My Turn: Blueprint for a stronger economy
In order to move New Hampshire’s economy forward, it’s not just about creating jobs. It’s about creating good jobs that allow families to reach and remain in the middle class.
To keep and attract business opportunities, we can promote policies that bolster our job-training programs, support the infrastructure necessary to advance commerce, and take the lead in innovative job growth through partnerships in energy efficiency and renewable energy, helping to reduce our energy costs. We can explore the feasibility of unique economic development ideas, including passenger rail in New Hampshire linking to the bus service in Concord and the Manchester airport, an incubator program for entrepreneurs at the N.H. Technical Institute in Concord, opening our beautiful State House on the weekends to attract more tourists, and consider other economic development ideas that may emerge from community and business leaders. We must also recognize and appreciate that the economic success of the capital region depends, in large measure, on the economic success of our job base right here – our state employees and the employees of the hospital system.
A comprehensive approach to jobs and economic growth does not stop there. To promote economic growth and drive a fair economy, we should take steps aimed at increasing participation in the workforce, worker retention and worker productivity, including trying to address the high cost of quality child care, promoting innovative family leave policies, advancing workforce housing and finally increasing the minimum wage. Hard-working families across our state should not have to live in poverty or rely on public assistance, nor should they have to choose between their careers and their kids.
We create jobs by ensuring that business regulation is smart, fair and transparent, and by making sure New Hampshire’s workforce is second to none. And we create jobs by making the tough but fiscally prudent investments now that will pay jobs dividends in the long term. That starts with a cradle to career approach to education, with an emphasis on early childhood development, including universal full-day kindergarten. It includes a continued emphasis on producing career-ready graduates and making sure that our high schools, community colleges and public universities have first-rate programs in the lucrative science, technology, energy and math fields – and that postsecondary education is accessible to all students with the drive to get there.
Finally, and perhaps most important, we cannot afford to backslide on health insurance reform as well as the New Hampshire Health Protection Program. Competition in health insurance is increasing this fall, and low-income workers in the capital region will be able to access health insurance under the New Hampshire Health Protection Program beginning Aug. 15.
We need to make sure that our state’s emerging insurance marketplace includes providers serving residents of the capital region at competitive rates. Access to affordable health care has a beneficial impact on the lives, economic security and productivity of working families. Our workers’ livelihoods, and the costs of doing business, depend on our moving forward with health insurance reform.
As a legal aid attorney for the past eight years, I represented workers devastated by job loss in the Great Recession, helping them navigate our job-training programs and receive the unemployment insurance benefits necessary to get them back on their feet.
I’ve seen firsthand the struggles of working families, and I’ve worked to translate individual stories into systemic change through legislation, including working with then-senator Maggie Hassan to help persons who are working part time – disproportionately women – receive equal access to unemployment insurance benefits when crushed by job loss.
I helped veterans struggling to find jobs and housing following their return to New Hampshire from Iraq and Afghanistan. I worked with then-senator Hassan on a committee reviewing unemployment and underemployment of veterans in the state, ultimately recommending a policy helping veterans in state hiring. I will always remember the voices of the many families I represented who were trying to find work, who were struggling to get by and get on their feet.
As your state senator, I will work constructively with everyone – no one person or one political party has a monopoly on good ideas. I believe New Hampshire works best when we work together. Let’s get to work. I hope you will consider voting for me in the Democratic primary on Sept. 9.
(Dan Feltes is a candidate for state Senate in District 15. He lives in Concord.)