Bush misses mark with stimulus plan

All challenges present opportunities. Unfortunately, in the coming years, I believe this country will look back on the recent economic stimulus package announced by President Bush as one of this country’s biggest missed opportunities in more than 70 years.

Considering our current economic downturn and the pressing need for infrastructure investments in this country, the president’s plan of putting money into the hands of individuals via a one-time tax rebate fails to provide a long-term solution to our economic difficulties. President Bush should recognize that the key to economic recovery lies in job creation.

At a time when our roads are deteriorating, many of our bridges have been declared unsafe, and the highway trust funds across the country are under-funded, we as a nation should be investing in our infrastructure. What we should be undertaking with the $152 billion in economic stimulus money is planning and executing a federally financed public works program, similar to the Works Progress Administration that President Franklin D. Roosevelt included in his New Deal.

Under this type of program, the federal government would provide money to states for public works projects to repair bridges, roads, upgrade utilities and water systems. Not only would this type of program strengthen our existing infrastructure, but it also could position our country for a century of economic growth and innovation by building the foundation for new technologies, alternative fuels and efficient and safe transportation.

Jobs created through public works projects are well-paying jobs with benefits that are likely to last for months or years, jobs that will allow New Hampshire citizens to pay mortgages and homes. In addition to direct jobs, entrepreneurs will create small businesses to provide services necessary to support construction companies and workers.

During the discussion about crafting an economic stimulus package, a highway initiative was introduced by Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden. According to data developed by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, this proposal would have injected more than $81 million into the New Hampshire economy.

Projects in the state that would be ready to go within 90 days include ramp and bridge construction projects along Interstate 93 between Salem and Manchester, resurfacing of I-93 between Campton and Lincoln, I-89 Exit 20 reconstruction in West Lebanon, the Route 33 bridge replacement in Portsmouth, road resurfacing of Route 202 in Henniker and Hopkinton and road repairs to Route 3 in Whitefield. 

This infusion of money could have brought new life to New Hampshire’s 10-year highway plan by reviving a host of local transportation projects and improving the safety of the state’s roads and bridges. It could have gone to provide the transmission infrastructure to turn New Hampshire into a leader in renewable energy or provided the foundation for developing new mass transit options for New Hampshire commuters.

Every single one of these options represents a lost opportunity for rebuilding our state’s infrastructure and strengthening our economy for the long term.

Just as important, it is estimated that this proposal would have created about 3,800 new jobs in the state and provided work for many existing New Hampshire companies.

The path the president has chosen is the wrong direction and will only lead us further into a downward economic cycle. Investing in our nation’s infrastructure would have a lasting effect and help create a climate that brings us out of this recession and onto better economic times.

Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, is chairman of the New Hampshire Senate Finance Committee.

Categories: Opinion