In November of 2014, New Hampshire voters elected Republican majorities to the House of Representatives and the state Senate. For the last 20 months, our citizen Legislature has been working to produce results, and govern in a responsible manner that our state and its citizens can be proud of.
At the time of the last election, our state’s economy was still emerging from recession. We heard from business owners and employees that in order to shift New Hampshire’s economy into the 21st century, we needed to stop claiming we were business friendly, and start acting like we actually mean business.
Study after study placed our state in among the highest in the nation for our corporate tax rates, and we knew this demanded action. We are proud to say that the Republican Legislature passed the first business tax relief in 20 years. These cuts reduce the burden on businesses that employ the majority of New Hampshire workers, enabling them to grow, invest, and create more jobs. We did this despite Gov. Maggie Hassan’s ill-informed veto, and her claims that our state budget revenues would be irreparably damaged. In fact, we’ve seen growth in business tax revenue.
Despite our low unemployment rate, more than 100,000 of our residents still commute out-of-state for their jobs. We need to foster a competitive tax and regulatory environment to bring those jobs here and make New Hampshire a magnet for economic opportunity.
Over the last two years, the Republican Legislature has passed an array of legislation that protects businesses from unfair tax treatment when they go public or acquire new investment capital, expanded the Research and Development Tax Credit, reformed Workers’ Compensation laws, simplified the tax-filing process for businesses, and increased deductions for purchases of capital and equipment, among many other pro-business bills.
Regulation and tax reform is only part of the solution. A modernized economy requires an educated workforce and lower energy costs. We increased funding to our university and community college systems, ensuring they have resources to produce affordable education options for the next generation of our workforce, and ensuring we have the skilled workers needed to attract and retain businesses and jobs.
We realized that action was necessary to address the many facets of our state’s drug and opioid addiction epidemic. Included in the Republican Legislature’s state budget proposal, was a substantial increase in funding to programs dealing with addiction treatment and recovery. In total, we included $42 million in our state budget, a 75 percent increase, to ensure our state agencies and providers had access to more resources. The governor vetoed the budget bills with this additional funding, but we were relieved when Democrats joined with us to overturn her veto, and move forward with our proposals.
We didn’t stop once the budget was passed. In late 2015, the Republican Legislature formed the Joint Legislative Task Force on the Heroin and Opioid Epidemic, comprised of legislative leaders from the House and Senate with policy expertise and personal or professional backgrounds in the fields associated with the many aspects of this crisis. We reviewed dozens of proposals, enabled a fast-track legislative process, and focused our collective attention through the legislative session on additional bills. This year alone we’ve passed legislation that touches all three major areas of the crisis, including education and prevention, treatment and recovery, and law enforcement and interdiction.
In 2015, 439 New Hampshire citizens lost their lives because of illicit drug use. If there has ever been such compelling evidence that the Legislature must address this crisis by whatever means we can, I’m not aware of it. The package of legislation we passed this year may not be the solution to permanently end the crisis. But if we can save lives, if we can take drugs off of our streets, and if we can expand access to treatment and recovery, we believe it is of paramount importance to our state.
When it comes to addressing the problems voters send us here to solve, I believe we’ve demonstrated an ability to overcome partisan rhetoric and deliver meaningful results. We look forward to continuing our conversation with voters in the coming months to ensure we continue to be responsive to their concerns, act as responsible stewards of their tax dollars, and as responsible representatives of their state government.
Rep. Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack, is the New Hampshire House Majority Leader.