Legislative Update: How do you like them apples?

The other meeting of the minds coming up will be the Committee of Conference dealing with SB 191, a bill that would provide state aid for full day kindergarten. While there are some policy differences the chambers must resolve (like whether the state should provide targeted aid or blanket aid to all communities), there’s one major point that separates the two. The House tacked on an amendment that would pay for it by establishing Keno in the state (all funds from lottery games already go to education).

It seems unlikely the Senate will swallow Keno. For years, the House has nixed many a Senate casino proposal…so the Senate gives it right back to the House by nixing their Keno proposals. (BIA has traditionally remained neutral on Keno). Despite this, it’s expected some common ground will be achieved.

BIA supports expanding full-day K in NH. We believe it’s a long-term investment in our future workforce, it removes a barrier businesses and employees have expressed about coming to New Hampshire, and it gets parents of children back into the workforce faster.

Legislative Update: Endgame

A budget conference committee is like a three-dimensional chess game. Pawns are sacrificed; pieces exchanged, the clock ticks. As the committee regroups this week, strategy is being planned across several boards at once.
Without their own budget, the House is at a considerable disadvantage as it doesn’t even have all its pieces on the board. While not exactly Kasparov’s Gambit, the House opened with a request to look at the Senate-passed reductions in the Business Profits Tax and Business Enterprise Tax. Members don’t seem concerned about the tax rates themselves; however, they want to reexamine the state revenue trigger points at which the cuts would reverse.
The Senate may shake it up with an effort to abolish the fractional Energy Consumption Tax, a fine print levy you’ll find at the bottom of your light bill. This is likely a piece exchange with someone on a completely different board: Governor Sununu. Will he be less likely to veto SB 129, which increases the fixed price on biomass-generated power, if electric bills will be lowered without the ECT? (BIA is urging the governor to veto SB 129.)
On another board entirely are House factions on both the left and the right that scuttled HB 1 & 2 in the first place. Here’s a classic pawn queening, where the usually sacrificial pieces suddenly have great power. The Senate will need one of these factions to join House leadership to pass the final budget. Otherwise they’ll be locked in an endgame resulting in an inescapable draw.

BIA: Share your school-to-career pathway experiences

BIA will host a meeting June 29 in their office, 122 N Main St, Concord from 9 – 10:30 am, for member employers who are engaging with area high schools, colleges, or both in order to expose young people to job and career opportunities right here in NH.  The meeting will allow you and other business leaders to compare notes and share best practices.  For questions or to RSVP (required), contact Sara Colson at 603.224.5388 x116 or scolson@biaofnh.com.

BIA Business Perspective: Pulp fiction

NH’s statewide chamber of commerce is urging Gov. Sununu to veto a bill hiking rates on biomass-generated electricity. In the latest BIA Business Perspective in the NH Sunday News, President Jim Roche says the bill, should it make it to the governor’s desk, will raise prices for all ratepayers at a time when the goal needs to be bringing them down.

BIA Consumer Survey shows economic optimism remains high

DURHAM,NH – Granite Staters’ optimism about business conditions in the state and the country as well as the long-term financial outlook of the country remain high. New Hampshire residents remain largely optimistic about their personal finances, though they are increasingly divided on these microeconomic questions by partisanship, with Republicans and Independents generally optimistic and Democrats largely pessimistic.

These findings are based on the latest Business and Industry Association Report on Consumer Confidence, conducted by theUniversity of New Hampshire Survey Center. Five hundred (500) randomly selected New Hampshire adults were interviewed by landline and cellular telephone between May 5 and May 15, 2017. The margin of sampling error for the survey is +/-4.4 percent.

NH Business Conditions

Confidence in the New Hampshire economy remains near record highs. When asked how New Hampshire businesses will do in the upcoming year, 61% of Granite Staters think state businesses will enjoy good times financially, 17% think they will experience bad times, and 21% anticipate mixed conditions. This is a slight decline from February. Majorities of Republicans (83%) and Independents (63%) are optimistic while only 44% of Democrats agree.

“Granite Staters’ confidence in the state and national economies continues to be striking. That’s the great news. Worrisome is the gap in confidence between those self-identifying as Republicans and those self-identifying as Democrats. The fact is, continued partisanship could affect conditions required for economic prosperity,” said BIA President Jim Roche.

For the complete report, click here.

Legislative Update: Sticker Shock

The House seems poised to pass SB 129, portions of which change the rate classes for power generated by biomass and renewables.
The bill raises the fixed price retail suppliers must pay for that kind of electricity.
Since current law mandates they purchase a certain percentage of their power from renewables and biomass, it’s a sure thing that residential and commercial customers will foot the bill for this invisible rate hike estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars.
BIA has been leading the charge against the legislation, as NH’s electricity prices are already 50-60% higher than the national average. We’ve long opposed any measure that increases that cost further.
In addition to the cost-shift to ratepayers, SB 129 would prevent suppliers from taking advantage of any positive market forces that could drive rates down.
Notably, the state’s biggest advocate for competitive energy policies – Governor Sununu – has yet to tip his hand on what he’d do if the bill in this form lands on his desk. He hasn’t used his veto pen yet. Is it possible he’ll break it out for SB 129?

Legislative Update:Even easier on the wallet?

New Hampshire businesses got some welcome news last week as the Senate Finance Committee agreed to include further reductions in the Business Profits Tax (BPT) and the Business Enterprise Tax (BET) in the Senate version of the budget. If enacted, this will be the second budget in a row lowering business tax rates. The proposal would lower the BPT from the current 7.9% to 7.5% phased in over a two-year period of time. The BET would be lowered from .675% to .5%, also phased-in over two years.
In addition, the Senate Finance Committee is recommending IRS section 179 deductions (deductions for capital equipment purchases made by business) be increased from $100,000 to $500,000 to match the federal tax deduction.
These provisions lowering business taxes were among BIA’s highest budget priorities. There is still a long way to go. The entire budget will have to be passed by the Senate and then sent back to the House for concurrence, but so far, so good.

Legislative Update: Building bridges

There is a bill that has really been flying under the radar, but could actually have a significant impact on reducing the number of “red list” bridges in New Hampshire (bridges that are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, or in some cases, both). SB 38 FN, which has already passed the Senate, the House Public Works Committee, and is currently being considered by Division II of the Finance Committee, would send an additional $38 million to the state Department of Transportation to be used specifically for highway betterment (repaving) and reducing the backlog of “red list” bridges.

The funds come from an unexpected surplus in state revenues from business taxes due to a robust economy that have far exceeded budgeted expectations (other monies will be used to replenish New Hampshire’s rainy day fund and programs relating to the opioid crisis). There was some discussion about whether the road and bridge money should be $35 million or $38 million (we’re guessing they will settle on $38m) but either way this “found” revenue will have a significant impact improving the overall quality of New Hampshire’s road and bridge infrastructure.

Legislative Update: May 8

All I really need to know I learned in SB 191-FN

The House put a gold star on SB 191-FN, the bill that would fund full-day kindergarten throughout New Hampshire. The early childhood plan, advocated for by the governor, got tepid support from Republicans – but enough votes to make final adoption seem likely.

Weighing in for the first time on the issue, BIA came out in support of full-day K last month. We think there are true benefits for business, including prepping the future workforce, getting parents back on the job sooner, and easing the concerns of out-of-state companies reluctant to relocate because of the absence of full-day K. However, BIA backed the original bill’s call for targeted aid to communities; a committee amendment has now changed the proposal to fund all schools at an estimated cost of $14m.

The measure goes tomorrow to House Finance, who has long been the schoolyard bully when it comes to pricy new initiatives. We’ll see if SB 191 leaves committee a little black-and-blue.


State budget – take 2

The Senate Finance Committee listened to hours of public comments on the proposed budget last Tuesday. Over the next several weeks the committee will toil over the spending plan. Their work, using Governor Sununu’s original budget as a starting point, will likely include many items left out of the House Finance Committee’s recommendations (subsequently voted down and then tabled in the House).

BIA’s budget focus is on state business tax reductions and programs (including support for University and Community College system operating budget requests) that can make positive impacts on the number one concern for businesses around the state: an insufficient supply of workers and a labor pool weak on needed skills for 21st century jobs. You can read BIA’s testimony to the Senate Finance Committee here.