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November 15. 2012 7:17PM

NH business leaders issue call for action on debt crisis

MANCHESTER - A group of prominent New Hampshire business leaders on Thursday urged voters to get involved in efforts to reduce the national debt and avoid the fiscal cliff by contacting lawmakers in Washington to demand compromise.

The New Hampshire chapter of "Fix The Debt," co-chaired by Democratic state Sen. Lou D'Allesandro of Manchester and Republican Mayor Donnalee Lozeau of Nashua, announced the creation of the New Hampshire Leadership Council in a gathering at Electropac, a printed circuit board manufacturer on Willow Street.

The 23-member council includes representatives from virtually every sector of the state's economy, including developers like John Stabile and Sam Tamposi, attorney and former Democratic state Sen. David Gottesman, and executives such as Paul Montrone, former CEO of Fisher Scientific.

Members of the council took turns at the microphone, warning of dire consequences for the nation and New Hampshire if politicians in Washington cannot strike a deal on deficit reduction to avoid the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that will take place in 2013 - the so-called fiscal cliff.

New Hampshire stands to lose about 6,300 jobs and about $325 million in income if a compromise is not reached, according to a recently released study by Brian Gottlob of PolEcon Research that was cited frequently by the business group.

Ray Boissoneau, Electropac president, said his company employed 476 workers 12 years ago, is now down to 45, and is not in a position to withstand anymore economic shock waves. "Every day is a struggle, and everything we do is a struggle," he said. "Both sides have to get together and work this out."

The group's position is that everything has to be on the table - Democrats must compromise on entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, while Republicans must compromise on marginal tax rates.

"We've got to now move beyond this rhetoric and craft comprehensive reforms to spending, to revenue and to entitlements. It's the only way this problem is going to be resolved," said Sean O'Kane, a former commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development and now a business consultant.

David Pastor, owner of Fletcher Appliances in Nashua, said the retail industry would face massive layoffs if the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts are allowed to occur.

"What's going to happen if we don't get this done? I can guarantee you there will be more retailers like me who are going to reach their own fiscal cliff, and decisions are going to be made that will have people out looking for jobs because retail will not survive," he said.

Congress has shown it will respond to public pressure, said D'Allesandro, in urging New Hampshire residents to write letters demanding compromise from both Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and her Republican counterpart, Kelly Ayotte.

"We want the people of New Hampshire to become involved in fixthedebt.com, and get on board with this," he said. "Contact your congressman, contact your senator and let them now how important this is and what a dramatic effect it will have on our state if it isn't solved. We're about solutions. That's what politics is supposed to be - a problem-solving exercise."

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Dave Solomon may be reached at dsolomon@unionleader.com.



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