CONCORD, N.H. – Republican Gov.-elect Chris Sununu said on Friday that maintaining "frugality" while providing good services to state residents will be a driving principle as he crafts the next two-year state budget.
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Sununu addressed state agency heads alongside outgoing Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan as the budget writing process begins. Sununu will be sworn in in January and must present a budget by February. He didn't offer specific spending priorities in his remarks but said he'd take a "fresh look at everything we do."
"We will not let frugality out the window, by any means," he said.
Hassan, who defeated freshman Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte in the nation's closest Senate race, used her remarks to highlight successes during her two terms as governor and offered her vision for the future. She noted New Hampshire ended fiscal year 2016 with an estimated surplus of $130 million, suggesting that money could be used to fund new priorities in the upcoming budget.
Those priorities should include providing money for the substance abuse crisis, adding more workers at the Division for Children, Youth and Families, increasing school building aid and addressing the recent drought's impact on farmers, Hassan said. She said the state must remain committed to "wise investments" in infrastructure and providing a safety net for "our most vulnerable citizens."
The future of New Hampshire's Medicaid expansion program, which passed under Hassan, remains uncertain under Sununu and Republican President-elect Donald Trump.
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The next few months require a careful dance between the outgoing and incoming administrations, as the budget process is beginning before Hassan leaves office. Charlie Arlinghaus, who is leading Sununu's budget efforts during transition, sat at the table Friday alongside Meredith Telus, Hassan's budget director.
Hassan said her office "is committed to supporting Governor-elect Sununu's team in any way possible during this transition."
Friday also marked the first day Sununu shared an executive council table with Hassan and Democratic businessman and councilor Colin Van Ostern, his former gubernatorial rival, since the election.