North Country
1:34 pm
Fri January 13, 2012

North Country Business Leaders Tell Ayotte Congress Needs Fixing

Concerns about a government that can’t work together to solve problems and possible cuts to valuable federal programs were top concerns of about a dozen North Country businessmen who met Thursday with Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R).

“Our whole society and our economy needs greater confidence,” said Peter Powell, a realtor from Lancaster who attended the meeting held by the North Country Council in Bethlehem.

Powell said a serious problem is the “Senate and the House, where many of us have lost confidence in those institutions and are frankly frustrated and sometimes embarrassed by what we are seeing, the stalemates and the grandstanding and the ideology run amuck is really contrary to the best interests of New Hampshire,” said Powell.

Michael King, the executive director of the North Country Council, was one of several people who said he was worried that federal grants such as those given by the U.S. Economic Development Administration would be cut.

“It has been very, very good to New Hampshire,” he said.

Ayotte said New Hampshire has made good use of E.D.A. funds but other states appear to have abused the program.

That has made it a target for budget cutters.

The problem is that good programs that have helped the North Country could be lost as part of  Washington’s wider cuts and efforts to balance the budget, some participants worried.

“Many of these issues that are so terribly important to us on the ground are being dealt with a very broad brush or an axe where really you need very particular and precise analysis of these things and if you are going to do cutting it has to be done with a scalpel,” said Powell.

Another issue was the cost of health insurance. Several participants said it puts a strain on their businesses and keeps would-be entrepreneurs from starting a new business.

Others said it remains hard to get loans needed to expand or start a new business.

After almost two hours the meeting concluded with Ayotte saying the information she gathered was valuable but generally not surprising.

“What really stood out for me today - and it didn’t surprise me because I have heard this from businesses across our state - is that Washington has really created a climate of uncertainty for businesses in terms of not knowing for example what their tax rates would be, the regulatory climate as well as the debt continuing to increase without real progress on this issue in Washington,” Ayotte said.