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Sununu presses Trump officials for continued funding of NH programs

By Dave Solomon
State House Bureau

June 13. 2017 9:46PM

CONCORD — In a series of meetings with top Trump administration officials on Monday, Gov. Chris Sununu pressed for continued funding of environmental and education programs that are targeted for cuts in the President’s budget, but considered essential for New Hampshire.

Sununu briefed reporters on his D.C. trip in a Tuesday morning conference call, saying he went to Washington to press the state’s interests and see a better return for New Hampshire on Granite State tax dollars that go to the federal budget.

“We have so many programs in which we’ve been shortchanged,” he said, “and that’s because we haven’t had advocates down there making sure New Hampshire gets its fair share and attention.”

At a meeting with EPA senior administrators, Sununu described how the state relies on EPA grants for programs that face cutbacks or complete elimination in the Trump budget.

“About half a dozen programs in the state that rely completely on federal funding would be gone,” said Sununu, including groundwater sampling and monitoring. “These are 100 percent federally funded and we need to see them back in the mix.”

“We advocated line by line through that budget and how those programs work for us and the value to us,” he said. “We were reassured that they understood and would advocate to have a lot of that funding put back in.”

In meetings with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Sununu urged the administration to reconsider budget provisions that eliminate popular after-school programs.

“I believe very strongly in a lot of these after-school programs, especially in the summer, which provide depth to kids who don’t have a whole lot between June and September,” he said. “So all these programs have a huge effect, especially when you are dealing with a drug crisis and problems in our cities for low-income families.”

Sununu also met with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, and pressed him on the state’s need for expansion of high-speed internet access, particularly in its more rural regions. He followed up with a letter to Pai on Tuesday, calling for more investment from the Universal Service Fund to finance broadband expansion in New Hampshire.

“New Hampshire receives only 44 cents for every dollar our residents paid into the USF,” Sununu wrote. “Because such large portions of my state are rural, a continuing disparity ... will exacerbate the digital divide in our state.”

In meetings with DOT Secretary Elaine Chao, Sununu said he promoted the state’s needs at the Port of New Hampshire and the I-95 expansion project.

The governor said he would be making more trips to Washington, calling them “absolutely necessary” given the distance between the Trump administration and the all-Democratic state Congressional delegation, which he said was “doing a poor job of advocating on what our state needs.”

State Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley challenged that assessment.

“Because of Sununu's blind support for President Trump, America's first all-Democratic all-female delegation has had to work doubly hard to make sure New Hampshire is represented in Washington. They have done so publicly and fiercely,” he said in a statement.

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