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March 26. 2013 12:16AM

Nashua Chamber talk turns to taxes, gambling

NASHUA - State officials and local business professionals gathered on Monday to review the first half of the current legislative session and talk about important proposals still being debated in Concord.

Several state representatives attended the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce's annual legislative crossover event where chamber members were updated on pending bills before the New Hampshire Senate and House of Representatives.

Everything from energy projects, a proposed gas tax increase, and research and development tax credits were discussed.

Perhaps the most lengthy conversation was spearheaded by Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, who has championed the governor's proposal to place $80 million in gaming licensing fees into the state budget.

"There is just not enough revenue to do what everybody wants to do," said Morse, telling the crowd that gaming revenue could help solve several problems by helping to fund the university system, improve the state's highway system and more.

New Hampshire lost significant revenue when Maine built a casino, and the same will happen once Massachusetts follows suit, according to Morse.

"If we do nothing, and Massachusetts goes forward, there is no protection here in New Hampshire," he said. "That money could be staying here."

In two weeks, the Senate will put its fingerprints on the budget, said Morse, adding the Senate and the House are now willing to work together to build a logical budget that will benefit the state.

Chris Williams, president of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, mentioned his concern with proposed House Bill 357, which will prohibit an employer from using credit history when making employment decisions.

"That is a little bit of a concern for some employers," said Williams, noting small businesses and larger companies want to ensure they have fully reliable workers, especially employees that could have access to company funds.

Williams encouraged lawmakers and elected officials in Concord to protect the interests of everyone involved by taking into consideration the concerns of employers who would like the flexibility of accessing a future employer's credit history.

Still, he warned that it could possibly set a precedent down the road that some business owners, especially restaurant owners, may not be pleased with if the minimum wage began trending upward.

State Rep. Dave Campbell of Nashua made a pitch for the proposed gas tax increase.

As chairman of the House Public Works and Highways Committee, Campbell said the proposed gas tax increase, which would be phased in to total a 12-cent hike, would cost a motorist who travels about 12,000 miles a year an initial $22 more annually and eventually $65 more annually once it is completely implemented.

"That is a user fee," said Campbell. "We have roads and bridges that we have to fix . they will not fix themselves."

khoughton@newstote.com


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