BEDFORD — Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, in her first visit to New Hampshire since disclosing last week that she is now actively exploring a run for President, on Friday called for a top to bottom review of all laws, regulation and rules that affect businesses.
She urged a group of New Hampshire business leaders to focus on the needs of small businesses and realize that government policies affecting the business community directly affect people’s lives.
Fiorina had been in the state several times prior to the midterm election as chair of a conservative women’s grassroots PAC called the Unlocking Potential Project.
“In the course of my visits and travels, many people have said to me that I ought to consider” running for President, she said after addressing the business group at the Manchester Country Club. “So I’ll pause and reflect and consider it at the right time. But I have no announcement for you today.”
Fiorina was the keynote speaker at a breakfast hosted by Rep.-elect Frank Guinta’s Independent Business Council of New Hampshire, which is focused on helping the business community, especially small businesses, thrive in a state that has had a history of providing a business-friendly economic, tax, and regulatory climate, but whose competitiveness has dropped off in recent years.
An IBC-sponsored report on economic conditions in the state, completed by former U.S. Chamber of Commerce official Stephen Jordan, now of IO Sustainability in Alexandria, Va., painted a bleak picture.
He reported that New Hampshire is 30th in CNBC’s Business Competitiveness Overall ranking, 32nd in the cost of doing business, 35th in its “portion of inaccessible or rough roads,” 36th in its top marginal corporate income tax rate, 43rd in the cost of living, 46th in industrial electrical prices and 49th in its property tax burden. It also has the average highest student debt in the country, the author found. And, according to Jordan, the fact that it is not a right-to-work state is a strike against it.
“You can’t argue with the facts,” Guinta said. “The facts suggest that we are way behind as a state.”
Only GOP woman considering running
Fiorina so far is the only Republican woman to have expressed an interest in running for President, but she said she does not think about it in those terms.
“Politics in general in both parties needs to recognize that women are 53 percent of voters, and I think that both of our political parties need to be as broadly diverse as the nation they want to represent,” she told reporters after the breakfast.
“I also think that we need to move away from identity politics – which is saying ‘you’re this kind of person so this is your issue and your that kind of person so this is your issue.’
“Identity politics is divisive,” Fiorina said. “I’m a conservative because I know our policies and our principles work better for everyone, regardless of their circumstances. We need to reach out to every American. Our parties need to look as diverse as the nation, and we need to speak to the issues that matter to them.”
Guinta said it is important for Republicans to have “qualified candidates,” regardless of gender, running for President, “and certainly I’d put Carly in that category.
“I think the fact that she would be potentially the only woman running, while news, shouldn’t be,” Guinta said. “But I like the idea that she’s spending time in New Hampshire considering this awesome responsibility.”
Fiorina said that when she assumed control of HP in 1999, most of the press coverage was about the fact that she is a woman.
“It was both unsurprising in some ways and disappointing in other ways. Women are half the potential of this nation. Every game is better when everybody gets to play. Women are smart and bring experiences to any game and will make that game better.
“It’s about women bringing potential to the table to make our nation or our businesses better,” she said.
Report: High business tax burden
Jordan, a former executive director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center, gave a presentation on an IBC report that will be shared with Gov. Maggie Hassan, state lawmakers and business groups, entitled, “2014 IBC Economic Policy Benchmark Report: Setting the Stage for New Hampshire’s Next Economic Boom.” To view the full report, click here.
Jordan said that while in the past, New Hampshire had been a jobs magnet for Massachusetts residents, that is no longer the case. The Granite State, because it “under invested in our platform for productivity,” has again “become more of a bedroom place for Massachusetts.” Small businesses, rather than moving to New Hampshire, are now staying in Massachusetts.
The state’s high combined business tax rate of 8.5 percent is key factor, said Jordon. It is “far above the national average of 6 percent. He said that cutting the state’s businesses taxes to the national average would cut $250 million in revenue to state government annually, but he said that eventually the state could make up for the loss with an expanded tax base as business return to New Hampshire and existing businesses expand.
IBC in the report called for reducing the state’s marginal corporate tax rate by at least 300 basis points “so that the state’s business taxes are set below the national average.” It also called on Concord to reinstitute sunset provisions and review “old and obsolete regulations.”
It also calls for a renewed commitment to investment in education, a stronger partnership between the business and education communities and also investment in new businesses through “venture capital investment incentives.”
Fiorina called for a “systematic inventory of every rule, every regulation and every law that’s in place because it’s become a crushing load on this nation.”
She said businesses need to be allowed, with minimal government interference, to utilize the ability technology now provides to allow “anything to go anywhere. Money can go anywhere. Opportunity can go anywhere. People can go anywhere and jobs can go anywhere.”
She said, “The most important resource of all is human potential.
“In truth,” Fiorina said, “what we are talking about is people’s lives…and people lives are impacted when their potential is crushed. People’s lives are cheapened when they lack opportunity.”
She said that as she travels the country, “What people think we’re missing is leadership, a leadership that knows its highest calling is to unlock the potential of others. Starting down a journey of change requires an honest look in the mirror.”