We just had the chance to hear Governor Lynch’s final State of the State address. Our Governor has had an unprecedented four terms in office and I want to take the time to thank him for his service. His willingness to take eight years out of his life to devote to state government in what can be, at times, a thankless job is a both a remarkable accomplishment and an extraordinary sacrifice.
The Governor has obviously seen a lot that has happened toNew Hampshire. The natural disasters that he has handled for our state have been historic. Since 2005, we’ve seen floods, blizzards, hurricanes, more floods, ice storms and tornados. Through it all, he has been a reassuring presence who has reminded the state that we can, and will, persevere.
The Governor also deserves credit for being the most active and accessible public figure this side of Councilor Ray Burton. Not a day goes by that Governor Lynch is not out, meeting residents and traveling across the state. More people have his cell phone number than any of us can imagine, and he has set a high standard of availability and hosting school visits for the next person who fills his office.
With that said, we will be inaugurating a new governor in January of next year. Thankfully, the person who takes office will be lucky to inherit a state government that is running smoothly and delivering results for the citizens ofNew Hampshirethanks to the Republican legislature that voters overwhelmingly elected in 2010.
2011 was a year of extraordinary achievements for this legislature. We did an uncommon thing for elected officials: we kept campaign promises. We told the public what we would do, and that’s just what we did. And in doing it, we have pleased many and, it appears, outraged those whose policies have been abandoned.
When legislative candidates across the state ran, we said we would live with our means and balance our budget without raising taxes. The over 100 tax and fee increases of the four years prior to this legislature were simply too much for our employers, and our citizens, to bear.
Upon being sworn in, we learned we had 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, last week we learned that over the last year and based on Republican reforms, New Hampshire jumped from 50th in business taxes – dead last – to 46th nationally, according to the non-partisan Tax Foundation.
Now, we certainly aren’t going to celebrate being 46th, but we can celebrate the progress. We are making significant strides and this improvement is a clear signal to employers thatNew Hampshire is the place to grow their business. It shows a return of the New Hampshire Advantage.
This is critical, because Republican candidates also promised voters that we would work to build an environment to create jobs inNew Hampshire. The results speak for themselves. Since last Election Day, the state’s unemployment rate has dropped from 5.7% to 5.1%, as 8,000 more residents are now working. This is particularly impressive given that we lost over half a billion dollars in federal stimulus funding in this budget.
Some might point to the fact that the unemployment rate has also fallen nationally, but there is a big difference from what is going on here. Across the country, the size of the labor force nationally has been flat. That means that discouraged workers are leaving the job market, and that new workers don’t have the chance to get jobs and enter the workforce. Here inNew Hampshire, just last month, the labor force grew to the largest in state history. Our workers are able to get back into a growing job market because our employers have the confidence to add new jobs.
This confidence comes in part from lower taxes, but also comes from a tremendous focus on makingNew Hampshirea business-friendly state. A huge piece of this puzzle is reducing the number of onerous regulations on our employers. That’s why, last year, we passed 43 laws that, in large ways and small, reduced regulation.
While these are all great steps to finally getting our economy back to full speed, there is more we need to continue to do to fully restore and expand the New Hampshire Advantage. The 38,000 of our friends and neighbors who remain unemployed will tell you that we certainly have more work in front of us. To do this, we need to make our state a magnet for new employers and give the ones who are here now an incentive to grow.
That’s why we will continue to focus our energies this year on strengthening the New Hampshire Advantage. That means making theGraniteStatethe logical choice to grow or relocate a business inNew Englandand the Northeast.
To do that, the Republican legislature will look for additional opportunities to reduce taxes and fees while lifting the regulatory burden on our employers. Let’s face it: 46th in business taxes is still way too high, and our businesspeople tell us that regulation is stifling growth.
We will also work for new opportunities to deliver greater accountability and efficiency to state government to increase fiscal responsibility.
Last year, we passed a law to overhaul the state budget process to unleash our state agencies’ creativity by requiring them to submit budgets that reduce spending, instead of perpetually growing government. We also gave our department heads the flexibility to move around their staff, so that they could do more with less. Tomorrow, the House will vote on a bill to rebuild our devastated Rainy Day Fund by placing last year’s surplus in reserve, and out of the hands of those who would look for opportunities to continue to grow government.
After over 80 failed attempts since the first Claremont decision 18 years ago, this Republican House has passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would give the people the choice to solve educational funding and target aid without a new income tax or sales tax, and by eliminating the statewide property tax. Through the years and even this session, we have tried many other versions of constitutional amendments, including the Governor’s language, and all have failed. Let us not abandon this last, best opportunity.
These are the types of steps that Republican leadership has brought toNew Hampshire. We now have a government that put the taxpayers at the table and demands that state officials spend tax dollars as wisely and as frugally as those who pay the bills it would.
We do need to focus on opportunities for transformative change that we can offer the voters through constitutional amendments on the ballot in November. From issues involving tax policy, spending policy and, of course, education funding, we should be giving the public a chance to put durable solutions into the constitution that will ensure that our state will remain a beacon of economic freedom for generations to come.
This Thursday, the Majority office will be presenting the House Republican 2012 agenda. It is a bottoms up agenda in which Republican House members have come forward to propose legislation that further fulfill the promises made toNew Hampshirepeople. It will be a blueprint for closing out the most successful legislative term in decades as our State continues its return to the New Hampshire Advantage.
While last year was full of outstanding legislative achievements, and we expect more this year, it would be vastly easier to get our state back on track economically and to get our government under control if we have a Republican governor who is committed to the same limited government, low tax, more economic freedom principles that the voters demanded at the ballot box in 2010.
We need a governor who will sign a budget that recognizes thatNew Hampshirecannot prosper if we continually hike taxes and try to budget according to desires rather than reality.
We need a governor who will sign tax relief for employers to ensure that our state is no longer dead last for high business taxes.
We need a governor who will sign Right to Work to attract businesses here and add good, new jobs.
We need a governor who will direct the attorney general to join the lawsuit to fight ObamaCare or any other federal takeover of our health care.
The election in November will give our citizens the chance to bring that strong leader to Concord. Working with a Republican legislature that is committed to growing our economy, the opportunity to move our state forward is enormous. I look forward to working with that new Governor so that we don’t have to confront Vetoes that stand in the way of today’s solutions because of a refusal to abandon yesterday’s misconceptions.
Republicans are optimistic about New Hampshire’s future. We have made great strides in returning an affordable government and jobs to New Hampshire. We have the support of the people who now recognize how wrong things can go when we forget the liberty and fiscal responsibility traditions of New Hampshire. We look forward to 2012 for it will be a year of legislative and electoral triumphs.