Today, a bipartisan group of New Hampshire elected officials and activists announced the launch of Building America’s Future New Hampshire, a coalition focused on exploring ways to strengthen infrastructure, both at the state level and nationwide.
Forming the coalition are state senators Peter Bragdon (R-11), John Gallus (R-01), Gary Lambert (R-13), Chuck Morse (R-22), Bob Odell (R-08), Jim Rausch (R-19); State Representative Candace Bouchard (D-11); State Executive Councilors Ray Burton (R) and Dan St. Hilaire (R); former State Senator Bob Letourneau; Rockingham County Commissioner Maureen Barrows; Manchester Alderman Garth Corrieveau (D); business leaders William Beauregard and Tony Giunta; and, Kevin Smith, Executive Director of Cornerstone Policy Research.
NH Journal spoke with Sen. Bragdon, who stressed the need for a renewed focus on our nation’s critical infrastructure: “If we pay attention to infrastructure, we see greater economic growth and job creation, we see increased national security, increased public safety and so we feel that it really needs to have the level raised on infrastructure needs.”
Discussing the focus of Building America’s Future New Hampshire Interstate commerce, Bragdon explained that the group will focus on both state and national infrastructure as it is difficult to separate the two given the significance of bridges and highways for interstate travel and commerce.
The coalition will leave nitty-gritty specifics, like project selection and prioritization, to the state agencies and advisory committees to focus on “a broader, 30,000 foot view of things and recognizing the need to have a strategic vision,” according to Sen. Bragdon.
“The last big, significant infrastructure project in the state was the Interstate Highway System of the 1950s,” says Bragdon, “so we’re making all our decisions based upon a model that’s decades old now.”
Bragdon also notes that although it is a state-level group, much of their concern is at the federal level. “The state does a pretty good job of putting together a multi-year strategic plan; the feds do not do quite as good a job of that,” he says, elaborating that a goal of Building America’s Future is to force the federal government to “have a long-range plan in place rather than a willy-nilly allocation of funds.”
What does he mean by “willy-nilly”? Well, Bragdon cites the most recent federal highway bill, which contained over 6,000 earmarks and costs $24 billion. He explains that the lack of a coherent plan leaves the allocation process open to individual influence and pet projects.
How exactly do Bragdon and the coalition members propose to improve infrastructure without raising taxes or looking for new revenue sources? He lays out a three-part plan consisting of: (1) A strategic plan that prevents earmarks, (2) Consolidating the 100+ government agencies that deal with infrastructure allocation into a dozen or so, and (3) Pursuing public-private partnerships at both the state and national levels. Says Bragdon, “We need reforms in the system we have…we really need to have more of an outcome-based formula for how we allocate the money.”
The group is hoping to leverage the First-in-the-Nation Primary to get the candidates to focus on infrastructure and related issues. As Bragdon says, “What better time to raise the profile of this on a national level than to do so as part of the presidential primary when you have all kinds of candidates coming through?”
In the weeks and months ahead, the group plans to release a website with state-specific info and roll out videos of state leaders discussing the issue. They hope to create a strong presence at presidential events, garner local and national media attention, and plan to address local civic groups to recruit grassroots support.
New Hampshire junior Senator Kelly Ayotte had some timely comments on the issue in an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd this morning: “Republicans and Democrats could work on infrastructure funding together, because we should be doing our job and be doing a multi-year funding bill,” said Ayotte, continuing, “I hear that from contractors in New Hampshire. They want to know the certainty of what projects are coming forth and our state does as well.”