Sen. David Watters
Community Commentary: A State Senate Jobs and Economic Development Agenda
With the Senate hard at work on 2014 legislation, I want to report on my jobs and economic development agenda. The economy is slowly improving, but action is needed now to keep the New Hampshire advantage of low taxes, business enterprise, and education for today’s jobs.
Legislators must ensure the business climate is not hampered by tax policy and red tape. I introduced legislation to extend for five years tax credits for the successful economic revitalization zone tax credits program, since communities and businesses need a predictable environment to plan future development. To cut red tape, I cosponsored an extension of the integrated land development permit program that requires an expedited process for Departmental of Environmental Services review of development plans. I sponsored two bills to cut red tape in housing development, a sector vital for District 4 jobs and economic growth. Developers will gain new exemptions from time-consuming and costly reviews by the Attorney General’s office, will be able to have an increased return on capital and more realistic rental levels in workforce housing projects, and will gain more easily title to surplus state lands.
Advanced manufacturing is crucial to current and future job growth in the Seacoast area, so I am working with our Region 12 Career and Technical Education Centers to increase funding, promote private-sector partnerships, and enhance work readiness programs. Senate Bill 335 proposes a commission to study a tax credit program for donations of equipment and funding for the costs of apprenticeship and training programs to CTECs, increasing funding for construction, renovation, and equipment purchases, and increasing partnerships between businesses, skilled trades, advanced manufacturing, and CTE programs. During visits to Velcro and ContiTech Thermopol, I was told that there was a troubling failure rate of new hires, who lacked necessary skills, and this is an alarm we must hear. I have invited Commissioner Rose of the Department of Resources and Economic Development to meet with leaders in Somersworth on April 15 to discuss these issues and to see firsthand the great work being done there in CTE.
Transportation is vital for economic development, so I have fought to have two projects included in the Ten-Year Highway Plan. People and freight need quick and efficient access to the businesses in District 4. Working with Governor Hassan, Commissioner Clement, Councilor Van Ostern, Strafford Regional Planning, business leaders, and officials in Somersworth, Dover, and Rochester, I made the successful case for upgrading the Route 108 corridor between Dover and Rochester and for study and planning funding for a proposed Exit 10 on the Spaulding Turnpike.
As anyone who drives this winter knows, there is a desperate need to fix District 4 roads and bridges. If we don’t act now, the pothole will become the new state symbol. This is why I cosponsored with Sen. Rausch a bipartisan plan to increase the road toll by four cents a gallon ($16 a year for an average driver), with the proceeds dedicated exclusively to roads and bridges. Funds will go to local municipalities to take pressure off property taxes, and the bill is supported by the NH Municipal Association and the NH Business and Industry Association. It will create jobs in construction. This bipartisan bill is evidence of my commitment to work across party lines to make the hard choices that promote economic growth.
The most important factors in job growth and economic development are a balanced budget and reducing business healthcare costs. In a remarkable 18-5 vote, the Senate approved the Health Protection Plan which expands private and work-based insurance to over 50,000 citizens. With no cost to the state, hundreds of millions of Federal dollars will support low-income working people and families, create jobs, and reduce uncompensated care costs to hospitals and employers. Waivers in the plan may bring as much as $200 million in new funding to offset uncompensated care for alcohol and drug abuse prevention and mental health care. These new funds will balance the current budget and create a healthier workforce. This compromise required trust and hard work from senators in both parties, with the leadership of Sens. Morse and Larsen.
A balanced budgets, low taxes, business tax credits, less red tape, improved career and technical education, and health protection create a formula for job growth and economic development. This is my agenda for the 2014 legislative session.