The virtue of stimulus spending

The Aug. 8 editorial in Foster’s Daily Democrat asked, “When did prolific spending become such a virtue?” The editorial then proceeded to criticize Gov. John Lynch and his administration for acting quickly and competently to get stimulus money out the door so we can get people working again.

The editorial missed the mark on several points. The whole point of the federal stimulus act was to quickly inject federal funds into the economy to help retain and create jobs. Here in New Hampshire, Governor Lynch made it clear we are to use stimulus money quickly, wisely and for its intended purpose. Under the governor’s leadership in the last several years, New Hampshire has returned fiscal responsibility to its highway fund, and updated its 10-year plan.

By the time the federal stimulus law passed, New Hampshire had already developed a list of priority projects through an extensive public hearing process and legislative approval.

Thanks to stimulus funding, New Hampshire has dramatically accelerated its progress on the 10-year plan. The New Hampshire Department of Transportation was paving about 750 miles of roads in all 10 counties this summer. Without the stimulus funds, our repaving program would have been able to cover only 250 miles.

Repaving these 750 miles is significant for the people who travel those roads everyday. It is significant for the men and women who have been able to keep their jobs, or who were newly hired, to work on those roads. It is significant because we are able to invest in our infrastructure now, which will save money in the future.

Also because of stimulus we will be able to complete the Manchester Airport Access Road two years ahead of schedule. Accelerating construction on this long-delayed project is allowing us to recognize significant cost savings.

Because of the stimulus, we were able to put an additional $15 million to help local road and bridge projects across the state. In fact, because these are such difficult economic times and private construction projects are scarce, we are saving 10, 15 and even 20 percent on the cost of these jobs. We are getting much more value for our dollar than we were just last year.

Because of NHDOT’s quick action regarding stimulus, we have been recognized as the second-best state in the nation for putting stimulus money to use as it was intended. Other states have not acted as quickly as New Hampshire to implement stimulus-funded projects. Not putting stimulus funds to work is a disservice to the taxpayers and the workers of those states.

If Foster’s wanted to question whether it was right for Congress to appropriate the federal stimulus package that is one thing. In fact, maybe the author of the editorial would like to have that discussion with the hundreds of New Hampshire workers who benefited this summer because the state used stimulus funds quickly and appropriately.

But to assert that it’s wrong to follow federal law as it was intended is just not logical and asks New Hampshire to turn a blind eye to our critical needs. We in New Hampshire are using stimulus funds efficiently, effectively and appropriately. We are investing in our state and our people.

This is a virtue the citizens of our state can take great pride in.

George N. Campbell Jr. is commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.

Categories: Opinion