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Mitt Romney chides stimulus spending at N.H. 'bridge to nowhere'

May 18, 2012|By Maeve Reston
  • Mitt Romney speaks in Hillsborough, N.H.
Mitt Romney speaks in Hillsborough, N.H. (Mary Altaffer / Associated…)

HILLSBOROUGH, N.H. — Mitt Romney rounded out a week focused on what he views as overspending by the federal government with a critique of President Obama's stimulus program during a speech in front of what opponents call New Hampshire's "bridge to nowhere."

Romney has argued throughout the campaign that Obama's $787-billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was a waste of money that did little to jump-start the economy — and he has charged that the federal government has inflated the job numbers associated with various projects.

On Friday, Romney mocked a project to preserve and enhance the historic Stone Arch bridge, work that was to include new surfacing, construction of parking area and bike trails linking the site to surrounding businesses.

"You all know the story of this bridge; this is part of the president's stimulus plan. He went out and borrowed $787 billion and said that if we're allowing him as Congress allowed him to borrow that kind of money, that he would hold unemployment below 8%, and it hasn't been below 8% since," Romney said, criticizing the amount of stimulus money that was spent for each job created.

He noted that proponents of the stimulus have credited the package with helping restore elements that are critical to the future of America, such as projects to enhance roads, bridges and schools, and save jobs at the local government level.

Turning to the stone bridge behind him — which is accessible only on one side and has yet to be turned into the park that members of the community had hoped for — Romney said the project did not meet that threshold of being a "critical" project.

"They're saying this is the absolute bridge to nowhere, if there ever was one. That's your stimulus dollars at work. A bridge that goes nowhere," Romney said. "So I hope the president comes here, takes a look at some of his stimulus programs…. It is without question the largest one-time careless expenditure of government money in American history."

As Romney spoke, protesters stationed across the road at the outdoor event taunted him by chanting "Obama! Obama! Obama!" throughout the speech — a distraction that may have led Romney to keep his speech very short. (It clocked in at under eight minutes).

But Romney dismissed them by telling the crowd to laughter that they'd been joined by "a Greek chorus."

"I say that because they remind us that this president is leading us towards Greece. And one reason we're going to get rid of him is so that we make sure that we don't continue to have the kind of deficits that lead to Greece. So I hope they keep up with their Greek chorus over there," he said.

The state had originally considered doing the bridge work, because bridges like the one in Hillsborough are among the historic sites in New Hampshire. WMUR's Political Scoop blog reported that the New Hampshire Legislature overwhelmingly approved $138,000 in work; that included 28 legislators who endorsed Romney this year.

In a counterattack, officials at the New Hampshire Democratic Party sent a map to reporters showing Romney's route on Friday between Hillsborough and Boston, marking all of the road improvement projects funded by the stimulus, including $47.5 million that was dedicated to the traffic-choked I-93 corridor.

The Obama campaign also used the occasion to criticize Romney's own record on debt and spending as governor of Massachusetts: "Both increased on his watch and he left Massachusetts with the largest per-capita debt in the nation," Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith said in an email. 

maeve.reston@latimes.com

Original source: Mitt Romney chides stimulus spending at N.H. 'bridge to nowhere'

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