Jobs remain the focus in Concord

Last modified: 2/13/2012 12:00:00 AM
For this Legislature, 2011 was a year of extraordinary achievements. We committed to voters to live within our means and balance our budget without raising taxes and did an uncommon thing for elected officials: We kept our promises.

The over 100 tax and fee increases of the four years prior to this Legislature were simply too much for our employers and citizens to bear.

Last year, we inherited a $900 million budget deficit. Rather than default to the usual solution of more taxes and fees, we lived up to our word and closed that deficit without creating or increasing a single tax. In fact, we reduced or eliminated 12 taxes and fees.

Included in those tax and fee cuts were several reductions in business taxes. As a result of these actions and based on Republican reforms, the monthly employment report by the state Department of Employment Security through January showed that roughly 7,800 [An earlier version of this column included an incorrect figure] more people are now working in New Hampshire than at any time since the start of the recession in 2008.

This is how businesses respond to state government that is a partner, not an adversary.

New Hampshire also moved from 50th to 46th in business taxes nationally, according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. This is a great start, but of course 46 is far from desirable and the job is far from over.

New Hampshire House Republicans recently presented our legislative agenda for 2012, which will continue to deliver on our promise to protect the New Hampshire Advantage of limited government and getting the 38,000 of our friends and neighbors who remain unemployed back to work.

Our agenda focuses on concerns we have heard from job creators. We need to work with our employers - not against them - to give them confidence to invest, grow and hire. Lowering their cost of doing business and making New Hampshire more competitive will entail a complete transformation in a state government that rolls back excessive regulations; refuses to increase taxes; and ensures an environment of growth, responsiveness, stability and support.

We will work on legislation that will repeal certain provisions under our workers compensation law that are burdensome, ineffective and difficult to administer - especially for our smaller businesses. We also will work to join the other 22 right-to-work states nationally and become the first state in the Northeast that takes this important step to bring employers here.

The Legislature also must focus on issues closely related to jobs, such as creating an educational system that helps us compete globally. We live in a time in which educational attainment and economic success are correlated as never before.

Employers have repeatedly told us that they have jobs available but often lack a qualified workforce to fill them. This must change.

We are lucky that New Hampshire has an abundance of great teachers. But neither they alone nor throwing more taxpayer money at education is going to advance our system from providing an adequate education to an excellent education.

There is not a direct correlation between school performance and the amount government spends on education. Finland, for instance - which has a 93 percent graduation rate and came in second in science, third in reading and sixth in math - spends 30 percent less on education than our country. Part of this, of course, is the money wasted on the inefficiencies of administration and bureaucracy.

We are committed to better standards in our schools, which includes empowering parents to become more actively involved in their children's education.

It also includes choice and competition. No parent should ever be forced to send their child to a bad school, and school choice shouldn't be an option only afforded to the rich.

House Bill 1607 would introduce an education tax credit program designed to save the state money and ensure that every student has access to an education based on excellence.

Improving the engineering and technology curriculums in our public schools, and empowering students to prepare for college while still in high school also will aid the work force.

Finally, we need to reduce energy costs in order to be more competitive. All the work we do to make our state more business friendly will fail to attract new manufacturing jobs if we remain among the highest energy costs in the country.

We understand our state's future depends on a government committed to advancing these economic principles and House Republicans will use this year to advance these and other like goals to preserve and enhance our New Hampshire Advantage.

(Rep. D.J. Bettencourt of Salem is the majority leader of the New Hampshire House of Representatives and represents the town of Salem.)

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