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This Legislature has delivered

Last modified: 7/23/2011 12:00:00 AM
Going into last year's election, New Hampshire residents made clear that they had serious concerns about the state's jobs environment and the enormous growth in spending that had taken the state's finances to the brink of ruin. Today, with new leadership in the Legislature, unemployment has dropped dramatically, and the new budget closed a massive deficit without tax or fee increases - in fact, the state actually cut taxes to spur even greater economic growth.

Thanks to this new direction, the New Hampshire comeback is under way. We are now in a better position to weather the national economic storms, and the Legislature is intent on further strengthening New Hampshire's economy.

On Election Day last year, the state's unemployment rate stood at 5.7 percent, and the structural budget deficit was $895 million, according to state budget officials. We needed to help more state residents get back to work while also stopping a financial meltdown from the worst deficit in state history.

When this leadership team took over, we had the opportunity to travel across the state and ask many employers how the state can create an environment where companies can grow and create jobs.

Consistently, these businesspeople mentioned that, first, the state needed to stop the enormous number of tax and fee increases to pay for runaway spending that takes from their bottom line, and then, we needed to stop the massive number of new and expanded regulations that added to their costs. They reminded us that since 2007, New Hampshire has had the highest business tax rate nationally, and our regulatory burden certainly didn't live up to our 'Live Free or Die' state motto.

We heard this message loud and clear. We needed to undo the damage that was done over the past four years and rebuild the reputation that made us a magnet for employers. We promised the people that we would get this economy moving again, and we knew it was imperative to live up to our word.

We also know that government doesn't create jobs; motivated entrepreneurs who are willing to take risks do. Businesspeople are smart enough to realize that if taxes and regulations are going to increase, it's not a good time to start hiring. They need to be able to look forward and see a positive economic environment before they put their hard-earned money into adding another worker.

That's why, early in this session, House and Senate leaders made two points absolutely plain: We would not raise any taxes, and we would lift the regulatory burden off our job creators. Government would get out of the way and let the private sector come to life.

How far have we come? In just eight months, the state's unemployment rate has dropped by nearly a full point, to 4.8 percent in June - the third lowest in the nation - as over 5,600 more New Hampshire workers found jobs, even as nationally, unemployment is rising.

Asked about the growing economy, employers say it comes down to one word: confidence. Business leaders now believe that New Hampshire is headed in the right direction, and they are willing to put their money up here to bet on our future.

This confidence comes from seeing a Legislature that has not only closed a huge deficit and balanced our budget without new taxes and fees, but also delivered 12 tax and fee reductions. Additionally, we enacted 43 laws that cut regulation and red tape.

New Hampshire is once again open for business.

The process wasn't easy and isn't complete. Passing a budget that cuts spending by 11 percent will always be difficult. However, the alternative of watching our economy stagnate and our neighbors remain out of work was unacceptable. Our citizens deserve better and we're delivering.

While the work of this Legislature is getting New Hampshire back to being an economic leader nationally, we need to continue to build on our momentum. Though New Hampshire is adding new jobs, we must still look for opportunities to make us even more competitive and a place where employers look to bring their companies.

The people wanted representatives in Concord who work to allow the economy to grow, cut spending and end the regime of out-of-control government expansion and numerous tax hikes. Today, we can see that this Legislature has delivered results for the people of New Hampshire.

The good news is that jobs are coming, and we're just getting started.

(Rep. William O'Brien of Mont Vernon is speaker of the New Hampshire House.)


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