House Republicans keeping their focus on jobs
Last year was one of extraordinary achievements for this Legislature. We committed to voters to live within our means and balance our budget without raising taxes and did an uncommon thing for elected officials, and in 2011 we kept our promises. New Hampshire House Republicans recently presented our legislative agenda for 2012, which will continue to deliver on our promise to protect the New Hampshire Advantage of limited government and getting the 38,000 of our friends and neighbors who remain unemployed back to work.Our agenda focuses on concerns we have heard from job creators. We need to work with our employers — not against them — to give them confidence to invest, grow and hire.Lowering their cost of doing business and making New Hampshire more competitive will entail a complete transformation in a state government that rolls back excessive regulations, refuses to increase taxes and ensures an environment of growth, responsiveness, stability and support.We will work on legislation that will repeal certain provisions under our workers’ compensation law that are burdensome, ineffective and difficult to administer — especially for our smaller businesses. We also will work to join the other 22 right-to-work states nationally and become the first state in the Northeast that takes this important step to bring employers here.The Legislature also must focus on issues closely related to jobs, such as creating an educational system that helps us compete globally. We live in a time in which educational attainment and economic success are correlated as never before. Employers have repeatedly told us that they have jobs available, but often lack a qualified workforce to fill them. This must change.We are lucky that New Hampshire has an abundance of great teachers. But neither they alone nor throwing more taxpayer money at education is going to advance our system from providing an adequate education to an excellent education.School performance is not a direct correlation to the amount government spends on education. Finland, for instance — which has a 93 percent graduation rate, came in second in science, third in reading and sixth in math — spends 30 percent less in education costs than our country.Part of this, of course, is the money wasted on the inefficiencies of administration and bureaucracy.We are committed to better standards in our schools, which includes empowering parents to become more actively involved in their children’s education. It also includes choice and competition. No parent should ever be forced to send their child to a bad school and school choice shouldn’t be an option only afforded to the rich. House Bill 1607 would introduce an education tax credit program designed to save the state money and ensure that every student has access to an education based on excellence.Improving the engineering and technology curriculums in our public schools and empowering students to prepare for college while still in high school also will aid the workforce.Finally, we need to reduce energy costs in order to be more competitive. All the work we do to make our state more business friendly will fail to attract new manufacturing jobs if we remain among the highest energy costs in the country.We understand our state’s future depends on a government committed to advancing these economic principles and House Republicans will use this year to advance these and other like goals to preserve and enhance our New Hampshire Advantage.D.J. Bettencourt, R-Salem, is majority leader of the New Hampshire House.