New Hampshire State of the State Address 2007
By Stateline Staff
CONCORD, N.H., Jan. 4- Following is the prepared text of Gov. John Lynch's (D) 2007 state of the state and second inaugural address:
Madam Speaker, Madam President, Mr. Chief Justice and members of the judiciary, honorable members of the House, Senate and Executive Council, and my fellow citizens of New Hampshire:
You have again entrusted me with the sacred responsibility of serving as a steward of our great state, of protecting our traditions and building our future, of protecting your interests and those of generations to come. I pledge to you once again that every day, in every endeavor, I will work to honor your trust.
Let me take a moment to thank the four most important people in my life. The love of my life, my best friend and our exceptional First Lady, my wife Susan. Our children, Jackie, a college student; Julia, a senior in high school; and Hayden, an eighth grader. I would not be here today without their love and support.
Many of our citizens are serving today with the New Hampshire National Guard and our armed services in Iraq, Afghanistan and other troubled spots around the world. I've had the privilege of meeting many of these brave men and women. Let us pray for their safe return to their families and please join me in thanking them for their courage and sacrifice.
We live in the greatest state in the greatest country in the world. Today is a day of new beginnings; and a day to celebrate all that makes New Hampshire so special. We celebrate the history and traditions that still guide our state. We celebrate the innovation that drives our strong economy. We celebrate the volunteer and civic spirit that makes our communities strong. We celebrate New Hampshire's natural beauty - majestic mountains, abundant forests and clean waters.
Most of all we celebrate New Hampshire's people. We celebrate the veterans who sacrificed to protect us and the seniors who built our great state. We celebrate the police officers, firefighters and EMTs who keep us safe; the teachers who shape the next generation; the state employees and municipal employees who serve us all; the hard-working men and women who keep our state vibrant; and the children who represent our hope for the future. Our people are what make New Hampshire strong and great.
Today, we celebrate New Hampshire's past and present, and begin the next chapter of our history.
In 1819, Samuel Bell delivered the first address by a Governor to a legislature in this State House, saying:
"Important trusts have been committed to us by our fellow citizens. The general good is the object which we should have in view." It is, he said, "... a trust of great responsibility."
These are trusts we all share, regardless of political party: improving education, strengthening our economy, expanding access to health care, ensuring public safety, and preserving our natural environment.
There has been an historic change in the composition of this legislature, but our duty to the people has not changed. Our duty is not to seek Democratic solutions, nor Republican solutions, rather, we must seek New Hampshire solutions.
To all members of the Legislature, please know that I am committed to working with all of you. We will not always agree. But we are united in our love for New Hampshire and its people. That common devotion is stronger than anything that may divide us. Together, we can rise to meet the expectations of our citizens.
This is the lesson of the past two years; let us go forward in that same spirit.
The New Hampshire we live in today was shaped by the decisions and ideas of all those who came before us. As we begin our work together, let us remember that the decisions we make will shape New Hampshire and the lives of our people for 10, 20, 100 years to come. By committing ourselves to the people of this state, by embracing New Hampshire values and traditions, by working together, we will lay a strong foundation for New Hampshire's future.
Our future depends on our children. Our children's future depends on their education.
The State of New Hampshire plays an important role in public education - from setting clear standards for what we expect our children to learn to helping finance the costs of education. Let us embrace that responsibility, and work toward a sensible and sustainable approach for ensuring a quality education for all of our children.
Too often, our education debates have focused on frustration with the courts or the desire by some to fundamentally change our state's tax structure. The people of New Hampshire have spoken clearly. They believe, as I do, that the State has a responsibility for education. They believe, as I do, that the state should meet that responsibility without fundamentally changing our tax structure, particularly without a sales or income tax.
Let us put these old debates behind. Let us move past distrust for one another's motives. Let us trust that we all want what's best for New Hampshire's children.
Our first step is to define more clearly an adequate education - what our students will need to know to succeed as citizens and to compete in today's economy. As a state, we already have curriculum requirements in our school approval standards that clearly spell out what we believe all students should know by the time they graduate from high school.
By using these requirements as our foundation, we can most certainly meet this challenge.
Our goal is to ensure educational opportunity for all of our children.
We know there are some communities that can offer more to their students, while other communities struggle to provide just the basics.
A school funding formula that distributes essentially the same amount of state aid for every student, regardless of community and need, will only widen these disparities of opportunity.
In contrast, directing education aid to the communities with the greatest need will help ensure fair opportunities for all of our students. We can lift up the communities that are struggling to provide a quality education and ease the burden of property taxes in communities that struggle the most.
As a state, we have a moral and constitutional responsibility for education. To make real progress on this issue, we need to focus on how we ensure the best education possible for every child in New Hampshire.
When that is our only focus, I believe most people in New Hampshire and in this legislature would agree that we should target education aid to the children and communities that need it most. However, we must recognize that the Court's interpretation of the Constitution makes it difficult to implement an effective targeted aid law.
To implement the best education policy for our state, I strongly believe that we must be open to considering a narrow amendment to our Constitution. Not an amendment that allows the state to walk away from its responsibility for education. Not an amendment to take the courts out of education. But instead, an amendment that affirms the state's responsibility for education, and allows us to direct education aid to the children and communities that need it the most.
I ask everyone in this Chamber to work with me to craft a solution that is right for our children and right for our state.
In 1903, the New Hampshire legislature passed a law requiring young people to stay in school until age 16. Their goal was to make sure children didn't leave school without the basic education they needed to get good jobs and live better lives.
The world today is very different than it was in 1903. Today a high school diploma is the minimum price of admission for most jobs. Yet 20 percent of our young people are dropping out of high school. These young people will not have the opportunities they deserve.
Half a high school education is no longer enough. That is why we must increase our compulsory attendance age from 16 to 18.
In my budget, I will propose the funding necessary to expand alternative learning programs, including technical education, internships and night school, to help students who do not do well in traditional classroom settings.
This is just the first step in a comprehensive approach to giving every child a chance to succeed. Quality early learning, kindergarten and early intervention are also important parts of our long-term strategy for increasing the graduation rate.
Together, we will make it possible for every child in New Hampshire to graduate from high school.
To keep businesses here in New Hampshire, we must encourage more of our young people to pursue careers here in New Hampshire. That's why we must make it possible for more students to attend college in our state. Two years ago, we launched a new scholarship program at the University System. Last year, we froze tuition at the community technical colleges. Now, we must continue to work together to make higher education more affordable and accessible for all of our families.
Project Running Start opens the door to college for many students. It allows high school students to take college-level classes right at their own local schools. They can earn credits that are accepted at colleges across New Hampshire and across the nation. Let us set a goal of doubling the number of students who can enroll in Project Running Start so we can help more families save on college costs.
The door to college should be open to every student who works hard.
Let us also invest in today's workers. In every part of New Hampshire, business leaders tell me that they have the products; that they have the customers; but that they need skilled workers if their businesses are to stay and grow in New Hampshire.
Our workers - and the companies that employ them - must continually master new skills and new technologies to compete globally. By reinstating the Job Training Fund, we can partner with companies to train New Hampshire workers for good jobs. Let's keep businesses and jobs right here in New Hampshire.
I want every person in New Hampshire to have the chance for a better life. That means helping move people off welfare into sustained employment and lasting self-sufficiency.
That will not be accomplished just with sanctions, but with a helping hand - childcare, transportation, and, most importantly job training. In two years, I don't want to just say that we've cut our welfare rolls. I want to say that we've made it possible for more families to take care of themselves.
Our economy is strong now, and we must act to secure that prosperity for the future.
Innovation spurs economic growth, and creates opportunities for all of our people. Creating a research-and-development tax credit will nurture creativity and attract emerging industries to New Hampshire. It is a small investment that will pay big dividends for our workers and for our families.
Our nation needs a comprehensive energy policy for its continued economic growth. But we can take steps here in New Hampshire to help stabilize energy costs.
I have set a goal of ensuring 25 percent of our energy comes from renewable sources by 2025. Reaching that goal will give us more choices; will make our air and water cleaner; and will help create jobs right here in New Hampshire - by expanding uses for our wood products, in building clean power plants, and in research and development.
This is the future; let us put New Hampshire at the forefront.
Many of our families are working hard just to get by - to pay for food, housing and childcare. There is often not enough for the basics, let alone the extras. Let's do the right thing for our families and finally increase the minimum wage.
In New Hampshire we value fiscally responsible government that puts the needs of the people first.
That is why I will present to the Legislature in February a responsible, balanced budget.
It will be a budget that protects the interests of our people, and invests in building a stronger future.
And I will work with you to address our state's long-term fiscal challenges, including safeguarding our public retirement system. Our state and municipal employees, our firefighters, our police officers, our teachers have served us all well. They deserve a secure retirement.
In making appointments, I will continue to select the best and most competent people for the job, regardless of political party. Leaders who share our New Hampshire values of compassion, innovation and cooperation.
We came together in the past two years to restore the people's trust in state government and to pass comprehensive ethics reform. Together, we must continue to demand the highest standards of ethics and integrity.
New Hampshire was once again named one of the healthiest states in the nation. I am confident we can make health care in New Hampshire even better.
Our population is aging and that is putting a greater strain on our Medicaid system. We should look to reform, but thoughtfully and with compassion. We should help more seniors stay in their own homes and communities. We will accomplish that goal not with arbitrary rules, or by making it difficult for eligible seniors to receive Medicaid.
But by holding true to our values and ensuring that there is the community care available to give our seniors the quality care and respect that they have earned.
By harnessing new technologies, we can and we will make health care more affordable and accessible to all of our citizens. My Citizens Health Initiative is putting New Hampshire at the vanguard of change, and it is doing it the New Hampshire way - bringing providers, consumers and business leaders together to find common ground and real solutions.
New Hampshire is the first state in the nation to set an aggressive timetable - October 2008 - for ensuring that all our health care providers have the ability to write prescriptions electronically. Electronic prescribing will reduce medical errors, save lives and save tens of millions of dollars a year in health care costs.
We all pay a high cost for the number of uninsured. When preventable illnesses turn into chronic diseases, or when an uninsured person is forced to seek emergency room care, we all see those costs in our health insurance premiums. We must work together to reduce costs and expand access to health care for all of our citizens.
That starts with making sure every child has access to health insurance and quality health care. Children with access to health care do better in school and better later in life. Our children's health insurance program is one of the best investments we make as a state. It is the right thing to do for our children and the smart thing to do for our future. We must act to expand our children's health insurance program this year.
New Hampshire is one of the safest states in the nation. This is in large part due to the commitment of our first responders.
In October, we experienced a terrible reminder of the dangers these men and women face with the murder of Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs. Officer Briggs was a dedicated public servant who gave his life protecting all of us. The murder of a police officer strikes at the very heart and fabric of our society, and we all felt the loss of Officer Briggs.
In the face of that tragedy, we also saw what makes New Hampshire strong - in the continued commitment to duty of Manchester's police officers and law enforcement across our state and in the outpouring of support from people across Manchester and New Hampshire.
We all have a role to play in keeping our communities safe.
I will soon create a Crime Commission, with representatives of law enforcement, communities and nonprofits, to make concrete recommendations on how we can improve our laws and work together to keep New Hampshire safe.
We must crack down on the crimes of the 21st century. Technology is changing the way we all work and do business. But it also poses new threats. I will propose legislation to toughen penalties on people who use the Internet to prey on our children. Let's make sure our children are safe in their neighborhoods, schools and online.
Our state's breathtaking landscapes and natural resources are part of our heritage and part of the legacy we are entrusted with safeguarding for the future.
The burning of toxic construction and demolition debris poses an unnecessary danger to the health of our citizens and the health of our environment. A moratorium is not enough. The risks are too great. We must permanently ban the burning of construction and demolition debris here in New Hampshire.
Groundwater is a resource essential to the future health of our citizens, and to meeting the future demands of our economy. Without access to clean water, our businesses cannot grow and our families cannot thrive. Our state needs a comprehensive groundwater policy that balances the needs of our citizens. We must act now to protect our groundwater.
Our state parks attract tens of thousands of visitors every year. They are treasures that belong to all of our citizens, today and tomorrow. We must come together to protect our parks for the future.
Some of our most historic places are falling into disrepair and some of our most beautiful places are in danger of being lost forever. We must preserve what is special about New Hampshire by recommitting ourselves to the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program.
I've traveled to every corner of this great state. I've visited police stations, firehouses, and schools, state agencies and town offices, state parks and farms, businesses, big and small. I've met with our veterans, our seniors, our workers and our children. I've seen how the traditions of our state live on and I've seen the great promise our future holds.
Let our legacy be that we came together, Democrats, Independents and Republicans, to put partisanship aside and rose to meet the real challenges our state faced. Let our legacy be that we protected what is special about New Hampshire.
Let our legacy be of clean, honest and representative government. Let our legacy be that we came together to lay the foundation for expanded opportunity for all our citizens; the foundation for a safer, healthier and more prosperous New Hampshire.
Generations before us came together to preserve and build the great state we live in today. Let us, together, keep the promise of New Hampshire's future.