Governor-elect Chris Sununu sat down with Morning Edition host Rick Ganley Thursday for his first interview with NHPR since last week's election.
Listen to the full interview here, or read some excerpts from the interview below that will be added throughout the morning.
One of the first decisions you made since the election has to do with your transition team.
You named Jamie Burnett – a registered lobbyist here in New Hampshire – as co-director of your transition team. He’s also a partner at your brothers’ lobbying firm, Profile Strategy Group.
Are you worried at all about there being a perception for a potential conflict of interest here?
Absolutely not. Jamie's been a long-time friend and confidant. He understand not just the politics of what happens in Concord, but I think he understands my philosophies, what we're looking for in terms of building a great team. I have immense respect for him and his decision making. He's an ideal candidate to be on the transition team. Whether he comes on full-time down the road, that's always a possibility.
What kind of firewall will be in place when it comes to your family’s financial interests? You’re stepping down from Waterville Valley, but your family still be involved there, for example.
I will be completely resigning my role, both on the board of directors and as the chief executive officer, as of Dec. 31 and I walk away from the business completely. My family is still involved in the business, but my family's involved in lots of different things, as are other representatives and elected officials here in the state. The thing we have in this state which I think we do well is we disclose everything, in terms of what our financial interests are and we recuse ourselves when appropriate. We have ethics committees to make sure everything's done well and in line and we'll keep with that process.
Looking ahead to the budget, you made a pledge to fully fund the state’s so-called alcohol fund, which is supposed to set aside 5 percent of revenue from alcohol sales for drug and alcohol abuse treatment.
If the question is should we fully fund it, you bet we should. Something that came to my attention in the past couple weeks was whether we even spent all the money. It was partially funded, but did we even spend all the money that was there? So that's something I want to look into, find out if it was spent. It should be funded and it should be spent. These are dollars that need to be there, but you've got to get rid of the politics. Let's cut to the chase: there is politics at play here, unfortunately, with a lot of substance abuse stuff we see in Concord.
In what way?
I think there's been a little bit of a power vacuum, if you will. I think there are some organizations involved that are very good at certain things, and maybe aren't experts in others. But have really kind of encompassed a lot of the decision-making processes. I want to make sure that, for example, when we're talking about recovery, you know who I want making those decisions? Those who have gone through recovery, those folks that are in recovery, those folks who run recovery centers, not bureaucrats.
There were cuts made to the business enterprise tax, and the business profits tax in the last budget, with more reductions set to come. Do you see further rate cuts being part of your budget?
I would love to see it, I really would.
How do you pay for it?
By cutting the rates, you can entice more business to come across the borders, which, again, can increase your tax base. By breaking down regulation and lowering taxes, you can actually increase your tax base because you're creating a state that says we're open for business. You start becoming competitive to states like Massachusetts, or even Maine and Vermont now. They've been very competitive with business.
Presumably that will take some time obviously, so how do you in a two-year budget make that work?
There's always going to be a bit of a lag time there. The good news is it's not like we have a massive budget deficit that we have to fill. We're comfortable with our budget now. It's about growing it, and as you grow it, making sure those new dollars coming in are being prioritized to what the state's needs are. Maybe it's infrastructure, maybe it's drug recovery, maybe it's health care. These are things we need to focus on. So we're in good shape, but we just have so much untapped potential, both in our economy and our programmatic state here in New Hampshire that I think we just need to really tap into and focus on.
On abortion, you’ve talked about a "Women’s Health Protections Act" here in the state. What would that look like?
That's an act that I feel very strongly in. I simply want to make sure that women, no matter where they go, and no matter what procedure they're getting at a health care provider in the state, that there is a basic level of care provided across the board. They don't have that right now. I think that's wrong. We need to ensure that wherever women are getting health services, that they have the same level of across the board. I just think that's a no-brainer for me.
Critics would point to states like Texas and say this limits access to abortion.
Because some clinics didn't meet the stringent standards and were closed down.
Don't you think a health clinic doing a procedure should have a certain level of care for women? This is not an act that would create different rules for different providers, whether you're Planned Parenthood or an abortion provider or just a hospital. This is about making sure the rules are the same across the board for everybody, whether you're talking about an abortion provider or basic health care.
So what would those rules look like here in New Hampshire?
I think a lot of the rules that are in place for existing facilities can simply be translated over in making sure that they are applicable to all facilities. And if those rules need to be adjusted a little bit, that's fine. I'm willing to look at that, but again, the rules need to be adjusted for everybody. It's about fairness and safety for women's health care.
You voted for a Planned Parenthood contract that came before the Executive Council earlier this year. Will you continue to support taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood going forward?
We have to look at what that looks like going forward. There's a couple different aspects, to get into the nuances. There is a federal program right now that Planned Parenthood applies for directly in the state, I believe. There's a state contract that has come up before us. As we look at the Medicaid rules and options that we have as a state when the federal government kind of pushes back onto New Hampshire and allows us to design our system, i think that's going to give us a lot of flexibility. One thing I've always said and I maintain: we need to have more options. In my district, with these funds, only Planned Parenthood stood up to bid on the contract. I want more people to bid on the contract. If Planned Parenthood wants to bid on the contract, they can, too. But we need to provide options for people. That's what this gets down to, whether we're talking about mental health, or women's health, or education, options are always a good thing. And I will never support anyone trying to railroad or monopolize one contract in any single area.