R&D tax credit bill off to a good start in NH

If there ever were a symbol for the shenanigans that dominated the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in 2011-12, it might very well be sabotaging a popular bill to double the research and development tax credit available to state businesses.

The Senate approved the bill unanimously. The House did likewise by a solid 2-1 majority. Yet, the bill never became law.

Why?

Because in a fit of pique over the Senate’s rejection of its Women’s Right to Know Act – the bill would have required any woman seeking an abortion to wait 24 hours after meeting her doctor to give informed consent – miffed House leaders attached the rejected abortion bill language to the R&D tax credit bill in a last-ditch effort to win passage.

Ultimately, the Senate refused to play along. So when the dust had finally settled on the 2012 session, the R&D tax credit remained stuck at $1 million with an effective repeal date of July 1, 2015 – a fitting legacy to the heavy-handed rule of then-House Speaker William O’Brien.

Fortunately, passage of a similar bill is shaping up to be one of the early bipartisan success stories of the 2013 session, one we hope will prove contagious and spread throughout both chambers.

On Tuesday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee hosted a public hearing on SB 1, which would increase the state pool of money for R&D tax credits from $1 million to $2 million and make it permanent by striking the 2015 repeal date.

After receiving overwhelming support from lawmakers and business leaders during the hearing, the committee voted, 5-0, to recommend the bill for passage before the full Senate when it meets next week.

Last year, the bill introduced by Sen. Bob Odell, R- Lempster, sailed through that chamber on a 24-0 vote. Given that 21 of 24 senators signed up to co-sponsor Odell’s new bill this year – including Greater Nashua Sens. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, Peggy Gilmour, D-Hollis, and Bette Lasky, D-Nashua – a similar result appears likely.

The R&D tax credit bill is again a top priority for the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire and the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, among other business groups. Christopher Williams, president and CEO of the local chamber, was among those to testify in support of the bill Tuesday.

SB 1 also has the strong support of new Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, who made doubling of the tax credit a key part of her “Innovate NH” jobs plan, which she touted during her successful run for governor.

If approved, $2 million in R&D tax credits would be available to New Hampshire businesses to apply against the business profits tax, capped at a maximum credit of $50,000 per business.

But even the injection of another $1 million into that pool isn’t expected to be enough to meet the strong demand for these credits among state businesses. Last year, the state received requests totaling more than $4 million, which meant businesses eligible for the maximum $50,000 tax credit only received about one-quarter of that amount.

Still, passage this year would send a positive message to those businesses looking to move into or expand in New Hampshire for years to come.

As such, it deserves strong bipartisan support – without any last-minute political gimmicks – all the way up to the governor’s desk.