EXCLUSIVE: Chris Sununu welcomes federal spending if it benefits New Hampshire

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CONCORD, New Hampshire — Gov. Chris Sununu is critical of massive spending by Congress, with trillions more under consideration, but has stopped short of saying his state would turn down more federal cash to bolster its comeback from the coronavirus.

“We don’t need more money per se, but lord knows we know how to spend dollars better than anybody in the country,” Sununu, a Republican, said this week during a wide-ranging, on-camera interview with the Washington Examiner in the New Hampshire Capitol. “If there’s dollars out there from the federal government, you bet we’ll take them because we just know how to do it and deliver results.”

Sununu, 46, sounds preoccupied with the dangers of profligate government spending — similar to many people during the late 20th and early 21st centuries shaped by the conservatism of former President Ronald Reagan. Aside from his expressed principled opposition to overspending, the governor worries the infusion of trillions of federal dollars into the economy is spiking inflation and undermining the nation’s fiscal recovery from the pandemic.

Sununu not only criticized President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats like Sen. Maggie Hassan, whom he might challenge in 2022. The governor also took the GOP to the woodshed.

“Can the Republican Party in Washington say they’ve been really, fiscally responsible about balancing the budget over the past 20 years?” Sununu asked rhetorically. “No. Virtually not at all. I think being fiscally responsible with somebody else’s money is one of the most paramount responsibilities of an elected official.”

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Sununu is under fire from Democrats for opposing the American Rescue Plan, Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that includes tax relief for families with children. Those payments have begun hitting mailboxes in New Hampshire and around the country in the form of direct payments this week.

Democrats also speculate a possible Sununu Senate campaign is heating up, arguing the governor will pay the price for his opposition.

“By opposing the American Rescue Plan, Sununu sided with [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell’s obstructionism and against New Hampshire’s economic recovery,” said Ray Buckley, state Democratic Party chairman. “The governor’s opposition to the ARP’s tax cuts for Granite Staters and support for small businesses will be a major liability with voters if he runs for Senate.”

Sununu’s office emphasized Friday the governor did not take issue with expenditures in the American Rescue Plan dedicated to pandemic recovery and funding for the coronavirus vaccine. Rather, a spokesman said Sununu opposed the law because he believes it forced responsible Republican-run states, such as New Hampshire, to use their taxpayers’ hard-earned money to “subsidize poorly run” Democratic states.

Sununu is an environmental engineer by trade who was chief executive officer of a ski resort before entering politics. His biggest complaint about excessive government spending is not the price tag of any particular legislation but rather that bills appropriating large amounts of taxpayer dollars tend to be inefficient and wasteful. The private sector operates more effectively, Sununu said, referring to his professional background.

“I wouldn’t use the term ‘cut off the spigot,’” said Sununu, when asked if Congress should stop spending on all but the essentials, such as defense and programs — for example, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security — given the federal government’s nearly $27 trillion debt, a large portion accrued under former President Donald Trump.

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“Send [states] the money. Let us decide how to spend it,” the governor said. “If you do that across the board, education, transportation — let certain states [figure out] what best meets their needs — you’re going to find a lot more efficiency, and you’re going to head off the inflation issue because it’s not everyone spending all at once on the exact same thing.”

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