When NCAA basketball officials are deciding which teams to invite into the March Madness tournament, there’s much speculation about those teams “on the bubble.” On the bubble means there is some uncertainty whether your preferred team is tournament-worthy. Does it have the record and right stuff to be competitive in the tournament?
Similarly, New Hampshire is “on the bubble.” That is, there is a great deal of uncertainty whether New Hampshire’s climate for job creation will be enhanced or suffer as a result of current activity at the Statehouse in Concord.
It could go either way.
Clearly, some positive developments are under serious consideration. This includes support for University System and Community College System funding at levels appropriate to keep robust educational and training options available and tuition affordable for young students and adult learners. After all, these two institutions are far and away the largest suppliers of talent to New Hampshire employers. Support for increasing reimbursements to Medicaid providers to tamp down cost-shifting to the business community and employees, is growing. And additional state investment in job training will be welcomed by the many employers that count on upskilling their employees to help grow their businesses.
Unfortunately, counterbalancing these positive initiatives, perhaps outweighing them, are several proposals which would be bad for business and our economy. They include freezing and reversing promised tax cuts to the business community through the Business Profits Tax (New Hampshire’s corporate income tax) and Business Enterprise Tax (paid regardless of profitability; a particularly onerous tax on small businesses); implementing a new capital gains tax, bringing us one step closer to a state income tax; energy initiatives that will (remarkably!) add substantially to the cost of electricity at a time when New Hampshire prices are consistently 50-60 percent higher than the national average, year-round; a one-size-fits-all, mandatory paid family leave program that appears to many to be a dedicated income tax; unnecessary changes to workers compensation benefits that will cost employers tens of millions of dollars in higher insurance premiums; labor regulations that will restrict an employer’s ability to check a prospective employee’s credit history or ask about previous salaries; significantly raising the minimum wage (putting upward pressure on all wages in the state); and mandates forcing employers to pay employees for unused vacation time.
In addition to these legislative threats, the N.H. Department of Environmental Services was tasked by the Legislature to initiate rule-making to set new regulatory standards for a host of emerging contaminants, including PFAS, before science-based, peer-reviewed thresholds are fully understood. This will likely result in substantial new financial burdens on businesses and residents alike as municipal water systems, homeowners and companies are forced to meet potentially lower standards that offer no conclusively proven benefits.
In NCAA tournament basketball parlance, being “on the bubble” is an exciting time. That is, unless your team slides off the bubble and doesn’t make the tournament. In New Hampshire legislative parlance, being on the bubble carries less excitement and more consternation.
Let’s hope New Hampshire slides off the bubble into the tournament of strong economies with other competitive states — Virginia, Texas, and North and South Carolina — to name a few. Those states, with which New Hampshire competes for manufacturing and technology jobs (the drivers of our state’s economy), understand the importance of creating and sustaining a positive climate for job creation.
The Business and Industry Association, the only broad-based business advocate representing employers in every corner of the state, is working overtime to ensure New Hampshire doesn’t become just another expensive Northeast U.S. state. Being on the bubble can go either way.