Politicians check in on businesses
By ELISE CASTELLI
Union Leader Correspondent
Friday, Aug. 18, 2006
Derry - Congressman Jeb Bradley and state Sen. Bob Letourneau took the pulse of Derry's business district yesterday, stopping at stores in the heart of the downtown and asking, "How's business?"
"Things are soft but optimistic," was the reply Bud Evans, owner of Derry Feed and Supply, gave the two officials running for re-election this fall.
The May floods and high fuel costs have driven up costs of operation and the items on the shelves.
"People are hyper price sensitive right now," Evans said.
Bradley said he's working for a solution.
"I've filed legislation to remove tariffs on ethanol," he told Evans. "It's going to be a lift to take on the corn lobby."
The government heavily subsidizes ethanol development and uses tariffs to protect American production of the gasoline additive. Those protections and insufficient production are partially responsible for the spike in pump prices, Bradley explained.
"Businesses like yours are the backbone of the New Hampshire economy," Bradley said. "I'd like to have policies in place to have businesses like yours grow and hire people."
Many people in New Hampshire rely on retail businesses for work, with most new jobs created in the small-business sector, Bradley said. The lack of sales tax keeps the retail economy strong and prevents a high tax burden on residents, he said.
Across the street at Benson's Hardware, the candidates were told a similar story.
"The economy is tough and there is a tightness of money," said owner Grant Benson Jr. "It's pretty competitive; we're working nine days a week."
At the Derry Barber Shop, owner Dana Langley said he feels the tax crunch despite the low tax burden in New Hampshire. With his home recently re-evaluated at more than double its purchase price, Langley wondered, "Are they trying to price us average working folks out of Derry?"
Even though New Hampshire has one of the lowest tax burdens in the nation, Letourneau said he has heard the pleas for tax relief from voters across Derry. Many citizens have listed high taxes as their number one concern on a survey he sent out as part of his campaign.
Letourneau and Bradley both said items like income and sales taxes were not solutions to the problem.
Langley agreed, saying, "That may temporarily lower taxes, but if you institute a sales tax, you're just going to have two taxes going up instead of one."
Later in the walking tour, Letourneau said encouraging economic development with projects such as the proposed Exit 4A off Interstate 93 were real solutions to the tax problems.
"Business brings wealth." he said.