Thank you all for coming. Today I’m proud to stand with our incredible team of Democratic candidates for State Senate. I’d like to start by congratulating our primary winners and thanking the candidates who ran unsuccessfully in last Tuesday’s primary. Primaries are an important part of the democratic process and they make all of us stronger.
We are taking the important step of outlining our legislative priorities in advance of the November election. Senate Democrats believe that the voters ought to know what the next Senate majority will prioritize. In November, voters have an opportunity to shape the future of New Hampshire. Unemployment is low and our economy is doing well; however, that does not paint a complete picture.
Wages are not rising and too many families are trying to make ends meet by working multiple jobs – with little to no benefits. We need to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top.
Senator Feltes will go into more detail in a minute, but our Opportunity Plan focuses on five key policy areas:
First, a state budget that works for everyone.
Second, job opportunities and education that help everyone – regardless of where you are in life.
Third, lower electric rates and advancing the jobs of tomorrow through energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Fourth, paid family and medical leave since no one should be forced to make the impossible choice between caring for a loved one and paying the bills.
And fifth, protecting healthcare for all Granite Staters because healthcare is a right and not a privilege.
We are advocating for these policies because they help everyone. This is not a plan that focuses solely on business, it’s not a plan that helps just rural or urban residents; we are supporting this plan because it helps all Granite Staters – in all corners of the state.
And now I turn it over to Deputy Democratic Leader Dan Feltes.
Thank you Senator Soucy. As Senator Soucy said our Opportunity Plan focuses on five key areas:
First, A State Budget That Works for Everyone
We need to prioritize the opioid epidemic, mental health, child protection, infrastructure, affordable child care, affordable housing and education, not send tax dollars to private and religious schools and give tax breaks to corporate special interests. Senate Democrats will prioritize New Hampshire property tax payers, from the family business to the working family to the senior struggling on a fixed income – that’s who we are fighting for, not the entitled elite or out-of-state corporate special interests. Last session, the Senate Republican agenda meant taxes for corporations went down, while your property taxes went up. Budgets are the ultimate test of priorities and values and a Senate Democratic majority will always put people first – and our budget will represent that value.
Second, Job Opportunities and Education for Everyone
We currently have a system that treats education with a one and done philosophy. That doesn’t work with a rapidly changing economy. We cannot allow New Hampshire to get left behind; we need to invest in job training and workforce development, including helping graduating high school seniors have more vocation and trades opportunities and helping people on second and third careers get into a new job. We also must do more to increase wages, including raising the minimum wage. In addition, New Hampshire businesses, especially family businesses, are struggling to fill open positions. We need to recruit, retrain and retain workers. A Senate Democratic majority will prioritize job opportunities for everyone and support education at every stage in a person’s life – from public education to affordable college to job training.
Third, Lowering Electric Rates and Advancing the Jobs of Tomorrow through Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Advancing local energy and local jobs means lower rates for Granite Staters. Focusing on local solution is the New Hampshire way. Renewable energy provides an incredible opportunity for economic development and 21st century jobs. Senate Democrats will promote local energy and economic opportunity by relaxing net metering restrictions and advancing community solar. A Senate Democratic majority will incentivize energy efficiency and renewable energy. We’ll support innovative proposals that lower electric rates.
Fourth, Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance
Senate Democrats believe in paid leave for workers who have a new baby, to care for a sick or dying child or parent, or to deal with their own sickness. No one should have to choose between work and family, if at all possible. Catering to Americans for Prosperity and the insurance lobby, Senate Republicans voted down HB 628, the bipartisan bill with support from over 200 businesses that would have finally moved New Hampshire to paid family and medical leave insurance. Too many family businesses and too many working families are left out and left behind. We need to finally pass paid family and medical leave insurance; it is critical to attracting and retaining the workforce of tomorrow, to combatting our opioid epidemic, and to care for an aging population. Paid family and medical leave is not a vacation. When in the majority, we will pass paid family and medical leave.
Finally, Protecting the Health Care of Granite Staters including State Level Protections on Preexisting Conditions
With the Trump administration’s continued goal of getting rid of protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and a US Supreme Court that could hear a case on whether protections for pre-existing conditions may exist at the federal level, it is now more important than ever for us to act to protect the health care of Granite Staters. When in the majority, Senate Democrats will shore up New Hampshire consumer protections on short-term, insufficient insurance plans and will close state-level loopholes ensuring all Granite Staters with pre-existing conditions are protected. We promise to protect the health care of Granite Staters by supporting a State Level protection for pre-existing conditions. Healthcare is a right and Granite Staters deserve to know that they won’t be financially devastated because of an illness.
Thank you again for coming, and we will now take questions.