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N.H. Senate panel endorses bill to expand state R&D tax credit

The Senate is on track to quickly pass an expansion of New Hampshire’s research and development tax credit, a measure with broad bipartisan support.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee yesterday voted 5-0 to recommend the full Senate pass the bill at its next session. The legislation would double the total amount available in tax credits each year from $1 million to $2 million, and make the credit permanent; it’s scheduled to expire in 2015.

The Senate unanimously passed a similar expansion last year but killed the legislation after the then-GOP-controlled House attached an amendment that would have required women to wait 24 hours before getting an abortion.

The expansion seems certain to pass the Republican-led Senate again – 21 of the 24 senators are sponsors of this year’s bill – and will then go to the Democratic-controlled House. Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, supports the bill.

“We cannot repeat the events of last year, where the Legislature sacrificed its ability to help create jobs in this way to a radical social agenda,” said Sen. David Pierce, a Democrat from Etna.

Sen. Bob Odell, a Lempster Republican and chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, noted that the tax credit expansion has been designated Senate Bill 1, a mark of its importance.

“I think it’s an important benchmark for us, for Gov. Hassan and for all of us who are concerned about job creation and moving the process of economic development forward,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Sylvia Larsen, a Concord Democrat, agreed, calling it “a priority for all of us that we get this bill, this research and development tax credit, accomplished very early in our session to send a message of the importance of job creation in our state.”

The research and development tax credit was created in 2007, allowing businesses to apply for a credit against their state tax bills for qualified manufacturing research and development expenses.

In all, 16 people testified yesterday in favor of the expansion bill, and only one testified against it – Rep. Dan McGuire, an Epsom Republican.

McGuire told the committee he disagrees with the way the tax credit is calculated and structured, saying he believes it doesn’t do much to encourage start-up businesses. And he signaled a more fundamental objection to such targeted credits.

“I dislike the idea of us as legislators imposing on society a preference for a particular kind of business over another. I don’t think we’re qualified to do that, for one thing. . . . It’s not appropriate for the Legislature to sort of distort the market in that way,” McGuire said.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or
bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

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