MANCHESTER — In a year when the mood among the electorate appears to be “throw the bums out,” Dan Innis thinks the fact that he has never run for or held public office is one of the best assets he has in his campaign for the Republican nomination in the 1st District congressional race.
In an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader, Innis made the case that he, not former 1st District congressman Frank Guinta, is best suited to take on incumbent Democrat Carol Shea-Porter.
“People I know and respect have told me this is a good thing for me to do because of my background and experience, and the fact that I haven’t been a politician,” said the longtime academic, now on leave from his position of dean at the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire.
An educator who also operates his own business, a Portsmouth hotel, Innis sees first-hand the burdensome regulations that he says are crushing entrepreneurial spirit, a tax code that no one can understand and a corporate tax rate that is causing businesses to ship jobs off shore.
“I’ve spoken to many business owners, large and small, who’ve said, ‘If I had to start my business again today, I don’t know if I would, because it’s gotten so difficult to meet the regulations,’” he said.
Innis believes his success as a business owner and administrator of a large institution would play well in the general election. In his seven years as dean of the business school, Innis said he managed a large budget and always returned a surplus to the university. “I tried to run it like a business,” he said. “We grew enrollment 40 percent and built the Peter T. Paul College with no taxpayer money.”
His positions on issues like Obamacare, the economy, deficits, taxes, regulation and immigration are consistent with the Republican Party platform. He would vote to repeal Obamacare, cut taxes, reduce regulation, and bar any path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
He said he favors a “multi-modal” approach to planning and funding transportation.
“I would be an advocate for a transportation trust fund instead of dedicated trust funds,” he said. “I think that will promote better decision-making around transportation options. When you look at history, the countries that win wars, military wars or economic wars, are the countries with the best transportation systems.”
Innis said he supports a “reasonable increase in the federal gasoline tax to raise money for strategic investments dedicated to transportation.”
When it comes to breaking the gridlock in Congress, Innis proposes a five- to 10-year budget blueprint that would give politicians cover for unpopular budget cuts.
“The trouble with Congress is that the wolf isn’t at the door, and until the wolf is at the door, Congress doesn’t want to act,” he said. “So I like the idea of a five- to 10-year plan that sits on top of the annual budget process and forces Congress’ hand. Congress would have to hit the targets that are laid out.”
The blueprint would function much like the so-called “sequestration” that led to the fiscal cliff budget cuts. “Sequestration was a way that Congress could hide and not take hard votes on the cuts,” he said.
One place Innis said Congress needs to vote openly is on increases to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Those are now on auto-pilot, he said.
“Entitlements are the biggest part of the problem,” he said, “and that’s where we’ve got to go. Too much of the budget is pre-programmed increases. Congress should vote on them every year, and the public needs to see what’s happening.”
When it comes to entitlement reform, Innis won’t rule out any options.
“These are big problems and we’ve got to put everything on the table,” he said. “We’ve got to explore changes in the retirement age, means testing, how we’re collecting the payroll tax — all of that has to be considered.”
Even when facing such big problems, Innis says he prefers a more piecemeal approach.
“I don’t like big bills, like comprehensive immigration reform,” he said. “When you pass big bills, I don’t care if it’s Dodd-Frank (financial regulations) or Obamacare, you end up with a lot of unintended consequences, and things start happening that you didn’t anticipate. You’ve got to take one bite at a time, and deal with the problem in a step-by-step fashion.”