NASHUA, N.H. — The state Executive Council’s vote against a commuter rail study will set back efforts to get federal funds for public transportation, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said Thursday.
The council’s decision against a $3.2 million federal grant to study the possibility of linking Boston’s commuter rail line to Nashua and Concord has been much maligned by Nashua city officials.
Shaheen said the decision not to go forward with the study will impair the state’s ability to get money from the federal government.
“Officials don’t want to award money that is going to be sent back,” she said.
Calling herself a proponent of thoughtfully planned mass transportation, she said last year she took a train from London to Brussels and remembers it being clean and fast.
“If Europe can do this, we should be able to do this in America,” she said, and recalled the debates here 20 years ago about the Amtrak Downeaster passenger train service between Boston and Portland, Maine, which turned out to be a success.
On another issue during an editorial board meeting with The Telegraph, Shaheen said there is still obstructionism in Congress but also some progress in bipartisan legislation, including Senate passage of the transportation bill, “a big issue for New Hampshire,” and extension of payroll tax cuts and the Jobs Act.
Most of her colleagues have found a way to cooperate so that work gets done, Shaheen said,”but there are extremists who don’t want anything to happen,” and there are more extremists in the House of Representatives.
New talk in Congress about not raising the debt ceiling — the limit Congress places on the amount the federal government can borrow — is “very irresponsible,” Shaheen said.
The former New Hampshire governor said she understands how important it is to maintain a state or nation’s fiscal rating. Until the fight over the debt ceiling, there was worldwide trust that the U.S. would pay its debts, she said, and failure to raise the ceiling puts that trust in jeopardy and “shows a total lack of understanding” of its impact.
When the talk came around to campaign finance reform, Shaheen called the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allows unrestricted political spending by corporations and unions, “bad for democracy.”
The ruling “is one of the worst decisions we’ve seen from any court in my lifetime and probably in the last century,” she said, because it makes the influence of money in the political system “exponentially worse,” not to mention disenfranchising the average citizen and making people more cynical about politics.
On the national debt, Shaheen said government has got to look at all aspects, including revenue. “We can’t just be cutting unless we are willing to wipe out all programs,” and Congress has to fix the out-of-date tax code.
The landmark Affordable Care Act will go into effect in 2014, and Shaheen said “there are a lot of bugs to work out,” but the law is essential because the current system is not working.
“We look at how it is working in Massachusetts,” she said, and the state’s goal was to cover everyone, and that was achieved. “Businesses haven’t withdrawn from the plan” and are getting together with insurers on the task of bringing costs down, she said.
Before her visit to the Telegraph’s Executive Drive office in Hudson, Shaheen visited City Hall in Nashua to hear about the city’s efforts to become more energy-efficient and to talk about her energy efficiency bill.
(c)2012 The Telegraph (Nashua, N.H.)
Distributed by MCT Information Services