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Business breaks: Hassan cozies up

February 16. 2013 2:54AM

We thought Democrats were supposed to be against government giveaways to and subsidies for business interests. Though a Democrat, Gov. Maggie Hassan sure is for them.

In her budget proposal on Thursday, Hassan presented the image of a state in which business owners and would-be business owners really wanted to expand, grow and hire people, but were held back by the refusal of the state to help them.

"There are many businesses looking to expand or move to New Hampshire; existing businesses who could use targeted tax credits to develop new products; entrepreneurs who, with just a little guidance, are ready to turn a creative idea into a burgeoning business," she said.

"I have seen these stories throughout New Hampshire, and I know that our business community is ready to lead the way to a more innovative economic future - if their elected officials are ready to stand by them."

It was patent nonsense, but how else could the governor justify subsidizing businesses when she has to raise taxes and sell casino licenses to make ends meet?

The first item on her business agenda was the "targeted tax break" known as the research and development tax credit. The state offers a total of $1 million in chunks of up to $50,000 to manufacturers who invest in research and development. Hassan advocated doubling that to $2 million, and the Senate already has passed a bill to do so.

Manufacturers, of course, will invest in research and product development anyway. And all non-manufacturing businesses, which are the vast majority of New Hampshire businesses, will subsidize that investment.

Hassan proposed spending more on the state's "business incubators," where fledgling entrepreneurs can get guidance and advice. The people are perfectly capable of starting businesses without the guiding hand of the state. In addition, the U.S. Small Business Administration already provides advice through its SCORE program. And some non-profits offer business incubation services.

Hassan also pushed for spending more money on the state's international trade office. This, of course, involves all businesses in the state subsidizing those that engage in international trade.

The least bad part of Hassan's business agenda was her proposal to increase spending on travel and tourism promotion.

Though this also could be done by business associations rather than the state, it is at least arguably broadly beneficial.

The rest of her business agenda involves the state picking favorites in the economy. It was disappointing to see the governor choose to do that instead of spend those scarce resources on core government functions such as courts and public safety.

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