group metering bill, which was just to expand the cap [on net metering] so that local generators of hydro and solar could create more capacity. I have visited many of those entities, both hydro and solar, such as in Nashua at a hydro plant. They needed this bill to pass so they could continue to produce clean energy for their hydro plant that would provide energy for their town buildings and also their schools. Ultimately, it not only produces clean energy, not only creates jobs, not only is a renewable energy, but can also lower property taxes for communities like Nashua. There are many others, like Hanover, which has solar plants, that are really disappointed in the governor’s veto, because they were looking to move forward as well to produce more energy. This is in-state energy that’s clean, renewable and lowers our energy costs and also creates jobs. What I see is that our governor is advancing Eversource’s agenda. He has received contributions to his campaign of over $50,000 from Eversource. I have not taken $1 from any corporation, because I will not be owing corporations anything. I am here to work for the people. As governor, I will put forth an energy plan with a vision for moving forward to reduce fossil fuels and increase renewable energy here in our state.  
What’s something nobody is talking about right now that you think will become a critical issue in the next few years?
When I think about what we’re not addressing that I believe will become an issue in the future if we don’t start addressing it now is prison reform. I think that we have to address what is happening in our prisons and who is there. It really comes down to two issues we have to address, which [are] poverty and education. We need to take a look at those as we look at the future of prison reform, for today and tomorrow. I do know that in many of our prisons, people are there because they did not receive an education or training or trades in order to have opportunities to take care of themselves and their families. They may have needed role models as well to encourage them in school, as well as mentors for them to help them see what other opportunities are there for them. And I think poverty is a real part of what we have seen in our prisons. We need to address those issues as we move forward, because I am concerned it will become a more critical issue if we don’t. 

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