In his fourth and final State of the State address to the people of the New Hampshire, Governor John Lynch today called for building on New Hampshire's winning strategy to strengthen the economy and get people back to work.
"If you look at any national statistic, you can see our strategy is working. We have the fourth lowest unemployment rate in the nation. We are routinely ranked among the most livable, healthiest and safest states in the nation. We've been named the best state in the nation to raise a child four years in a row," Governor Lynch said.
"We can build on our success, but overall New Hampshire has a strategy that is working," Governor Lynch said. "Let's not mess it up."
To build on that strategy, Governor Lynch called on the legislature to continue to invest in job training and education; to re-examine cuts to dropout prevention programs that have helped cut the state's high school dropout rate in half; to reform and re-institute the state's building aid program; and to invest in priorities, like higher education, which the legislature cut in half in the current budget.
One of New Hampshire's biggest selling points to companies like Albany International, which just announced plans to bring hundreds of jobs to Rochester, is its educated workforce and commitment to education and job training.
That strategy was undercut, by dramatic cuts to higher education in the previous budget, Governor Lynch said.
"This is exactly the type of shortsighted reduction that undermines our economic strategy and jeopardizes our vitality for years to come," Governor Lynch said.
Governor Lynch called for continued efforts to keep the budget balanced, announcing that with the 2011 surplus - and assuming the hospitals meet their tax obligations - New Hampshire should be able to end 2012 with a balanced budget, despite the fact that the legislature built its budget with a $14 million deficit in 2012.
Governor Lynch called for smart tax policy that encourages job growth, including doubling of the research and development tax credit, which was in put in place five years ago under his leadership.
"This is a tax credit that works to help create jobs," Governor Lynch said. "The same cannot be said of the cut in the tobacco tax. The cut in the tobacco tax was nonsensical. That money would have been better spent on our community college and university systems, for example. We should roll it back, and use the revenue to invest in our economic future."
The state has a responsibility to use taxpayer money efficiently, and Governor Lynch today announced proposed legislation to further improve government efficiency by eliminating or reducing the frequency of 100 time-consuming reports; making it easier for agencies to transfer small sums of money; and consolidating the administrative functions of 34 boards and commissions.
Growing New Hampshire's economy depends on a sound infrastructure, and Governor Lynch called on the legislature to finally decide how to pay for the widening of Interstate 93 from Salem to Manchester.
"With the available funding, the Interstate 93 widening will sputter to a dead stop in Windham," Governor Lynch said. "Last year, I called on the legislature to come together to fund the expansion of Interstate 93. Not only did the Legislature not act on Interstate 93 funding, it cut overall highway fund revenue by $90 million.
"I am willing to put reasonable options on the table. I am asking the legislature to do so as well. If we come together and show the necessary political will, we can complete the widening of Interstate 93 through Manchester in just four years."
Governor Lynch also urged the legislature to restore to the Attorney General the power to protect concerns hurt by unfair and deceptive mortgage practices.
"The Executive Council and I have spent a lot of time looking at this issue. We stand united in calling on the legislature to restore to the Attorney General the power to protect consumers wronged by abusive mortgage practices," Governor Lynch said. "Helping those hurt by the mortgage crisis is an important step toward economic recovery, and we need to act now."
Governor Lynch also called for a civil tone in debates, and an end to attacks on public employees.
"There's a harshness in the air, in the tone and nature of our communication, and particularly within this building, that's not healthy for our people or our democracy. We can disagree, without demonizing one another," Governor Lynch said. "Vigorous debate is important, but our citizens expect us behave with dignity and respect. They expect us to look for common ground and common purpose."
The Governor called for a renewed sense of cooperation.
"I believe the interests that unite the people of our state are greater than those that divide us. I am ready and eager to continue to work with you to make state government more efficient; to rebuild our roads and bridges; to strengthen our economy and help our people get back to work," Governor Lynch said.
"That's where I hope we will put our focus in the next year. If we work together, in the great tradition of New Hampshire, I believe we can find areas of common ground to build a stronger future for all of our citizens," Governor Lynch said.
Additional Speech Highlights
Portsmouth Naval ShipyardWith news that the federal government is considering a new round of base closures, Governor Lynch said he state stands ready to fight once again for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
"We stand ready. We're not going to let them close our shipyard! This is not a partisan issue. On this, I know all of New Hampshire will stand together. Let's get out the t-shirts and the buses. Let's get ready to showcase our wonderful shipyard workers. Let the federal government try. We're going to win again - together."
As the state continues to work to innovate within the health care system, Governor Lynch said the impacts of national reforms must also be taken into account. States like Utah have adopted health insurance exchanges because they benefit businesses and citizens, and New Hampshire should establish an exchange as well.
"A well-designed health insurance exchange can make it easier for businesses to compare and obtain affordable health insurance. And I certainly don't think we should allow the federal government to design an exchange for New Hampshire. That is why must move forward - now - with designing our own exchange here in New Hampshire," Governor Lynch said.
Over the past eight years, Governor Lynch has worked to help businesses and residents cut energy costs, and to put in place new standards that are spurring renewable energy projects.
Now in New Hampshire, new wind plants under construction, as well as a new biomass plant that will help create 400 construction jobs in Berlin and contribute enough homegrown energy to power about 70,000 homes.
"These were bipartisan efforts, because New Hampshire citizens have long recognized that we have a responsibility to cherish and preserve our natural resources. I strongly believe that the New Hampshire environment that we give to our children and grandchildren should be just as good, if not better, than the one given to us," Governor Lynch said. "That is why I will stand firm against bills that undermine our environment."
While he supports the goals of Northern Pass - bringing hydropower from Canada - Governor Lynch reiterated his position that the project must done in a way that garners local support.
"We should not dismiss out of hand hydro power from Canada. We should be open to exploring approaches for accessing this power," Governor Lynch said. "But the proponents of Northern Pass need to listen better. This project cannot happen without local support. And it should not happen with eminent domain."
Governor Lynch supports the rights of citizens to bear arms, but raised concerns that proposed legislation will upset New Hampshire's bipartisan tradition of reasonable laws that balance the rights of gun owners with the needs of public safety.
"Unfortunately, there is a rash of proposed legislation that would undermine our tradition, from a bill repealing gun licenses, to a bill repealing background checks, to a bill forcing colleges to allow guns in classrooms and dorms. We should always make public safety our highest priority. These bills are wrong for public safety and they are wrong for New Hampshire."
"New Hampshire has a long and proud tradition of fighting for the rights of all people. And a tradition of leaving people alone to pursue their own happiness. As Governor, I intend to uphold that centuries-old tradition. I will stand firm against any legislation that would strip any of our citizens of their civil rights."
Government and Workers
Governor Lynch raised concerns about the anti-government tone heard from some.
"Government, after all, is all of us, the people of New Hampshire. And it exists to serve all of us. Responding to fires. Keeping our streets and neighborhoods safe. Caring for our sick and elderly. Protecting our clean air and water. Our focus shouldn't be on attacking government. It should be on improving government."
Governor Lynch also said public workers, should be appreciated, not attacked.
"Sadly it has become too commonplace to attack public employees, and that needs to stop. In these hard times, our state employees, our teachers, our firefighters and police officers, are working harder than ever to provide good services, to educate the next generation, to keep us safe. Join me in thanking those who serve all of us.
"I respect the contributions of all of our workers, and I will never take away their right to organize."