Sen. Sylvia Larsen: Time to Focus on Jobs, Not Social Issues

What’s happened to this new State House leadership’s plan to focus on jobs and the economy?

Instead of headlines featuring the Legislature discussing new ways to create jobs and fiscal discipline, these past five weeks have shown these leaders wasting time.

Some of the hottest debates are over whether to repeal public kindergarten; eliminate language, art and technical education; repeal green job-producing RGGI programs that improve air quality; extract our state from the hope of more affordable health care; eliminate the rights of women to make private medical decisions; and repeal the civil rights of marriage equality.

While these repeal bills appear unrelated, in reality they would all take us backward in our efforts to grow jobs here in New Hampshire.

When we know that kindergarten improves a student’s chances of becoming a successful graduate, future employee and taxpayer, why would we repeal it?

When we know that it takes a well-educated, computer literate, language-proficient graduate to attract new business to the state and compete in this global economy, why would we repeal those educational standards in our schools?

When we know that a healthy workforce with affordable health care creates a healthy economy, why would we seek to withdraw from the early stages of the Affordable Care Act which already protects seniors’ prescriptions, those with pre-existing conditions, and covers young people up to age 26?

And why would we repeal a job-creating, energy saving program such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative? Especially when we know that the RGGI helped reduce CO2 pollution in New Hampshire, raising over $28 million to train over 700 people, perform energy audits on more than 185 buildings and develop more than 500 energy efficient projects. Even if it were repealed, New Hampshire would still pay into the regional power grid, but the money would be redistributed to other states instead of helping grow jobs locally.

Even social issues such as a woman’s right to family planning have an economic, job-producing effect. Men and women who can make private choices with their family on family size are better able to balance the challenges of parenting and work responsibilities. Long-term, stable family relations, such as those created by marriage equality, also lead to a more stable workforce and preserve New Hampshire as a state where civil liberties matter.

This is just the beginning of a long session ahead. Economists are telling us that it will be a slow climb out of this recession, but New Hampshire is already leading the way in job growth, even without the “help” of this new leadership team.

Instead of backpedaling on social issues, it’s time for us to keep our focus on job creation, growing business, promoting affordable health care and safeguarding New Hampshire’s status as the nation’s most livable state.

(Sylvia Larsen of Concord is the Democratic leader in the New Hampshire Senate.)