One of the first calls I received right after I was first elected to the State Senate came from the superintendent for the Fall Mountain school district. He was complaining about the route 12 section of highway between Charlestown and North Walpole because of worries for the safety of school children riding buses twice a day. Nearly a decade later, last week in Charlestown, that was virtually the only subject raised when Councilor Ray Burton kicked off the every-other-year series of public hearings on updating the stateís 10 year highway plan.
The Governorís Advisory Committee on Intermodal Transportation (GACIT), made up of the five executive councilors and the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation, take a proposed highway construction and maintenance program for the next 10 years on the road to get the input of local officials and citizens. This year there will be 27 hearings around the state ending in late October.
Usually GACIT meetings are lightly attended. That was not true of the Charlestown meeting. The old town hall was nearly filled with concerned legislators, local officials and citizens concerned about the rebuilding of route 12 between North Walpole and Charlestown.
[The] $14 million rebuilding project has been on the plan for years but has been taken off the new plan for 2013-2022.
Representatives of the Department of Transportation explained that they have taken a conservative approach, and using my term, "speculating" about how much money would come into the state from the federal government.
In current federal law, the state receives about $150 million from Washington. A United States House of Representatives bill would reduce that amount by one-third. But that is just a proposal. The House needs to vote on the idea, then the Senate and finally the president would have to sign it into law. And, additional money could be added in the legislative process. Possibly a continuing resolution, as has happened in the past, will be passed that would keep funding at current levels.
The department also says the current state budget does not have money for New Hampshire to match federal dollars. Without being said, officials hint that this is the result of the repeal effective July 1 of the unpopular $30 per vehicle registration surcharge. The surcharge collected around $90 million over the biennium but only $30 million went to highway construction and maintenance.
If you had left the meeting early, you might have assumed that budget decisions being made in Washington, and already made in Concord, eliminate any chance for the rebuilding of route 12. Councilor Burton, however, in wrapping up the session, pointed out that the CACIT process is in the early stages of a long process.
The GACIT members will report to the Governor in December. He will prepare his plan using information from the GACIT proposals. The Governorís plan then will become a bill sponsored by Representative Gene Chandler (Bartlett) who chairs the Public Works and Highways Committee in the House. There will be public hearings in the House and when passed again in the Senate and final votes in both chambers.
I met with Representative Chandler, a former House speaker, on Wednesday. He assured me that there will be plenty of opportunity for area residents and public officials to be heard. Given that this is the number one project of the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission, the request to have the project added back into the 10 year plan is important.
There will be plenty of action surrounding this highway project in the months ahead.
I was surprised last Thursday to hear on the radio that Governor John Lynch would be announcing his future political plans later in the day. Leaks to the press hinted that the Governor would not be seeking re-election next year.
Today I am writing a few lines about the Governor and his ability to win elections. Over the next couple of weeks, I will offer some other perspectives on my experiences working with the Governor.
Governor Lynch made political history by being our first four term governor. In his first election in 2004, he was the first challenger in decades to defeat an incumbent running for re-election after only one term in office.
He carried his Democrat Party into a majority in both the House and the Senate in 2006 as the Governor won by a huge margin. The option to vote a straight ticket had not been repealed through a constitutional amendment passed at the same election. And his party retained its majorities in the legislature again in the 2008 presidential election that saw Barack Obama replace George W. Bush as President. Governor Lynch led his partyís ticket that year and piled up a huge vote margin.
In his final election last November, John Lynch narrowly was re-elected. While hundreds of others on his party ticket went down to defeat, his victory, bucking an historic Republican sweep, is a tribute to his political skills and ability to connect with voters in our state.
To have the opportunity to serve and lead the state, you have to win your elections. John Lynch did that, impressively. While each of us would disagree with some decisions of the Governor, he proved himself the master of winning his elections. He created a record of electoral successes that will not be broken for a long time.
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