Lynch on State of the State: 'Don't Mess it Up'
With all that's going well, Lynch told the Nashua business breakfast crowd to keep on keeping on.
Gov. John Lynch said he's still got about 50 bills left to wade through on his desk before he can call it quits. But looking down the barrel of becoming a private citizen once again, Lynch had some parting words for those with a vested interest in the state's economic future.
"Don't mess it up," said Lynch, delivering his final State of the State address during the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce breakfast Tuesday at the Holiday Inn.
"We have a strategy that's working here in New Hampshire and, just like you all in your business know, when you have a strategy that's working, don't mess it up. It's OK to look at initiatives that move New Hampshire forward, but don't mess up what we already have that's working so well, because it does work well in New Hampshire – because of a whole bunch of different things going on," Lynch said.
For one, New Hampshire's unemployment rate, currently "a tad below" 5 percent.
"I know because I calculated it myself," said Lynch, after doing the math. "It's actually 4.957 percent."
Although Lynch spent the majority of his remarks emphasizing the positive trickle-down effect education has on everything else – from jobs and growing businesses, to economic stability – Lynch did underscore one such initiative that he feels strongly would go a long way in reviving and growing the state's economy: regional rail service.
"The [commuter] rail initiative is still alive. It didn't get the full $3.6 million, but we still have $1.6 we're working with, trying to figure out which organization that money should go to," to continue with the feasibility study, said Lynch.
He reiterated his disappointment with the Executive Council for rejecting the request for $3.6 million that would have allowed a study to gather pertinent information about the viability of extending rail service into Nashua and beyond.
"It's important to look beyond the next few years, and continue to look at rail for a bunch of reasons, including economic development not only in Nashua, but throughout the region," Lynch said.
He also praised the state's higher education initiatives, including something known as STEM, a push to increase the number of graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, by partnering with manufacturing companies and tailoring programs to meet the changing needs of local businesses.
Lynch said as the fiscal year winds down this month, he is optimistic for a balanced budget despite the yin and yang of taxes – while business taxes were up by $20 million, tobacco taxes were down by $20 million. Lynch said using last year's $17 million surplus to defray the $14 million budget shortfall would restore balance to the state's budget.
Also on his radar: the status of the Medicaid enhancement tax (MET) and the shortfall for "uncompensated care" among area hospitals, which currently stands at about a $36 million deficit, as of today, Lynch said.
"[Hospitals] have until July 10 to make those payments, so we're hoping that the money will come in, and if it does, we'll have a balanced budget for this fiscal year," Lynch said. "That issue is currently looking at very carefully, and it's definitely on our radar screen. "
Lynch talked about the challenges of moving bills through the legislation process, and noted there had been a lot of bills coming through "with non-germaine issues attached – for example, the Research & Development tax credit legislation, which passed the Senate unanimously but died in the House.
He made an example of that legislation.
"I was trying to double the R & D tax credit – it's not a huge anout of money but it's a great marketing tool for us here," Lynch said. "And so I proposed doubling the R&D tax credit and it passes through the Senate, I think unanimously, but when it gets over to the House, they attach an abortion initiative to the R&D tax credit, so that bill ended up dying," Lynch said. "Those are the challenges moving forward that I face – that we all face."