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Garry Rayno's State House Dome: Highway funding a never-ending battle
The House Public Works Committee and the House wanted a gas tax hike to pay for the shortfall in the Interstate 93 widening project from Salem to Manchester, as well as the growing red-listed bridges and paving projects.
Meanwhile, the Senate approved a casino gambling plan that would have dedicated about 40 percent of the state's revenue to fixing transportation infrastructure and finishing the I-93 project. The House killed that plan.
The I-93 widening is $250 million short; about $40 million will have to be found somewhere for the Spaulding work.
Clement and the Executive Council, as the Governor's Advisory Commission on Intermodal Transportation, are working to develop recommendations for the 10-year plan.
The transportation system is funded basically in three ways: federal highway money, which has been stagnant; gas tax and car registration revenues that go into the highway fund, and tolls that pay for the turnpike system.
"I'm concentrated on providing the best value for the traveling public and New Hampshire taxpayer in the most efficient way possible, but it's been 22 years." The gas tax was last raised in 1992,
The one-time fixes are over, Clement said, and his department faces a $48 million deficit in fiscal 2016 and a $110 million deficit the year after.
"For the sake of transparency, I wanted to put in the turnpike projects that are not funded in the 10-year plan to show the shortfalls," Clement said.
The commission is about to finish its work and turn over its recommendation to Gov. Maggie Hassan, who will decide what she wants to keep in the improvement program. Then it will be up to lawmakers to make recommendations.
Several terms ago, the 10-year plan was a wish list with projects that would never be completed without additional funding. But lawmakers and transportation officials worked to develop realistic blueprints for the last few two-year cycles.
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The Dean of the Executive Council, Raymond Burton, R-Bath, hardly ever misses a meeting, and for the Oct. 16 meeting, he participated by phone because he was undergoing additional treatment for cancer.
Known for his constituent service, he traveled the highways and byways of northern New Hampshire in one of his restored older model cars, flew into all the airports in his district, walked in uncountable parades and appeared at what must be tens of thousands of events.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the District 1 councilor.
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LGC RECOMMENDATIONS: The committee to review a hearings officer's report on the N.H. Local Government Center essentially finalized its report last week and is expected to introduce legislation for 2014 containing some of its key recommendations.
Former Senate President and current Sen. Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, is the executive director of Health Trust, which oversees LGC's health insurance program.
Another key issue was what entity should regulate public risk pools: current regulator the Bureau of Securities Regulation or the Insurance Department.
The report leaves open the possibility that the bureau be moved to the Insurance Department, where it once was before it was moved to the Secretary of State's Office.
The hearings officer ruled in 2012 that the LGC had misspent more than $50 million that should be returned to its customers.
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ARTS AWARDS: The 2013 Governor's Arts Awards will be presented at a ceremony Nov. 6 at the New Hampshire Institute of Art. One of the recipients will be Peter Ramsey, longtime executive director of the Palace Theatre in Manchester.
Other recipients include Brian Chagnon of Farmington, SAU 61 TV studio manager, Arts Education Award; Concord Hospital, Cultural Access Leadership Award; Frumie Selchen of Wonalancet, executive director of the Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire, Distinguished Arts Leadership Award; Barbara Fisher of Sunapee, Folk Heritage Award; Thomas and Barbara Putnam of Keene, Individual Arts Patron Award; Marguerite Mathews of the Pontine Theatre in Portsmouth, Lotte Jacobi Living Treasure Award; and Pedro Pimentel of Concord High School, Youth Arts Leadership Award.
"The arts have long contributed to both New Hampshire's cultural identity and economy," said Gov. Maggie Hassan. "The Governor's Arts Awards are an opportunity to thank members of our arts community for the outstanding work they've done throughout the state."
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