Lynch inaugural addresses business issues

Governor John Lynch talked about more than school funding and taxes during his inaugural address on Thursday, devoting some of his attention to proposals that directly address issues of concern to New Hampshire’s business community.

And now that Lynch has a Democratic House and Senate to work with, those proposals have a much better chance of becoming law.

Lynch called for a research and development tax credit – long endorsed by the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire and sponsored last year by Sen. Bob O’Dell, R-Lempster, the new chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. In his address, the governor described the R&D credit as “a small investment that would pay big dividends for the workers of our state.”

The governor also called for an outright ban on burning construction and demolition debris (as opposed to the current moratorium) – a proposal that should raise concerns in the construction industry in its search for a cheaper way to dispose of waste.

The governor also is seeking support of measures to require that 25 percent of the state’s energy mix be made up of renewable sources by 2025 – a proposal that might excite those in the alternative energy industry, but might cause utilities, as well as those who believe in an unregulated freewheeling energy market, to grumble.

Lynch’s support for increasing the minimum wage – which he called “the right thing for New Hampshire families” — is not surprising, nor should it affect businesses that currently pay far more than the minimum, particularly when the new U.S. Democratic Congress raises the wage floor nationally, as widely expected.

Lynch’s support for an increase in the dropout age might put more of a crimp on the hiring practices of some retailers and fast-food restaurants. The idea behind the dropout age however, goes hand in hand with producing a more educated workforce, according to the governor. In today’s world, Lynch said, half a high school education was not enough.

Several other educational programs might impact on the workforce. Lynch wants to double support of the Project Running Start program, which enables high school students to take college-level classes at their own school and earn college credits. He also wants to change the funding mechanism of the state Department of Employment Security’s Job Training Fund, which was established by the Legislature in 2002 but was rarely funded because the unemployment trust fund didn’t reach the required funding level of $275 million.

Other parts of the speech might be of interest to business as well, including expanding access to health insurance, particularly for children, but Lynch was vague on how he was planning to accomplish that, aside from cutting costs through an electronic prescription program due to go into effect in 2008. – BOB SANDERS

Categories: News