The NH Advantage. This is the phrase constantly invoked by the trickle-down Republicans and defined as: no state income tax and no sales tax. This is touted as the reason for our great success as a state. The tricklers tell us that it’s the reason we weathered the most recent recession/depression. They also tell us that the evil unions and burdensome regulations prevent our state’s 27,000 millionaires from getting to work on job creation.
Earlier this week a group of economists got together at the Manchester Chamber of Commerce to discuss the economic growth of our state. The news isn’t good. NH is losing ground. Our economic strength compared to our evil taxated neighbors declined significantly in the last year, and has been on the decline for the last decade. Both Massachusetts and Vermont (states that are constantly derided as being socialist taxation empires) are gaining jobs just as fast as NH is losing them. Last year Massachusetts added 41,000 jobs. Vermont added 3,000. NH lost 2,000. Both MA and VT have state income taxes and sales tax. Neither VT nor MA is a right to work state, and presumably (since they’re full of tree hugging commies) both states are loaded with “burdensome regulations.” They’re growing jobs. NH is losing them. Where’s the advantage in that?
NH has always been seen as a state with a fast growing population, with plenty of migration from other states. According to Dennis Delay, an economist at the NH Center for Public Policy Studies, this is no longer true. That trend is beginning to reverse. Delay also finds that not only is our population growth slowing, so is our private investment growth.
This fits in with the CNBC report, “America’s Top States for Doing Business.” This report showed that NH ranked 2nd in the nation for being business friendly. The “burdensome regulations” we hear so much about are pure bunkum. The NH economy came in 34th place, a huge drop after being in 10th place in 2011. (Google “Flat Earth Mode” to read the op-ed I wrote in July about this study.) A 2011 US Chamber of Commerce report found that the states investing in infrastructure and education were the most successful in bringing in new jobs. This is the opposite of what NH is doing. What NH is doing is very clearly not working, when the socialist republics are doing so much better than we are.
For too long, NH has been governed by bumper sticker slogans that were fresh 40 years ago. Taking the pledge is considered an economic plan by all Republicans, and sadly by most of our media. It was very clear during the buildup to the recent state primary. Gubernatorial candidates who took the pledge were not pressed on their economic plans, no matter how insubstantial they were. Jackie Cilley, the only candidate brave enough to refuse the pledge was constantly hammered by the media, who didn’t care about the amorphous plans of the other candidates. She was also hammered relentlessly by the NHDP and the NHGOP working together against her, a rare instance of bipartisanship in our state. Republicans always bluster about Democrats wanting an income tax, but it’s a lie. The NHDP hierarchy is just as invested in the pledge as the Republicans who wrote it. In both cases the reasons for the fealty are the same – it’s the politics of fear. That’s how both political parties rule their membership. The fears are different, but the tactics are certainly the same. (Note: Susan Bruce left the Democratic Party in 2009.)
Ovide Lamontagne and the other Republicans running for the legislature have no plan that will reverse the downhill trend NH is currently experiencing. Their plan is just to cut even more spending; a plan that’s failed brilliantly so far, taking us from the 10th rated state economy to the 34th in a year. It’s policy that has cost us thousands of jobs and kept our unemployment rate inching up since the Republicans took control of the legislature in 2011. It’s the same policy that ensures our infrastructure will continue to be amongst the worst in the nation, and that our young people will continue exit our state, finding affordable colleges and better job opportunities elsewhere.
Why are we losing out to Massachusetts and Vermont? Both states are investing in education and infrastructure. Vermont in particular has invested heavily in telecommunications infrastructure, and the VT Telecommunications Authority has set a very aggressive goal of statewide cellular and broadband access by the end of 2013. VTA meets very regularly. NH has the Telecommunications Planning and Advisory Board, which has no stated goal, and according to their website, hasn’t met at all during the last year.
NH is in denial. We’ve been lucky so far, coasting along on the past. The legislature of the last biennium can’t take us anywhere but further down Stagnation Road. There are few Republicans running who have any vision for our future. Most have a vision of staying in the past. This is true, of course, from the top down. Mitt Romney, in his broadcasts from the Let Them Eat Cake Bakery, reveals a complete disconnection from reality, never mind sound fiscal policy. Lamontagne has been allowed by the NH media to present himself as a moderate, who is only interested in job creation, not in social issues. If that sounds familiar to you, it’s because you’ve heard it before. That was the NHGOP message in 2010 – the laser like focus on job creation. Once they took office, they began working to repeal NH’s marriage equality law, regulating NH women’s reproductive decisions, and passing the unnecessary and ridiculous voter ID law. It was all social engineering and no job creating. How do we know? The record speaks for itself. NH lost 2000 jobs last year.
The last legislature made NH the butt of jokes and late night comedy around the world. A friend from Pennsylvania recently described NH as “the Texas of the northeast.” This shouldn’t be a goal. In fact, the last legislature may be one of the factors in our state’s decline. A company wanting to expand might not choose to come to a state where legislators claim that kindergarten causes crime, where warning signs are needed at the borders, where the Magna Carta should be quoted in new legislation.
NH can do better. Indeed, we must, if we ever intend to join the 21st century.
h/t to Brian Gottlob/polecon for the graph
© 2012 sbruce
published as an op-ed in the September 28, 2012 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper