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Business Perspective: Crucial business legislation enters second half of session

Business Perspective: Crucial business legislation enters second half of session

BIA backing housing and higher education investment, expanded Medicaid

CONCORD — Legislation that could significantly impact New Hampshire businesses has moved into the second half of the legislative session.

The Business & Industry Association, the state’s leading business advocate, identified legislative priorities this session to help ease New Hampshire’s worker shortage and grow the economy. They include increasing state investment in programs that create more workforce housing opportunities; increasing state funding for the university and community college systems; and permanent reauthorization of expanded Medicaid and raising Medicaid reimbursement rates for hospitals to reduce cost shifting to businesses due to uncompensated care. While BIA is working on dozens of other issues and proposals impacting the state’s business climate, today’s focus is an update on legislation in these three key areas.

Workforce housing

There’s a shortage of workers in most professions in New Hampshire and housing is a major factor. Investing to create more housing opportunities will pay dividends for years.

SB 145 FN, supported by BIA, establishes a “Housing Champions” program to encourage development of high-density housing. Designated communities would be eligible for state grants to assist with infrastructure such as water, sewer and road upgrades necessitated by housing development. The Senate passed SB 145, then tabled it for inclusion in the budget once the Senate receives HB 1, the budget bill, and HB 2, the budget trailer bill, from the House.

SB 231 FN, also supported by BIA, establishes a new tax credit program to encourage the conversion of historic structures such as mills and warehouses into high-density housing. The bill also appropriates $25 million to the Housing Development Fund administered by New Hampshire Housing to provide gap financing when needed to make nonprofit workforce housing projects viable. The Senate passed SB 231 and tabled it for inclusion in the budget once it receives the budget and trailer bills from the House.

University and college funding

New Hampshire is last among the 50 states in per capita support of higher education, but our university and community college systems are critical to the education and training of workers needed to grow our economy. Increasing investment in higher education will lower costs for Granite State students and help keep them here. New Hampshire loses too many young people to other states, putting it at a competitive disadvantage.

Gov. Chris Sununu recommended $95.2 million for the university system in Fiscal Year 2024 and $99.2 million in FY25. The House Finance Committee increased the FY25 amount to $101.2 million in its recommended budget. USNH currently receives $88.5 million in state support, less than it received in 2011. House Finance maintained the $61.1 million in FY24 and $63.5 million in FY25 for the community college system recommended in the governor’s budget. CCSNH is receiving $56 million in the current fiscal year.

The House passed a bipartisan budget and trailer bill Thursday, April 6. BIA encouraged the Democratic and Republic caucuses to approve the budget and send it to the Senate. Compromises by both sides improved the budget and kept the process moving forward.

Medicaid expansion

SB 263 FN, supported by BIA, would permanently reauthorize the New Hampshire Granite Advantage Health Care Program. The House Health & Human Services Committee held a public hearing on the bill Tuesday, April 4, following its unanimous passage in the Senate. David Juvet, BIA’s senior vice president of public policy, testified that perhaps no other bill this session, aside from the budget, could have a larger impact on job creation and New Hampshire’s economy.

The difficulty attracting and retaining workers is the top concern BIA heard from employers of all sizes across the state and a healthy population contributes to worker availability. Some 90,000 Granite State residents have health insurance through expanded Medicaid, but will lose coverage if the program is allowed to sunset at year’s end. If that happens, New Hampshire will not receive $1 billion in federal funding each biennium for the program, which would have a catastrophic effect on New Hampshire hospitals left to provide uncompensated care. Those costs would be shifted to other payers, primarily employers and employees, through higher health insurance benefit costs.

Senate President Jeb Bradley testified before the House committee, asking: “Has Medicaid expansion worked? I believe the answer is a resounding yes.”

The federal government covers 90% of the program’s cost and Bradley said New Hampshire has met its 10% requirement without using general funds. He pointed out 70% of state residents enrolled in expanded Medicaid are employed, exceeding the 63% national average, and New Hampshire has the fourth lowest percentage of residents receiving Medicaid among the states.

“I believe it’s time to make it permanent to allow for the most cost-effective contracting with managed care organizations,” Bradley testified.

BIA fully agrees. Expanded Medicaid is a proven success and permanent reauthorization provides employers the predictability they need for success.

Michael Skelton is president and CEO of the Business & Industry Association, New Hampshire’s statewide chamber of commerce. For more information, visit


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