The Bulletin Board

Sununu signs two-year budget into law

By: - June 25, 2021 6:16 pm
Gov. Sununu in a blue shirt speaks behind a lecturn.

Gov. Chris Sununu has repeatedly said he would not veto the budget over the 24-week abortion ban. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images for DraftKings)

It’s official. 

Gov. Chris Sununu signed the $13.5 billion two-year state budget Friday afternoon, about 24 hours after it reached his desk. The budget and trailer bill cuts taxes on businesses, gives parents expansive education vouchers, and contain two bans: one on abortion at 24 weeks and another on the teaching of systemic oppression and implicit bias in public schools.

It includes $10 million to compensate victims of a Ponzi scheme uncovered a decade ago, $30 million for a new secure psychiatric hospital, and expanded mental health care. It does not include $1.5 million requested for expanded dental benefits for people on Medicaid or stopgap funding for family planning providers who lost contracts under a Trump administration restriction. 

Sununu’s office announced the news in an email with a one-sentence comment: “Historic tax cuts, property tax relief, and Paid Family Medical Leave delivered all in one sweeping action is a win for every citizen and family in this state.”

Responses came quickly and made clear the abortion ban will be a top campaign issue if Sununu, who identifies as pro-choice, seeks reelection or runs for Congress.

“By signing this budget, Gov. Sununu has shown his true colors as an anti-choice, anti-public education extremist,” said Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. “And rest assured New Hampshire voters will spend the next 18 months holding him accountable.” 

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England led the fight against the abortion ban, the first abortion law to pass in the state in nearly a decade. It makes an exception only for the life and health of the mother, imposes criminal penalties on doctors who violate the law, and mandates ultrasounds for all abortions — something no other New England state requires. 

“Pro-choice governors don’t sign abortion bans,” said Kayla Montgomery of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “By making himself the first governor in modern New Hampshire history to sign an abortion ban into law, Gov. Sununu stripped away personal freedoms from pregnant people and criminalized doctors for doing their jobs. The vast majority of Granite Staters support the right to safe, legal abortion and nowhere in the country is banning abortion popular. Granite Staters will not forget who is responsible for this egregious attack on their reproductive health and freedom.”

House Democratic Leader Renny Cushing of Hampton said in a written statement, “I am disappointed that Gov. Sununu signed these budget bills into law. As our members explained on the House floor yesterday, this budget harms our state by cutting education funding, raising property taxes, and forcing right wing ideology on the people of New Hampshire.”

The budget’s supporters praised the expanded education vouchers, limits on the governor’s emergency powers, the business tax cuts and the gradual elimination of the interest and dividends tax. 

“The tax and spending portion of the budget improves New Hampshire’s economic position in an increasingly competitive global environment,” said Andrew Cline, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, in a statement after the budget passed. “New Hampshire now depends on migration for economic growth, and these changes will help make the state more attractive to employers, entrepreneurs, employees and retirees.”

Deanna Jurius, a community education fellow at the Josiah Bartlett Center, said in a statement, “Education is not one size fits all, and legislators voted to increase options for students who may struggle in their assigned public school. A child’s education will no longer be determined simply by zip code or socioeconomic status, but rather what is the best fit for him.”

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.