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Job creation, stabilization key to pulling out of slump

New Hampshire's small businesses need tax breaks and funding, among other initiatives, to help create jobs, according to the three Democrats in the state's federal delegation.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and U.S. Reps. Paul Hodes and Carol Shea-Porter advocate increased government support of small businesses as a means of putting people to work.

But the lone Republican in the delegation, U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg, holds a different view: commit to reducing the national debt and not increasing government spending.

The legislators offered their ideas for job growth as unemployment continues to dominate almost every aspect of American life, particularly politics.

In telephone interviews Wednesday from Washington, just hours before President Obama's State of the Union address, the Democrats espoused, separately or collectively, focusing on clean energy, research and development and job training as other ways to diminish unemployment lines.

But direct help for small business - a key component of New Hampshire's economic engine - were the most discussed ideas among the Democrats.

"Most of job creation comes from small businesses," Shaheen said. "We have to make sure they're getting what they need to operate," so that they can hire and stride confidently out of the recession, she said.

Interviewed by phone Thursday, Gregg continued to push for a cause that has recently earned him national media attention: attacking the national debt so it doesn't further harness the country.

"The most positive thing to do to create jobs is to stop spending money the government doesn't have," Gregg said.

While the three Democrats back programs Gregg opposes, they side with his call for reducing the deficit and debt.

Shaheen voted this week for Gregg's Senate proposal to create a bipartisan commission that would have made recommendations to cut the deficit and required an up-or-down Congressional vote. Despite having the support of 37 Democrats and 16 Republicans, the proposal failed to gain a super-majority vote of 60 that was needed to pass.

Hodes and Shea-Porter didn't vote, but said they supported the measure. Hodes, who is seeking the Senate seat that Gregg will vacate in 2011, also highlighted recent and past initiatives he said placed him ahead of the new political wave in Washington that has called for greater fiscal restraint.

The commission vote was the "last best" chance of having such a legislative vehicle with statutory power, Gregg said. "We're running out of time," he said.

Asked if reducing the debt would bear fruit in the long- term but not necessarily short-term job growth, Gregg said the two are connected. An affordable government allows people and businesses to be productive and not overburdened, he said.

New Hampshire has had its "most robust" economies when the government is affordable, Gregg said. "The recovery of the economy is tied very closely to the willingness of people taking a risk."

Shaheen said that although banks are starting to lend again, small businesses still need greater borrowing power. Small- and mid-d businesses also need more opportunities to sell on the global market, particularly if U.S. consumer power is expected to be weak for some time, she said.

Shea-Porter and Hodes joined Shaheen in supporting job training and investing in research and development as ways, they said, to boost hiring and create more permanent job sectors. The Senate is considering a research and development tax cut, Shaheen said.

They also back government spending for new energy technologies and infrastructure. Shea-Porter urged the passage of a House-approved measure that spends about $154 billion on highway, transit and water projects and the retaining of firefighters and teachers.

Shea-Porter and Hodes also called for a continued push for health-care reform, even though public-opinion polls and the recent election of a Republican senator in Massachusetts have some Democratic lawmakers readjusting their positions on an overhaul of the system.

In his State of the Union speech, Obama vowed to not relinquish his health care plan. Interviewed before the speech, Hodes said, "We'll have to see where things go."

But Hodes added that comprehensive health care remains an important goal for those without insurance and as a way to lower costs and help the economy.