All this week All Things Considered is speaking with candidates for New Hampshire governor about economic policy. Today NHPR’s Peter Biello spoke with Democratic candidate Molly Kelly.
(This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.)
Let's start by talking about business taxes because Republicans are pointing to business taxes as at least part of the cause for New Hampshire's strong economy. Where do you stand on business taxes?
Why I'm running for governor and what I want to do as governor is to build a New Hampshire that works for everyone. And I think that what we need to do, and I believe this deeply, is that we need to invest in education and job training and make college affordable. So I would say instead of providing tax breaks to the wealthiest 3 percent of our corporations, I believe that we should invest that in education, job training and affordable college.
So you would target your business tax increases towards the wealthiest corporations. But you would leave taxes for small businesses where they are?
When I was in the Senate, I was in the Senate for 10 years, I always voted for and will continue to support small businesses, tax breaks for small businesses and entrepreneurs and startups. We need to do that so that we can grow an innovative and a creative and a sustainable economy. That's what's important here in New Hampshire.
Do you see any connection at all between business tax cuts and economic growth?
Well, again, what we need to do is instead of tax cuts to the wealthiest corporations, that is not an investment back into our community. It is not an investment back into our state. And what I want to do is to invest in the people.
You've mentioned investing in education and job training programs. How would you find the money to pay for those things?
I think that if we didn't provide those tax breaks we would have additional revenue to be able to do that.
So you want to increase educational opportunities, job training programs, and to do that you will be paying for it solely by raising business taxes for the wealthiest corporations?
No that's one piece. Also, you know what the governor gets to do? The governor starts the budget process. We put at the top of our budget what's most important to us and that will be education for me. Also I have said that I would legalize marijuana, regulate marijuana, and let's tax marijuana and use that as well.
A lot of the economic growth that the state has seen in recent years has been concentrated in certain areas, particularly the southern part of the state. What would you do as governor to target economic help to some of the more depressed communities in the state?
I think we can work on economic development in those communities. We have traditionally looked at big industries always coming into the communities and I think that we need to start looking at our economic development and starting smaller businesses as well, to build the economic development which would help all of those communities. The other is looking at the formula of fiscal capacity which was that piece that is not there anymore, which would allow that to equalize the funding to those communities. The other is that I would work with the communities because they also have really good ideas of what would be helpful to them, where their needs are, and then to allocate the funding. So, again, bottom line, every child has an equal opportunity to a quality education.
Can you draw the line directly for me between the economic benefits of a program that you're suggesting, school funding, how that would benefit a community like Berlin or Hinsdale or Troy, for example?
If a community has more industry that helps with the property base and the property tax, that always makes a difference in the communities as well.
The State of New Hampshire currently follows the federal minimum wage. I believe on your campaign website it says you want to raise it to $15 an hour. Some small business owners may say “Hey, wait a minute? Shouldn't I be the one who decides what to pay my employees and if the federal minimum wage is working for me? Why should the state government come in and tell me to do it differently?”
Well not everyone is doing well and they are working two or three jobs. They are people struggling to find affordable housing. And I do think that we do need to have, first of all, a New Hampshire minimum wage. We default, as you said, to the federal $7.25 an hour. So what I'd like to do is to move that minimum wage, first create in law New Hampshire's own minimum wage and move that gradually to $15 an hour because that's a livable wage.
So for those business owners who will say well “OK, if you make me raise my wage, I'll have to lay people off.” What would you say to them?
Well I think putting forth this legislation, I would certainly work with small businesses as well to see that we can, through the legislative process, work with them to make sure that they're sustainable and profitable as well.