Governor Maggie Hassan
As Prepared for Delivery
January 3, 2013
Madame Speaker, Mr. President, Madame Chief Justice, honorable members of the House and Senate and Executive Council, former Governors, our honorable United States Senator my fellow citizens:
Thank you for the trust you have placed in me, it humbles me and will sustain me as I work to lead our remarkable state.
Today, as I was sworn in as your governor, I pledged to follow the constitutions of New Hampshire and of the United States.
Now, I will make one more promise: I will work as hard as I can to honor your trust. And I will strive to do so in the tradition that has guided us throughout our history: the tradition of openness, bipartisanship, and collective problem solving.
No one has exemplified that tradition more than the person I am succeeding, someone I want to thank on behalf of all of our citizens for his four terms in the Corner Office—thank you, Governor John Lynch.
I sought this office so that we could shape our own way forward, harnessing the promise of our great citizen democracy to preserve and strengthen our state’s special qualities.
I know that, together, we can build a stronger, more innovative New Hampshire, a New Hampshire where all of our citizens are included in our shared success and prosperity.
To our very core, we value freedom, independence, hard work, fiscal responsibility, family and community. We live these values in our personal lives and in our workplaces. And every citizen, regardless of circumstance, should have the opportunity to live them too – to hold a good job, work hard, raise a family, and share in the high quality of life we enjoy in New Hampshire. When they do, they become empowered and our state grows stronger.
Our ability to accomplish this goal lies in our willingness to innovate – not only to develop innovative new products and services, but to innovate in other areas as well: in the operation of our traditional industries, in the way we educate our citizens, in the way we deliver government’s essential services, and in providing the tools that support growing businesses and create good middle-class jobs.
New Hampshire has many distinctions we can be proud of. We have the lowest poverty rate and lowest teen birth rate in the country. We are consistently rated as one of the safest states and one of the best places in the country to raise children.
We are uniquely suited to seize the promise and opportunity that innovation presents. But adapting to the demands of an innovation economy presents immediate challenges, too.
Our population is aging, yet we pursue policies that are driving our young people out of the state. We have the fourth highest in-state tuition for public universities in the country and too many of our talented students pursue a college education elsewhere. When these New Hampshire natives complete school, they often choose not to return, depriving our economy of talented people with the energy and skills needed to drive innovation. We need to renew our tradition of attracting new citizens to our state, and we need to help our young people stay here, raise their own families here, and remain part of the future of New Hampshire.
Cutting state support for public education in half while lowering the tobacco tax two years ago was short sighted. It hurt our young people and, if not quickly addressed, will impair our future economic prosperity. We must begin to reverse course. In exchange, the University System, working with us, needs to increase the number of New Hampshire students admitted to our state colleges and universities and freeze in-state tuition.
We must also recognize that not every student chooses the same path, and that our community college system has developed innovative, nimble and cutting edge programs to educate our citizens. We must continue to support their efforts to build the strong workforce that our businesses need.
I have always strongly believed in the power and value of education. My parents were educators and I was fortunate that they worked to make sure that my sister, brother and I received the best educations possible. Mom and Dad created a home in which the value of learning, the obligations of citizenship, and vigorous but respectful debate were emphasized. Our home was always warm and rarely dull; it is difficult for me to express how grateful I am to my parents and family. I am so glad that my mother, Peggy, my sister Franny, and my brother Frank are here today.
Given the importance of education in my life, it’s probably not an accident that I chose to marry an educator. I am so proud of the work my husband Tom does as Principal of Phillips Exeter Academy and am so grateful for the support he has given me. Tom, you will bring insight, humor, and skill to the role of First Gentleman. Thank you.
I am also a very proud mother. My two children, Ben and Meg have inspired me, grounded me, and supported me. I wouldn’t be here without you.
And I can’t talk about my family without acknowledging how much we have been helped – and enriched – by the team of caregivers who have provided superb care and support to Ben, allowing him to receive a full education and participate in his community. You have become an integral part of our family and give proof to idea that when we care for each other, we all get stronger. Thank you.
I want the same for all of New Hampshire’s young people as I want for my own children: the opportunity to learn, to grow, and to lead.
Recently, I had the privilege of visiting Girls, Inc. in Nashua, which helps teach important life skills to girls and young women. Dozens of energetic girls – ranging from wriggling 5 and 6 years old to collected teenagers – had waited patiently for us to arrive.
They had researched the questions they wanted to ask and their knowledge was impressive. But it wasn’t really the topics that were important. They were being encouraged to imagine and realize that they could be leaders too. That they could be anything they wanted to be.
In order for the girls I met at Girls Inc. – and all of our young people – to realize their dreams, we must ensure that at each step along the way, their education is providing them with the skills, knowledge, and innovative thinking needed in a 21st century economy.
We must work with teachers, local schools, higher education and the business community to ensure a robust and rigorous education for all of our students, including in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
New Hampshire’s public colleges and universities have set an ambitious goal of doubling the number of STEM students that graduate by 2025. We should embrace that goal and make achieving it a state priority.
Businesses are ready and willing to hire people with these skills. Our task is to make sure New Hampshire’s workforce is ready to fill these jobs.
We have other opportunities and challenges as well. To compete in the 21st century, our businesses must find new markets for their innovative goods and services. Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States. I want New Hampshire to be a leader in exports, and in the next two years I’ll work to help our businesses sell their products around the globe.
To encourage innovation, we should also encourage the creation of new technologies here in New Hampshire by doubling the research and development tax credit.
We want entrepreneurs with innovative ideas to come to New Hampshire, and we want those who start businesses here to stay here and grow here.
That means continuing to build strategic partnerships between our colleges and universities and our inventors and entrepreneurs. Take the example of Therma-HEXX in Portsmouth. Bob Barmore, Therma-HEXX’s founder and CEO, had the idea of using low-cost, energy efficient components to build simple heating and cooling devices for homes and commercial buildings. Bob told me the idea came to him when he was sitting with his wife on a rooftop deck that was too cold in the winter and too warm in the summer. He thought, "There has to be a way to fix this." He did, and with support and guidance from the Green Launching Pad, a business incubator at UNH, Bob has developed his idea into a successful and growing business right here in New Hampshire.
To support these businesses, we must recognize that there are some tasks that can only be accomplished in partnership with government. Chief among those are ensuring access to education for all, protecting public safety and building and maintaining the infrastructure that businesses and citizens need. We must recognize that businesses, from our established industries, such as manufacturing and tourism, to the industries of the future, cannot innovate and grow without the modern roads, bridges, broadband and reliable and clean power they require.
To address our challenges and seize the opportunity of innovation, we must summon our best traditions of cooperation and problem solving. The people of our state collaborate and make things work all the time, and their elected leaders must be able to do the same.
The people of New Hampshire have made it clear that they want to restore balance, that they want us to work together.
Let us promise ourselves today that we will meet our challenges by focusing on commonsense solutions born of collaboration. That we will together end the era of hasty, reactive government.
I understand the work of the House and the Senate. I was honored to be one of you. What you do matters and affects the lives of real people. To the best of my abilities I will work with you and foster an open dialogue. In return, I urge members of both parties to share your ideas and concerns with me. My door will be open and together we can find a way to solve problems and make New Hampshire a better place.
Among the most challenging tasks ahead is the need to foster innovative economic growth while continuing to balance the state budget.
While we are seeing signs of recovery and growth, we still face fiscal uncertainty; we will need to be prudent as we develop our budget. And I am mindful that innovation is not confined to the private sector. We need to continue to find ways to innovate in state government, so that we can honor our tradition of fiscal responsibility while serving the people of New Hampshire effectively and efficiently.
Granite Staters are frugal and the history of our state government reflects that.
To those of you who believe deeply in an income tax, I ask you to put that aside. I will veto an income or sales tax. And as we build our next budget, though we have much to address, we must acknowledge that we will not be able to do everything all at once.
To those on the other side, I ask you to recognize that there are some things that government must do – not only to help our most vulnerable citizens but also to provide the platform for economic growth. Needs do not go away simply because we don’t fund them. And opportunities for innovation and growth can evaporate if we fail to make smart investments in a timely way.
But if we work together we can fund our priorities and balance the budget.
As lawmakers, we must also recognize that our first and most important obligation is to protect the safety of New Hampshire families. I am so grateful to all those in our state who put their lives on the line to protect our communities, from the police officers, fire fighters, EMTs and other first responders, to corrections officers and security personnel, to state employees who maintain our health and safety, and so many more.
And we are grateful and proud of our veterans and members of the armed forces and the New Hampshire National Guard, so many of whom have been deployed repeatedly overseas in the last several years to protect our state and our nation while we have been at war.
I know we all remain shaken by the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We can be comforted in the knowledge that our New Hampshire educators are as bravely and professionally devoted to their students as the heroes in Newtown were. We can be grateful that our first responders protect us by responding to grave and unknown dangers with calm, skill and intensity.
But while our faith in those who provide for the safety of our communities should be stronger than ever, we will all need to honor the victims of the Newtown tragedy by coming together to find ways to make our schools and our towns better and safer.
There is so much that I love about our state. Most mornings I walk in the woods along the Exeter River. The sound of pine needles crackling under foot, the muted alarm of mallards as my dog and I walk by, the beauty and the stillness of an ice-covered stream, bring clarity and cheer me as I begin my day. It reminds me that New Hampshire is a place of unmatched natural beauty.
We see it in the mountains that tower over the North Country, in the lakes that freckle our state, and in the rocky shores and sandy beaches of the Seacoast. We see it in every town and city. The awe-inspiring beauty of our natural resources is critical to our hunting, fishing and tourism industries. It attracts businesses and entrepreneurs to New Hampshire. And it is critical to the quality of our daily lives.
But what I love most about New Hampshire is the all-hands-on-deck ethos of our people. Whenever there is a challenge, our people are ready to help and pitch in. We are a state that combines independence and community as nowhere else. But that ethos requires that we fully include all people of talent and energy in the life of our State.
Inclusiveness is part of our history. New Hampshire was at the forefront of the fight to save the union and end slavery. Over the decades we have welcomed waves of new citizens, from the Irish and French-Canadian immigrants of the 19th century to the immigrants from Nepal, Bhutan and all around the world who are reinvigorating our state today.
We are a model for including both men and women in our political process, exemplified today when a woman Supreme Court Chief Justice swore in a woman Governor.
We led the effort to end discrimination against people who experience disabilities and we helped bring them out of institutions and into the community. Our recommitment now to that endeavor will strengthen our families, communities, and economy.
And nearly four years ago, we led the way, without the force of a court order, toward marriage equality.
Last year I was on a plane when the man next to me struck up a conversation and asked me about my work in public service, including Marriage Equality. It turns out he was a recruiter for one of the biggest employers in New Hampshire, and he said to me, "Marriage Equality is one of the best recruitment tools I have." He said it wasn’t because he was necessarily recruiting gay or lesbian individuals. It was because passing Marriage Equality in New Hampshire signaled to everyone the kind of welcoming state that we are.
As has been true throughout our history, every time we bring more people in from the margins – into the heart and soul of our democracy – we get stronger.
We believe in freedom and the value of every person. It is our duty and our destiny to extend the same freedoms we enjoy to all our people.
The work of moving this special state forward cannot be done by office holders alone. The doors of this State House are open to all who want to engage, learn, and contribute. It will take the ideas and spirit and energy of everyone. More so than any other place, New Hampshire is a government "by the people."
Addressing our challenges will not be easy. It will be hard. But we are Granite Staters and Americans and we are supposed to do hard things. The question is whether we will live up to the grand vision that our founders had. Remember, the notion that we could operate as a true citizen democracy while also becoming an economic force in the world was, at the time, a revolutionary one.
To some degree, our ability to prove our founders right will depend on how we approach our task. Scripture refers to something called, "gladness of heart," an appreciation of the opportunity and freedom to do difficult things.
In this time and in this place, let’s choose to move our state forward with the optimism and pragmatism that is our hallmark. With "gladness of heart," let’s choose to remember what a gift it is to be citizens of the Granite State.