I have known Dave Campbell since long long ago when we were both in the House during our Golden Younger Ages. He took a couple of decades off to do other things, and many of us who knew him back then were happy he returned to the Legislature a few years ago.
Since our first years last Century, we’ve each lost some hairs and I’ve grown fatter, while he’s grown even smarter than he was — and he was kind of brilliant back then too.
On Sunday’s WMUR CloseUp, he was sharing the screen with a Republican House member — his name isn’t important because so many of them seem to be on the same boat. Dave’s “opponent” if he can be called that, because Dave blew him out of the water on each point, obviously had a bit too much coffee before the taping, and tried to ambush David into looking into the camera and telling us why the 4 cent a gallon increase in David’s gas tax legislation is necessary, since that would stop people from buying milk.
(As an aside, I have seldom seen a less professional and grossly political ambush on WMUR, but it filled my need for momentary Sunday morning entertainment on what is usually an excellent serious face-to-face exchange of ideas among knowledgeable political-types.)
I didn’t quite follow the buying milk-vs.-gasoline argument because this is a user tax, but since Dave’s opponent also wants to privatize the state’s transportation department and turn it over to the lowest bidder, I guess it make sense to him.
David stayed cool, calm, and collected — cliché as those words may be — and explained the importance of the highway fund and the value of quality roads. And for those in the Seacoast who saw our bridge to Maine get stuck for four days recently, tying up our river and Interstate 95 traffic, we surely understand and can relate with Dave’s point.
Beyond all the arguments on the gas tax, and whether there’s enough will in the House and Senate to pass what must be done, is that highway improvements pay back many times over — certainly more than the 4 cents called for this year. Potholes destroy cars (ask any car mechanic just before she gives you the $300 bill for an alignment, or worse), and create safety problems and accidents.
Driving on broken roads eats up gas and creates more wear and damage on tires. And when roads aren’t built and old routes have to be followed, they’re always longer and those extra 1/8 miles here, or 1/4 miles more there to take an older road, add up.
This is about our economy. Our tourist industry. Our hospitality business. Our own employees getting to work and back home more directly, safely. It’s about us. It’s about our neighbors. It’s about our kids being driven to school and back in too-old buses.
Let alone the fact that much of the slight increase of cost per gallon will be paid by our visitors, who benefit from having a better driving experience in New Hampshire. They might not buy many gallons of milk here. But they sure buy gasoline.
And one message for Dave’s opponent who is concerned about milk: that price of milk is affected by the cost of transportation to get it to our stores, and bad roads increase the cost of trucks delivering the milk to our stores. Trucks are heavy, and wear and tear greatly affects the cost of maintenance when they roll on roads awaiting repair.
Back to Dave Campbell for a moment — it’s great he’s returned as House Public Works and Highways Committee chair. All the more reason why it’s been important to have a majority in the House. I know we’re all concerned about not giving the Republican far-right and Tea Partiers talking points in the November, 2014 campaign, but we have to govern with New Hampshire’s future in mind. That means investing in our future.
While they might campaign against us next year saying “Democrats passed a gas tax increase,” I have to believe that voters are smarter than falling for the care-not-about-your-neighbors philosophy.