Posted tagged ‘business climate’

Getting What You Want But Not What You Need

April 10, 2013

Business taxes are about one-quarter of NH state government revenues and an even higher percentage when you take out sources such as the statewide property tax which is largely an accounting fiction that really does nothing to support state services.  That is a higher percentage than any state with the exception of some states that get oil, gas and mineral extraction revenues.

When business taxes are that important to a state’s fiscal health it better make sure that it takes care of its businesses and its business climate because if and when they go south (or south and west just as more people have) it becomes very difficult for the state to produce a budget.   The chart below shows how NH’s “own source” general and education fund revenue from the nine largest sources of revenue (exclusive of the statewide property tax) have grown comparatively since 2003.  I think the chart shows how important trends in business tax revenues are to overall revenue trends in the state.  The bad news is that revenues from the business profits and business enterprise tax are still more than 20 percent below peak.  The good news is that they are growing.

Growth in Own Source Revenue

The chart also says a few other things to me.  First, a strong and dynamic business climate is the best fiscal policy for the state.  Second, if you are going to cut business taxes you had better be certain that it is a good way produce a strong and dynamic economy because if not, the fiscal health of the state will suffer.  Third (and related), if revenues rise in response to cuts in business taxes great, it will be evidence of a stronger economy and healthier state finances, but if revenues  fall you better be sure that the service and spending reductions that result don’t affect those things that most contribute to a strong and dynamic economy because economic growth (and thus revenues) will be at risk for falling further.   All businesses want lower taxes and it that is the quickest and easiest way for policymakers to demonstrate how much they love  businesses.  But businesses also need and want a lot of other things to prosper and, like lowering taxes, they aren’t shy about asking for them.  Unfortunately, in a state so dependent on business tax revenues businesses getting what they want can sometimes make it more difficult to get what they need.

NH lawmakers, like lawmakers in most other states, want prosperity and opportunity for residents .  Most  also recognize that a strong and dynamic economy is the way to assure that.   So unless you are big financial institution, a big oil company, or just about any business or industry that is prefaced by “big,”  it’s a pretty good time to be in business because almost everyone wants to show you some love, they just can’t agree on how to demonstrate it.  Right now a lot of ideology and little evidence is being brought to bear on the question of “what policies are most helpful in producing a strong and dynamic NH economy.”   That makes it a lot harder to see that we all have a common interest in a strong economy and even more difficult to agree on what to do about it.

Keeping an Eye On Which Prize?

October 26, 2012

Every state is obsessed with maintaining or creating a “good business climate.”  I think NH has traditionally had a good business climate, with both the public and policymakers demonstrating a high regard for businesses,  and with a climate of mutual respect between the business community  and state policymakers.  At times they have differed in their views, and the balance of interests could change marginally from time to time, but over the years there was a nice balance where each was able to ultimately rely on one another to increase opportunities and prosperity in the state.  There is a lot of fretting over the business climate in the state and what it means for our ability to “attract” businesses. That is always a good thing to monitor, but I am concerned that we (business people, policy makers, citizens) may be spending too little time concerned with creating a climate that is attractive to individuals.  More specifically, skilled individuals with higher levels of educational attainment that increasingly are the source of competitive economic advantage in states and regions.  The in-migration of individuals with higher levels of educational attainment fueled NH’s economy and increased the concentration of technology and higher-skill industries and occupations during much of the past few decades, just as it has in other states that have been able to successfully attract skilled, well-educated individuals.   The chart below shows how the educational attainment of NH residents differs between  those who were born and continue to live in NH, and those who live in NH but where born in another state (in a future post I will discuss international migrants).

The chart shows that residents who have moved to NH from another state are much more likely to have a bachelor’s or higher educational degree.  NH regularly loses its natives with higher-levels of educational attainment to others states, just as other states lose those individuals.  Individuals with higher-levels of educational attainment are the most mobile in society.  They have the most opportunities and generally resources that afford them more choices on where to locate.  That means that the native population will often show overall levels of educational attainment lower than in-migrants from other states.  In-migrants to MA also have much higher overall levels of educational attainment than natives who live in the state,  but the native population that was born and lives in MA has higher levels of educational attainment than the native population in NH.  In fact, educational attainment among those who where born and live in MA looks a lot like the in-migrant population of NH, not surprising since about 300,000 individuals born in MA now reside in NH.

In-migration to NH has been slowing and recently stopped, with tremendous implications for our economy’s ability to grow, innovate, and remain dynamic.  Lets keep our eye on maintaining a good business climate (we can start by reinforcing our tradition of mutual respect between business and government), but I think we need to quickly  begin asking ourselves if a singular concern about business climate is sufficient to assure growth in our economy  if NH is losing its attractiveness to the individuals who are increasingly the source of its economic strength.


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