PORTSMOUTH Gov. Chris Sununu discussed economic policy, a possible replacement for the Affordable Care Act, the Northern Pass project and more during an editorial board meeting with Seacoast Media Group.
On health care, Sununu said he and a group of governors have been working with Republican U.S. Sens. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, on an ACA replacement plan that would get rid of strings, focus on the costs of health care, and give states control over health care funding.
He said the plan would let states care for their constituents as they see fit, so long as the systems meets federal reporting requirements. He said he also hopes the plan will add competition that will improve Medicaid and reduce health care costs to Americans.
Sununu said he wasnt sure when the full terms of Graham and Cassidy’s plan will be finalized, although he said he expected an announcement to come within the next few days.
I think weve given them some great ideas of where to go, Sununu said.
Cassidy and Graham seek support for a what is considered a long-shot GOP attempt to roll back much of the ACA and turn much of the money spent under it into block grants states could use with wide latitude, cut Medicaid and end Obama’s penalty on people who don’t purchase coverage. The measure has drawn support from President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, Cassidy said. But the GOP effort to repeal the ACA loses its protection against Democratic filibusters Oct. 1, meaning Republicans would need 60 votes to prevail including what are considered unattainable votes from eight Democrats.
Republicans expressed little optimism for the Cassidy-Graham effort.
“We’ll consider it, but as we saw, this isn’t easy” to get 50 votes, said No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas. “And everybody’s kind of got another idea. But I’m open to it.”
Sununu also described the plan as the last shot for replacing the ACA, a plan he called bad economics and faulty because the government hasnt fully enforced the ACAs individual health care mandates.
While discussing Northern Pass, Sununu condemned the states outrageous electricity rates and questioned why the project has left businesses and residents waiting for years.
Sununu said it was completely inappropriate that state regulators of the Site Evaluation Committee once again delayed their final written decision on the project, a proposed 192-mile hydroelectricity transmission line that would run from Pittsburg to Deerfield and power about a million homes in New England.
I think the people of New Hampshire deserve an answer, he said. We shouldve had an answer about this a year ago. Whats going on over there?
A decision was expected by the end of September, although SEC members voted last month to push that deadline to March 31, 2018. Hearings are also expected to be extended through the end of the year.
Theyve had more than enough time to provide an answer, Sununu said. In case you cant tell, Im a little frustrated.
New Hampshires businesses have been one of Sununus primary focuses thus far in his tenure as governor. In his first 100 days, he said he visited 120 N.H. businesses and traveled to Quebec to discuss trade. He said those visits were valuable in determining how to best help New Hampshire companies and their workers, many of whom he said discussed in length the need for more workforce housing.
During the editorial board discussion Friday, Sununu also called for the implementation of more programs that provide high-schoolers with workforce training and certification. While discussing the University of New Hampshire and the states university system, Sununu said the universities investments and programs need to stay focused on developing and retaining good workers in New Hampshire.
Whatever we do, it really has to be designed around the needs of our state, he said.
While discussing the economy, Sununu said the state needs to ensure infrastructure upgrades remain a priority, from physical infrastructure to New Hampshires many archaic websites.
Sununu addressed a variety of other topics at the editorial board meeting, including the ongoing opioid crisis.
He believes New Hampshire is trying to be innovative to address the crisis but said the state should add treatment facilities, transitional housing and expand services to residents in need.
On the deportation of Indonesian families, many of whom came to the Seacoast to avoid religious persecution, Sununu said, Were happy to help in certain cases to make sure that people are being treated fairly and with dignity.
On voter fraud, Sununu said he disagrees with President Trumps claims there is massive voter fraud in New Hampshire. He said he supports the presidents decision to create a federal commission to look into the issue nationwide, though.
There are concerns individual citizens have on the voting process across the country, he said. Citizens are calling for this.
In coming months, Sununu hopes to work on a couple of school-focused initiatives. One is reducing the amount of homework students receive, which he said would improve family life in New Hampshire.
The amount of homework kids are getting is obscene, he said. Its net negative to have two to three hours of homework a night. It creates a stress in their lives. Lets be reasonable about it Theres just something fundamentally out of whack with that system.
Sununu also said New Hampshires schools shouldnt start until after Labor Day. He claimed doing so would aid businesses that rely on student labor, including the tourism industry and farmers.
Materials from The Associated Press were used in this report.