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Another View -- Walt Havenstein: First, we need to fix New Hampshire's economy

June 19. 2014 11:10PM

AS NEW ENGLANDERS, we have always enjoyed a friendly rivalry with our neighbors, from sports games to college rankings, from who has the best maple syrup to whose ski slopes produce the best winter athletes. But one area where Granite Staters think we always lead the pack is the economy. Gov. Steve Merrill once described New Hampshire as an island of prosperity in a sea of high taxes. We all like to think he’s right.

So you’ll probably be as disappointed as I was to learn that our economy is falling behind Massachusetts, Vermont and even Rhode Island. New figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis show that we had the smallest growth in New England last year and our growth rate actually fell from 2012 to 2013. Rhode Island was recently named by USA Today as one of the worst-run states (47th overall) and it has the highest unemployment in the country. Yet its economy grew faster than ours did in 2013. What does this say about our state’s approach to economic development and job growth?

Every year that goes by like that is a year in which family budgets are more stretched, people struggle to find good jobs and parents say goodbye to a graduating son or daughter who found a job in another state. This is a problem that has been building for some time, as successive Democratic governors have burdened the state with red tape and taxes.

New Hampshire has one of the healthiest populations in the country, but we pay more for health insurance than almost anyone else. This is due in large part to policies that have driven price competition away. Maggie Hassan followed Jeanne Shaheen’s lead by embracing Obamacare, which has forced people off their insurance and made them find new doctors and hospitals. These misguided policies are increasing premiums and uncertainty for both small businesses and consumers. They are hurting our economy.New Hampshire has some of the highest energy costs in the country. Onerous red tape schemes, such as the regional cap-and-trade program, known as RGGI, and arbitrary government mandates for renewable energy are driving up the cost of electricity for businesses and homeowners. If we want companies to expand and move here, we need to make it more affordable.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe that our current governor shares the aspirations most Granite Staters have for New Hampshire. She wants to maintain the status quo and for us to believe that flat growth and minimal job creation is sustainable.

The contrast between us could not be more clear. I will have a singular goal as governor: to grow our economy. I’ll apply 30 years of business experience to restore a common-sense, conservative approach to government and establish priorities to dramatically improve our economic environment.

We can cut red tape, reduce the tax burden on small businesses, make it easier for entrepreneurs to start new companies, and align our state’s learning centers with the goals of our industry. I will make it a priority to reduce the size of government to ensure that tax dollars are used wisely so that spending does not grow faster than our economy. Above all, I’ll keep my promise to never introduce a sales or income tax by vigorously opposing any policy which might lead to one.

I know that we face a long list of challenges: ensuring that everyone has access to affordable health care, caring for an aging population, and improving our education system. But until our economy is growing, we can’t possibly tackle them and be successful. More than anything else, economic growth raises people into better paying jobs and strengthens middle class families.

New Hampshire doesn’t need to elect another politician to manage our decline, we need a leader with a new vision for our future.

Imagine what New Hampshire could be. Imagine a New Hampshire with the fastest-growing economy in the region. Imagine a New Hampshire that adds jobs by 30 percent every decade. Imagine a New Hampshire that’s famous as a destination for high-tech companies. Imagine a New Hampshire in which our young people graduate and stay.

No offense to our friends in Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, but we should be doing a lot better than them. I want to make New Hampshire the engine of economic growth in the Northeast and the best place in the country in which to live, work, raise a family and do business. That’s my vision for our state. Together, we can make it reality.

Walt Havenstein of Alton is running for the Republican nomination for governor.

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