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Sununu supports Northern Pass, defends Planned Parenthood vote

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 04. 2016 9:36PM
Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu of Newfields makes a point during an interview Thursday at the Union Leader. (Union Leader)

MANCHESTER — Republican gubernatorial hopeful Chris Sununu said the Northern Pass hydro-electric transmission line project will help businesses burdened by high energy bills and bolster the state’s economy.

“Northern Pass is going to happen and I believe it should,” Sununu said Thursday in an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Northern Pass is the proposed 192-mile transmission line from the Canadian border to Deerfield that plans to bring 1,090 megawatts from Hydro-Quebec plants into the Granite State and New England. The Site Evaluation Committee in New Hampshire is reviewing the application.

Sununu, an Executive Councilor and chief executive officer at Waterville Valley Resort, said the high cost of electricity and the lack of a long-term energy policy contribute to a stagnant economy.

“We need baseload generation in New England. There’s no doubt about it, and New Hampshire needs to be able to capitalize on that,” he said.

In the interview, Sununu defended his vote for a Planned Parenthood contract, declared again that there’s a lack of leadership on the heroin and opioid crisis, and dismissed as “a money grab” the state’s investigation into drug companies possibly using deceptive marketing of pain pills.

Sununu was the deciding vote in the Executive Council’s 3-2 decision in June to fund the $550,000 contract with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. He opposed the contract last summer, citing investigation into the health services and abortion provider’s alleged sale of aborted fetuses for medical research. The controversial sting videos showing Planned Parenthood employees casually discussing the sale of body parts were disgusting, Sununu said. In voting for the contract, he noted that the videos were “debunked.”

Sununu said he would never support taxpayer funding for abortions. He said Planned Parenthood was the only organization to bid for the contract, which funds preventive health services, including physicals and cancer screenings.

“This is reimbursement for basic health care services,” Sununu said. “It was a hard vote. The hardest vote I’ve ever taken, without a doubt.”

Heroin epidemic

Sununu drew criticism earlier this year from his GOP rivals — state Rep. Frank Edelblut of Wilton, Sen. Jeanie Forrester of Meredith, and Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas — for saying there is a lack of local and state leadership on the opioid and heroin epidemic. He stands by his statement. He notes he is referring to politicians, not public safety responders on the front lines.

While lauding police and firefighters, Sununu questioned Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard’s use of Twitter to criticize him over the comments. Willard referred to Sununu’s comments as “idiotic.”

“It was completely inappropriate for that chief,” Sununu said. “We all have a right to free speech and to have our opinion. Is it his place in the public format to do that? I just think it was inappropriate.”

Sununu spoke of expanding prevention, treatment, and recovery for addiction, including business tax credits for businesses that invest in job training programs at recovery centers.

Sununu said the state should make sure pharmaceutical companies are transparent with respect to patient risks for prescription of pain medication, but he criticized the nature of New Hampshire Attorney General Joe Foster’s investigation into alleged deceptive marketing.

“The reason I have a problem with the governor’s approach to this investigation is that it’s a little bit of an ambulance-chasing scheme,” he said. “I don’t believe in demonizing pharmaceutical companies. I believe in holding the few that do make these opioids transparent, accountable, and if there are misrepresentations or poor marketing practices that have led to this crisis, of course we have to go after that.”

The governor and Executive Council, along with the joint legislative fiscal committee, signed off in May on Foster spending $100,000 to hire a private firm to assist in the investigation of pharmaceutical companies.

Sununu voiced support for Medicaid expansion, but he said the program should have a work requirement and the state should be working to move people off the Medicaid rolls and introduce market competition.

Economic plan

In his economic plan, Sununu calls for repealing and replacing Obamacare, with alternatives such as a patient-centered system in which companies can sell insurance across state lines.

Sununu proposes right-to-work legislation, lowering the state’s business taxes, and reorganizing the state Office of Economic Development so that it reports directly to the governor and Executive Council.

Sununu said the federal government needs to put a pause on refugees entering the country if it cannot clearly identify them, particularly if they come from Syria or another country ravaged by terrorism.

“The federal government has not and continues to be lax on their ability to properly vet who is coming into this country,” he said.

Sununu, along with his GOP rivals, has said he will vote for and support GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. He said he is focusing on his own race, and the issues that matter to New Hampshire.

“I don’t like a lot of what he said,” Sununu said, referring to Trump’s comments critical of a Gold Star family. He said some of Trump’s comments were inappropriate, even “disgusting,” but that Democrat Hillary Clinton would be a disaster for the country.

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