Friday, April 13, 2012

GAO Exposes NJ Gov. Christie’s Real Reasons for Backing Out of Federal Project to Build Infrastructure

Just Another Dishonest Pol Trying to Bluff His Way Through Policy

Right after he was elected Governor of New Jersey, Republican Chris Christie pulled state funding for a transportation project that would alleviate some of the horrible jams between New Jersey and New York City.  Even though the withdrawal resulted in a large penalty payment by the state, and the loss of a huge amount of Federal dollars and construction jobs, the Conservatives in the Republican party hailed Gov. Christie as a fiscal Conservative living up to principles.

Now it turns out that the principles the Governor was living up to had more to do with politics than anything else.  It seems the Governor’s numbers, the ones he used to justify withdrawing from the project were bogus.

The report by the Government Accountability Office, to be released this week, found that while Mr. Christie said that state transportation officials had revised cost estimates for the tunnel to at least $11 billion and potentially more than $14 billion, the range of estimates had in fact remained unchanged in the two years before he announced in 2010 that he was shutting down the project. And state transportation officials, the report says, had said the cost would be no more than $10 billion.

Mr. Christie also misstated New Jersey’s share of the costs: he said the state would pay 70 percent of the project; the report found that New Jersey was paying 14.4 percent. And while the governor said that an agreement with the federal government would require the state to pay all cost overruns, the report found that there was no final agreement, and that the federal government had made several offers to share those costs.

So why would the Governor do all this.  Well it seems he had a political problem, the state transportation fund was empty and the state needed an increase in the gas tax to fix things.  But that is not something a potential national figure in the Republican party could do.

Canceling the tunnel, then the largest public works project in the nation, helped shape Mr. Christie’s profile as a rising Republican star, an enforcer of fiscal discipline in a country drunk on debt. But the report is likely to revive criticism that his decision, which he said was about “hard choices” in tough economic times, was more about avoiding the need to raise the state’s gasoline tax, which would have violated a campaign promise. The governor subsequently steered $4 billion earmarked for the tunnel to the state’s near-bankrupt transportation trust fund, traditionally financed by the gasoline tax.

Now to be fair Mr. Christie denies all this,

A spokesman for the governor, Michael Drewniak, said Mr. Christie’s statement of costs had included $775 million to build a new portal bridge, which was required as part of the project. The 70 percent state share, he said, included the costs that would have been paid for by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which is run by both states, as well as federal highway and stimulus funds earmarked for New Jersey. Counting those costs, which the report does not do, would put the state’s share at 65.5 percent.

But it really comes down to objective, non-political GAO employees with their position, and a self serving politician with his.  Who you gonna believe?

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