Companies in the business of growing human organs would be exempt from paying two New Hampshire taxes for the next ten years under a bill passed on Thursday by the New Hampshire House.
Supporters of the bill argue that tax breaks will help kick start a nascent industry and ensure that New Hampshire becomes the ‘Silicon Valley of regenerative medicine.’
Inventor Dean Kamen and the city of Manchester won an $80 million federal grant from the Department of Defense last year to launch the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute, or ARMI.
The futuristic project has a long term goal of scaling up the growth of human organs and tissues based on a person’s own cells. The technology could help restore limbs for injured soldiers, or create new livers and kidneys for those in need.
Representative Bill Ohm of Nashua told colleagues the tax break measure could help kick start a huge new industry.
“The semiconductor industry transformed orange groves into Silicon Valley. Lets have regenerative manufacturing transform our mills into medical miracles,” said Ohm.
The measure passed on a 241-50 vote.
Under Senate Bill 564, businesses who devote at least 75% of their activities toward regenerative medicine would be exempt from both the business profits tax and the business enterprise tax for ten years. Supporters say the proposal wouldn’t cost the state any revenue since no companies in New Hampshire currently qualify.
The bill also creates a $5 million workforce development program. Kamen has said that finding the right talent to push this field forward is one of its biggest challenges.
Opponents of the bill contend the state shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers.
“If we want to help New Hampshire business, if we want to be fair to all businesses, we should be lowering the business tax rates, not exempting some businesses at the expense of the rest,” said Representative Marc Abear, a Republican from Meredith.
The bill cleared the Senate last month, but the version that passed the House was amended, meaning the legislation must now go back to the Senate for approval, or the two chambers can work out their differences in a committee.
Governor Chris Sununu, in a statement, praised the bill’s passage.
“New Hampshire has signaled to the rest of the country that we are at the forefront of innovative, life-saving technological developments,” he said.
Fiscal conservative groups, including the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy and Americans For Prosperity-New Hampshire, have criticized the bill.
“We wish ARMI all the success in the world. However, giving out tax breaks to favored industries and companies creates a slippery slope that never ends,” said Greg Moore, state director of AFP-NH. “Once you start offering bailouts to one group, how do you say no to the next group?”