Jails or universities: Which do we want?

A state that spends more on its prison system than its college system needs to ask itself why

Reading “What’s next for the state budget puzzle?” next to “Regenerative medicine opportunity knocks at the state’s door, but will it answer?” (both front-page articles in the April 14-27 NH Business Review) made me fume.

The first article talked about what a benefit it would be to business to cut the business profits tax yet again. The second explained how the state refused to raise our universities’ budget, causing Dean Kamen to fear he will have no state support to train workers for his $300 million tissue manufacturing project.

How long will it take legislators to realize that high-paying jobs are in traded industry — companies that bring money into the state from other parts of the nation and the world? Why do they pay high wages? Because their products and services must best international competition.

Competitive edge requires innovation and innovation requires research and research requires top-notch talent.

Will Kamen’s company, hiring hundreds for good pay, cry for BPT cuts? No. As the accompanying table shows, the companies worried about low BPTs are the ones that have no competitive edge, the ones that pay low wages and expect taxpayers to subsidize them.

Most pocket the tax cuts, not hire more people. These companies do not pay their share of the costs of education, highways or even their own workers, who are subsidized with food stamps and social services.

Not every business improves a state’s economy.

Internationally competitive companies do not just pay good wages to top hires. They pay their administrators and line workers good wages and benefits as well because their products and service must meet high standards.

When will New Hampshire legislators figure out that there are good businesses and undesirable businesses? If we want to attract more people like Dr. Richard McFarland from the Food and Drug Administration, we need to demonstrate that we understand how technological innovation works. Private money follows public money. Talent seeks talent and exciting opportunities. Quality seeks quality.

A state that spends more on its prison system than its university system needs to ask itself, “Why?” Could it be that if you do not spend on one, you will end up spending more on the other?

Jeanne Dietsch, founder of MobileRobots Inc. (now Omron/Adept) in Amherst), is chair of strategic planning for the Peterborough Economic Development Authority.

Categories: Opinion