Gov. Chris Sununu continued to put the coronavirus pandemic behind him during the Tri-Chamber State of the State on Wednesday as he talked about a controversial part of his upcoming budget.

Speaking virtually from his office to members of the Falls Chamber in Somersworth, the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Dover Chamber of Commerce Sununu talked about the state's response to COVID-19 and how the state is recovering.

"We could all write our own novels on COVID. What it meant for ourselves, our businesses, our families, the anxiety around the health of individuals, where it's
going. It really was an incredible year in that not only was it so difficult but no one was immune," Sununu said.

Sununu said his own book could actually be a vlog for all to see that showed how transparent he believes his administration's response was to the pandemic.

Sununu said transparency is the foundation of public trust and people need public trust in a healthcare emergency.

He said the state now has to deal with the "problem" of having a low unemployment rate of 2.5% that has left many businesses - especially those in the travel and tourism industries - scrambling to fill positions. Paying higher wagers also offers an opportunity to create affordable housing in the state.

"You've got to work with your cities and towns and demand that they build appropriate housing. Without housing you don't have employees. Without employees you don't have business. It's just that simple. You cannot say you support business and not support good housing," Sununu said.

The governor's proposed budget that includes a provision banning late-term abortions was brought up during a question and answer session in a question from Somersworth City Councilor Crystal Paradis.

"The ban has no allowances for rape, incest or fatal fetal anomaly. It can mean up to seven years in prison for doctors. What do you say to the medical community who soundly oppose this?" Paradis asked the governor.

Sununu put blame for the amendment on the legislature and said the ban is already in place in 43 states including Massachusetts and New York and called Paradis' question "political."

"Massachusetts has this. I don't see the medical community screaming at Massachusetts. New York has almost the exact same law. Liberal New York and Massachusetts have the exact same type of provisions, but no one's screaming at them," the governor said, adding that the terms of the abortion provision keep changing.

The New Hampshire Democratic Party disputed Sununu's response.

"The truth is both Massachusetts and New York allow abortions after 24 weeks for the general health of a mother or the viability of the fetus, and do not require mandatory ultrasounds. Governor Sununu’s cruel abortion ban would force women to carry a fetus that is not viable and mandates ultrasounds," party spokeswoman Gates MacPherson said in a statement.

Sununu told Paradis he is a pro-choice governor but doesn't like that the abortion issue is included in the budget package.

"I've always supported a woman's right to choose and we support women's health care very, very strongly in this state. But to say we're going to again veto a $13 billion
budget with all these tax cuts and property tax relief and all this other really great stuff in it, I think this bill should be on its own. I don't love that they put non-germane issues to the budget but that's the legislative process," Sununu said.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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