The chief operating officer’s sole job will be to work across state agencies to drive process and efficiency improvements. – Gov. Maggie Hassan, 2015 budget address
This past week, New Hampshire Gov. Hassan presented her 2015 budget proposal. Gov. Hassan’s budget increases spending by 6.4 percent, with a total budgetary price tag of $11.5 billion. Hassan is proposing an increase in the tobacco tax (directly affecting the poorest of New Hampshire citizens), increasing the vehicle registration fees (war on the middle class), and the rebranding of her failed LLC tax from six years ago.
The budget also includes funding for rail service in Nashua and Manchester, which would make it easier for New Hampshirites to commute to their jobs in Massachusetts. The cherry on the top of this unserious budget is the introduction of Keno gambling to help offset the increase in spending.
I call this budget unserious because it is, and just as with her 2013 biennial, this budget will be put aside so the adults in the New Hampshire House and Senate can focus on a state budget that reflects New Hampshire’s economic realities. However, the Hassan budget shines a light on a bigger problem. There is a serious disconnect between what many politicians in Concord (as well as Washington, D.C.) believe will help the economy, and what we know will actually help the economy.
New Hampshire’s economy, as with most of the country, is fragile at best. Forget the myth of New Hampshire’s low employment, because New Hampshire is experiencing slower job growth than both the national and regional averages. New Hampshire job growth has improved, but New Hampshire no longer holds the historical distinction as the leading job creator in the region.
As New Hampshire’s population continues to age, we are also seeing fewer able-bodied people migrating to the state. Combine this with the fact New Hampshire is watching more graduating high school seniors leaving New Hampshire for a college education, and that New Hampshire ranks near the bottom of states that is able to retain students upon graduating from in-state colleges and universities. This makes companies reluctant to create additional jobs in our state or to relocate to New Hampshire. Is it any wonder that New Hampshire had one of the quickest increases in 25-year-olds living with their parents of any state?
Forget about “investing” in failed programs that serve only to support outdated political philosophies. No amount of money in our educational system or funding for a one-way rail system will fix New Hampshire’s outdated, 20th century economic model. New Hampshire millennials aren’t leaving New Hampshire for better paying minimum wage jobs in other states. They are running to states that have established a modern economic model that allows entrepreneurs to thrive.
New Hampshire must be willing to create a business environment that not only attracts new companies, but allows existing companies to expand. New Hampshire would be better served to create a 21st century economic model that allows young entrepreneurs to take risks without the fear of an uncertain landscape created by government’s incessant need to remain relevant. Government’s footprint in business should be small, supporting commonsense protections for both the business and the consumer, not a boot to the throat of either in the form of red tape and convoluted processes that only serve to employ bureaucrats.
High energy prices, bloated bureaucracies and punitive taxes and fees are stifling existing companies, scaring away potential new companies and absolutely killing the entrepreneurial spirit that once thrived in New Hampshire. Gov. Hassan’s budget does nothing to help any of these longstanding problems that are weighing down New Hampshire’s economy.
All of this brings me to the most disturbing part of Gov. Hassan’s budget, the “hiring” of a chief operating officer. This is not a hiring, but the outsourcing of the responsibilities that belong with the governor of New Hampshire. This proposal of a “state CEO” is not only insulting to the people of New Hampshire, but a clear indication why our economic future is in the wrong hands. Gov. Hassan is not only admitting she is ill-equipped to handle the duties of governor, but that she is publicly abdicating those very duties she sought and was elected to fulfill.
How can we expect our governor to lead us in the right direction if she is unwilling to take responsibility for the daily tasks she was elected to perform? Maybe New Hampshire should worry less about hiring a “state CEO,” and more about electing a governor who understands that she is the “state CEO.”