Casinos will help New Hampshire keep its advantage

New Hampshire must encourage job growth through lower taxes and by not losing our competitive advantage over Massachusetts.

Across the country, citizens are grappling with an extremely sluggish economy that shows no signs of getting better. Other than pointing fingers, Washington is standing still and providing no tangible solutions to these challenges.

In New Hampshire, your elected representatives in Concord dealt with these same challenges when focusing on our state budget. Working together, the legislature rejected the choice of new tax revenues on the backs of our citizens and instead reduced state spending by 11 percent — something that had not been done for generations. The budget was balanced even as tax hikes from the previous legislature, such as the recent gambling tax and car registration fee increase, were eliminated.

Lawmakers watched the bottom line then and need to remain focused on it now.

A new threat — casinos — is on the horizon which could erode the New Hampshire advantage. That threat is coming from Massachusetts. It will peel away jobs, revenues and economic growth. But we can take action and defend our long held economic advantage.

As we have seen for generations, the lack of an income or sales tax has done a great deal in providing a competitive advantage over Massachusetts and our New England neighbors and gave businesses added incentive to move to New Hampshire.

But now, we must do more to bring good jobs to New Hampshire.

One thing we can immediately do is help lower the burdens on New Hampshire businesses by lowering state business taxes such as the business enterprise tax. By lowering this tax, we will provide employers with more capital to invest, loosen up resources to keep employees employed and bring forth new jobs.

In parallel fashion, we also have an opportunity looking us in the eye that will help pay for these tax reductions while providing jobs: a limited expansion in gambling.

Massachusetts has passed casino gambling, adding a new level of urgency to act here in New Hampshire. We can pay for tax cuts, and we can prevent the loss of jobs, revenue and economic development across our border.

Recently, the New Hampshire House Ways and Means Committee overwhelmingly supported a bill creating a limited expansion of gambling. HB 593 calls for two casinos to be built in New Hampshire.

This bill requires local approval, as well as state regulation and oversight.

If it passes, HB 593 will help us reach several important goals. This plan would create thousands of jobs and have significant positive economic development impact in the community. It protects the many charities in our state that rely on gaming events to raise dollars for their operations. It promises a new entertainment venue for visitors.

And when coupled with a significant tax cut for our employers, we will provide a much needed boost for New Hampshire in getting our economy moving again.

Let’s be clear about this: Casinos are coming to Massachusetts. What was once a theory to some and threat to others is now a reality. It raises this question: Is luring Massachusetts revenue to New Hampshire a significant part of the New Hampshire advantage? We do it with lottery tickets, cigarettes and alcohol. But the entire competitive playing field is about to tilt towards Massachusetts, where the jobs, visitors and revenues will surely go.

We know New Hampshire citizens gamble now and they leave the state to do so. If we allow Massachusetts to move forward in this direction alone, we will pass on the opportunity to recapture the millions of dollars from our Granite State citizens that are leaving our state. Furthermore, besides keeping those dollars and those jobs in New Hampshire, we would be bringing in millions of additional dollars and visits to New Hampshire from out of state.

Studies have shown more than 60 percent of the revenue raised here would come from Bay State residents. That is the same kind of advantage we enjoy with liquor, lottery, tourism and retail goods.

Now, Massachusetts has moved to take back the economic advantage. It would be irresponsible to stand idly by and let New Hampshire residents provide their dollars to Massachusetts to aid the Bay State’s budget and its businesses. It’s not too late.

On Wednesday, House lawmakers will vote on HB 593. The people of New Hampshire already support this idea. It’s time for the legislature to seize this opportunity and say yes.

This non-taxpayer revenue can alleviate the burdens of our small business owners and provide our economy with a real boost to move it forward.

With those goals in mind, we implore our fellow legislators to support HB 593 and not to ignore this opportunity.

State Rep. Ken Weyler, R-Kingston, is chairman of the House Finance Committee. State Rep. Gary Azarian, R-Salem, is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Author: Rep. Ken Weyler & Rep. Gary Azarian

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