If Benson’s leading, there’s no one following

Almost daily, the governor demonstrates his complete lack of understanding as to how the governmental process works. His naiveté has grown from “forgivable miscue” to “embarrassment.” The governor is exactly where he was two years ago – wandering aimlessly in Craigsworld, bantering around bromidic blather in hope that it will mask his ineffectiveness.

The latest example was his veto of the state’s 10-year highway plan. Government is a collaborative effort between elected officials and the people they serve. It doesn’t respond to edicts handed down from on high, as the governor would prefer.

For two years, the legislative public works committees and the Department of Transportation traveled to all corners of the state holding public hearings on the plan. They listened to the wants and needs of townspeople, selectmen, boards and commissions. They explained the state process, the financial crunch, and the probable timeline.

From those meetings emerged the 10-year plan, a device that New Hampshire uses to allow road-building to progress on something of a schedule and without a lot of political interference. Once a project is added to the plan, it works its way down the ladder from something 10-years away, to seven, to five, to three, to completion. Along the way, various pieces of the project are addressed and put into place.

Today, the state is in a huge fiscal crunch. And with Benson at the helm, that crunch will become significantly worse. But the governor decided that the remedy for the lack of sufficient funding for the highway plan was to toss the whole plan over the side. He said, in justifying his veto, “It’s the lawmakers’ job to pass balanced legislation, and this doesn’t balance.”

If the governor would do a little homework, he would find that most 10-year state highway plans are “best guess” exercises. However, they do provide the framework for further refinement as the years roll by. Every other year, the 10-year plan is tweaked in order to reflect current conditions and future wants and needs.

The most ironic part of the governor’s argument is that the funding shortage is fueled because we have a governor whose idea of leading is only about adding up columns on a balance sheet.

He won’t raise the funds necessary to carry out the various missions of state government. Yet he will whine when the funds aren’t there.

It brings to mind the old bit about the kid who killed both his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court claiming he is an orphan.

So last month, the governor, in the finest of quixotic postures, led the Legislature into the battle to kill the highway plan. In its wisdom, and with its understanding of the process, the Legislature refused to follow. Only 31 members of the House dutifully obeyed and trundled along after the governor, 312 marched the other way. In the Senate, one lone soul saluted and scampered off with the governor, the remaining 23 members rode the other way.

Leadership can happen only if there are followers. The governor has none. He has shown open disdain for the Legislature, state employees and our governmental process. But he does have a bucketful of personal dollars with which to buy media spots that portray him as some sort of messianic marvel that can heal New Hampshire’s problems.

His management is not messianic, it’s a mess. The governor has allowed his office to become an orgy of photo ops, stunts and one-liners, but little else.

People need to look beyond the fluff. When they do, they will find a mammoth ego that can’t understand (and doesn’t care) how government works, can’t work with government, and is rapidly crippling our state government so it will never work.

Edward R. (Ted) Leach is a Republican state representative from Hancock.

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