tv History and Economics of New Hampshire CSPAN September 17, 2017 2:23pm-2:40pm EDT
is an inclusive government. this is a place where politics is the past time. >> we are at the new hampshire state house in concord where c-span is learning more about the area's history. up next, we speak with governor chris sununu about the state of the past and the vision for its future. while in concord, we spoke with republican governor chris sununu inside his office at the new hampshire statehouse. governor sununu, thank you for joining us today. gov. sununu: thanks for having me. >> starting out, for what is new hampshire best-known? gov. sununu: when you come up to new hampshire, i think it is pretty obvious. our state is kind of bound by the ocean to the white mountain national forest. it is our environment. it is the foliage in the fall. skiing in the winter. it is our beautiful oceans and lakes in the summer. so we are really a state that tries to enhance as much as we can and highlight all the good outdoor recreational activities.
and then obviously on the political side, we are pretty well-known for the first in the nation primary. our adherence to good politics. we have the largest legislative body of all the states. i think it is the third largest in the free world behind british parliament and u.s. congress. 400 volunteer representatives representing just over one million people. so that is the most representative government you will find pretty much anywhere on the planet. when you put all that together, you really get the combination of what the "live free or die" spirit is all about. areo the representatives all volunteers? gov. sununu: they are paid, but it is pretty much like $100 a year, maybe $400 a year, but mostly $100 a year. there is really no such thing as career politicians in the state of new hampshire, and that is a great thing. when you have that sense of local responsibility, you get the best in government. >> i was speaking with a local radio host this morning. she jokes that since you have
such a large legislature and small population, everyone takes a turn at some point. do you feel that size of the state coupled with the size of your state government makes people more involved? gov. sununu: i have no doubt. it is very hard to find someone that does not know or is related to or knows of somebody that has run to office from the select , board all the way up to governor. if you want to be a representative it takes $20 at in this state it takes $20 at kinko's to print flyers, and he , who is willing to knock on the most doors and talk to people is probably going to win. it allows anybody to get involved in the process at whatever level they want to get involved. we have had a number of governors here who have run and won after not served in elected office before. because if you're willing to work for it, get out, talk to people -- money does not drive campaigns here. a lot of folks get vastly outspent in their elections, but they still win because they are taking the time to go
out and go town to town person-to-person. , the power of the town meetings is very important to us in our political process. most towns have the old-fashioned town meetings. but it is not just old-fashioned, it is where you come and as an individual, have the highest impact on where your tax seller's are being spent. -- tax dollars are being spent. we call it the new hampshire advantage. >> describe the political landscape here in new hampshire. gov. sununu: dynamic. it is always dynamic. we are not all republican, we are not all democrat. we are truly a purple state. anything can happen. we are one of only two states in the country where all of their representatives have to be reelected from the governor on down every two years. so if you are not doing your job, you can be fired. that is great accountability. that is great power to the people. that uniqueness of it forces elected representatives to get
out there, and for us as individual citizens to stay very involved in the process. that is why we have been so successful with the first in the nation primary. why our turnout rates are so amazingly high. everybody really gets involved. they take it seriously. it is not just one party or the other. we look at the candidates carefully. people have to buy into the candidate as a person, even beyond the issues. so not only have we been able to maintain the first of the nation primary, we do it well. and as you talk to the presidential candidates who have come through here on the national level, it does not take long for them to realize how unique the process is here, how open it is. how you have to see people and touch them, shake their hands, you know come to their living , rooms and have real conversations about what you want to do, whether it is for the town, the state, the country. we take the responsibility very seriously here. i think we have done it well. and we will continue to do so. >> as governor, what are the biggest issues you think are facing your state? gov. sununu: in terms of policy,
we have an opioid crisis in new hampshire. we are, unfortunately, on the forefront of that crisis. we have had a very high number of deaths dealing with opioids and fentanyl, and a high rate of addiction. what we have been able to do is because we have had this issue facing us more than other states, we have been able to do an aggressive approach in how we address it, whether it is in recovery, treatment, enforcement. all of these pieces come into play and we have done amazing things in terms of pushing the envelope to get the best results for folks. we deal with health care issues here, like everyone else does. we deal with energy costs here of course. , but those issues are serious, but you have to remember, because we have such a positive foundation to take care of them, such a responsive system, a system where people can get involved, tell their stories, and really impact how policy moves, we are able to address
our issues in a more nimble way. >> you recently passed a new state budget here in new hampshire. how are funds being prioritized? gov. sununu: you use the right word right there "priorities." , we did an assessment of what the state and what the issues were. we said we have a limited number of resources. we will not let politics get in the way. we will simply address the priorities. mental health abused kids. division was- dcyf extremely underfunded. these are the key issues that we put our political capital behind. make sure we are funding them appropriately and making sure they were being addressed. we were so excited last week when we got the budget passed and most everything was accounted for as part of our original budget. that was great. and it is also about bringing in good management. you can bring in all the best ideas in the best funding but if , you do not have good people
managing the dollars and being efficient and frankly good , customer service -- government cannot just be in one small place in concord. you have to be talking to people. you have to be out there engaging them. the individual citizens are kind of like the customers, and the idea of the customer is always right. you have to go in with a positive attitude, make sure you're getting feedback. that is how you make sure the systems you designed work the best for everybody. >> new hampshire is the location of the "free state project." what is that? what is your stance on that? gov. sununu: the free state project goes back a number of years now. i cannot tell you the exact year it started. it really comes out of the "live free or die" thing. we are champions of individual liberties, champions of real freedoms. we do not just talk about it, but we really open ourselves up to having not just the government but individual responsibilities that promote and you can truly live by those types of freedoms. so i think folks across the country have seen new hampshire as a place to move themselves, their families, their businesses, to partake in that.
we really are a laboratory of democracy here in new hampshire. we are a small state, so we can be nimble, try things out. we have a lot of accountability in government and our communities. so that provides for the right atmosphere, testing ground, if you will, for a lot of new ideas and things that we can do. not with big government, but as individuals. empowering individuals to do more. when you add that altogether, -- out all that together this , became the obvious choice for a lot of people who participate in the free state movement. they add a lot to our state in terms of new ideas, pushing the ideals, if you will to make sure , we are keeping government small, keeping things simple. running them officially. we bring in good managers, but we do not let the big government get in the way of letting people and businesses do what they do best. >> at 42, you are the youngest governor in the united states currently. do you think age affects the way you govern? gov. sununu: i would not say it
affected it in a positive or negative way, but it does affect the style. 42 -- i do not feel that young. i feel like i have lived five lifetimes in many ways but i am , sure the age factor does come into play, whether it is how you look at your workforce, how you will attract millennials, how you are advertising and promoting certain things. you have to be aggressive. you have to really love what you are doing. you have to be aggressive about it and in going out. part of the job of being governor is not just leading but inspiring others to come to the table, put their ideas on the table. have an open atmosphere. it does not matter what political party you are from, but have an open and conducive atmosphere to approach people to come into the room, put their ideas down, and make sure they are part of the solution making and policymaking in the state. so i try my best to be energetic and upbeat, hopeful. you have to be firm and make sure you are sticking hard to policies. managing well where you need to manage. but you try to have an open and
positive attitude, and when you do that it is amazing what you can get done. >> you come from a political family and have a background as an engineer. how do either of those two things affect how you politically lean? gov. sununu: the engineering most of all. i was an environmental engineer. i spent a lot of time designing systems -- i cleaned up hazardous waste sites around the country. my specialty was chlorinated solvents in soil and groundwater. you try to make the system efficient, cost-effective for the client make a system that , will work well, get the results you want to get and hopefully be able to move on to the next project. and so i guess in many ways, that is my approach to government. you want things that are working well efficient and stay , out of people's way when it can. provide good structure and achieve the goals you can achieve. also know what are the goals. what are you trying to achieve? what are the metrics we are looking for? how do you ascertain when you have been successful? one thing i know as an engineer, you really design the system perfect the first time.
so i try to go into every situation with that mindset. i think when you bring the best and the brightest together, you can do really, really well and get close, but always have a system that can be nimble and flexible. as time and demographics change, you can make the adjustment to making sure you are meeting the needs of the people. and so it is that kind of engineering aspect of a lot of policies and systems that i try to bring to the table. >> are there any new hampshire politicians, past or present, who have influenced you? gov. sununu: a couple. a couple. look it would be silly to say my , father was not a big influence. of course he was. my dad was a -- she was a great dad. -- he was a great dad. he started his career on the planning board. my mom started -- the real start to the political aspects of our family started with my mom on the school board. i was number seven out of eight kids. a lot of times, we would get dragged to school board meetings and would have to sit in the corner and read our books while she did her stuff. but it was all about -- with both of them -- community service. tithing your time. giving back to your community. participating in some way that fits your skill set.
my dad was on the planning board. my mom was on the school board. when you have eight kids in school you have a direct , interest in making sure that schools are run well and run efficiently, and the schools here are tremendous. so i like to give my mom a lot of credit for that, growing up in the 1970's and 1980's. and so that really, i think -- those two people clearly had the most impact in terms of that aspect of giving back to your community, participating in the process. politics is not a career. is just something a way i am , trying to use my best skill in terms of engineering. experience i have brought to the table to give , back and make the state more efficient and focus on the priorities of today. >> is there an era or story from new hampshire's history you find particularly interesting? gov. sununu: well, if you are talking politics, one story i tell a lot -- i was actually born november 5, 1974.
that was -- in a way, i was born into politics. it was election day. my mom was giving birth to me in boston. we lived in salem, near new hampshire -- that is where i grew up. but the hospital in boston is the closest. my mother, knowing that i was going to be born soon, asked my father to get a couple absentee ballots, which they filled out in case they were going to be at the hospital. sure enough, i was born. at some point, my mom looked at my dad, and they were chatting, and my mom went, you voted, right? and my dad went he had forgotten oh. he had the absentee ballots in his pocket. and so he jumped in the car from the hospital and drove as fast as he could about 30 minutes north out of boston into salem, where we lived. right at about 6:59. doors had been shut. he was knocking on the door and had a conversation with a gentleman inside and realized they still had a minute. they opened the door. my dad cast his two absentee votes. two of those votes went for the
republican senate candidate, louis wyman. after the last week, he won by two votes. which is amazing. i think there was a special election, it was so close. it was a special election, a big mess held in 1975. unfortunately, he lost in august of 1975. but those two votes that my dad got in at the very last second were the votes that technically wyman the win. i always remember that story -- well, i do not remember it, had i been born that day but that , story comes to mind, because it is a story of how seriously people take their politics, how they take the responsibility of casting the vote for those individuals. we take it seriously here. sometimes, people will do a lot to make sure that those votes are counted, even when they forgot to pass in the absentee ballot. >> what is next for you and for the state of new hampshire? gov. sununu: what is next for me, politically speaking, this is it. i mean, i really have no desire
to go to washington. nothing like that. i am almost addicted -- we call it "603 pride" -- that is our area code. i am almost addicted to the state to a fault. i just love it, i know we have so much we have to offer, and i took a step away from my business, i was the travel and -- in the travel and tourism industry, i took a step away from doing that because i knew that we could do better. there is still untapped potential here in new hampshire. even in the first six months, i think we have come so far in terms of being open to business, reducing our taxes reducing , regulation, doing all of those things to make sure new hampshire is not just on the forefront but is really the gold standard in terms of providing opportunity for individuals. so i love what i am doing now. i will keep being governor. we are going to keep doing that and hopefully, go back to a normal life at some point. but for the state, we still have our challenges. there is no doubt about it. the good news is we do not let politics get in the way. we're just heading right at it
and making sure we lead third or fourth or seventh or eighth in the country, i want to be ranked first. i want to have the best schools and the best opportunities for businesses. and we are far and away the lowest tax base. doing good on that one. i want to make sure that the "live free or die" spirit does not disappear. that we are not falling back and becoming complacent like other states. we are different. we are new hampshire. this is a special place. anyone who comes here quickly realizes it. i think that is why you see such influx in terms of immigration into the state. when people come here, they realize the special intangibles we have. but you have to stay diligent on it, you have to stay right on top of it. if we do so, i think there is no end to the potential we can truly have in this state. >> governor sununu, thank you for your time. gov. sununu: thank you. it was great. >> they say all politics is local, but in new hampshire that phrase