In her state of the state address this afternoon, Hassan’s expected to look back at progress made in her first year in office, and ahead to what she hopes to accomplish. We’ll take stock of how she’s done with some of her top priorities including Medicaid expansion, casino gambling, the state budget and the mental health system.
- Drew Cline – editorial page editor for the Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News
- Zandra Rice Hawkins – founding executive director of Granite State Progress, a progressive advocacy organization.
- Dean Spiliotes – Civic Scholar in the School of Arts and Sciences at Southern New Hampshire University and author of the website NHPoliticalCapital.com.
Policy leadership: Governor Hassan’s biggest priorities for gambling and the budget were not met during her first year. Although New Hampshire’s weak governorship limited her ability to push for these initiatives, her GOP critics say that she brought it on herself with partisan, hostile behavior toward Republicans. Supporters say that her biggest achievement was restoring an image of sanity to the Statehouse, as well as restoring some of the cuts that were made under the previous legislature.
Budget: While she succeeded in some of her priorities, including restoring higher education and mental health funding, critics say that these were largely allowed on the Republican Senate’s terms. That her budget proposal included $80 million gambling dollars in was not well received by many. Nonetheless, the budget was hailed as a victory more broadly for bipartisanship.
Policy goals: Expanded gambling has been one of two issues for which Governor Hassan has spoken out most strongly. While she wasn’t able to get enough Democrats on board to get it through last year, supporters hope the regulatory measures added this year will change enough minds to pass the bill.
Medicaid expansion was another priority that Governor Hassan struggled to push through her first year. Right before the State of the State address, state Senate leaders announced a promising bipartisan deal, which Governor Hassan praised in her address.
Public image: On the whole, Governor Hassan has been successful with her public image. She attends events around the state. Although some opponents in the legislature see her as partisan and divisive, the average citizen sees her as moderate. She is seen as a ‘careful centrist moderate,’ similar to Governor Lynch. Crises such as snow storms and the Fred Fuller hotline showed her at her best as the symbolic leader of the state. Latest polls show a 51% approval rating, with 64% believing that the state ‘going in the right direction.’
Weak spots: Governor Hassan has been reluctant to take a stand on a few issues, most notably transportation funding and the gas tax and energy policy. On these issues, critics have called her reactive. Supporters point out that her emphasis on consensus is good for bipartisanship.