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Friday, October 08, 2010

Teabag America in a nutshell
Posted by Jill | 5:19 AM
And it comes, of course, from Paul Krugman (read the whole piece here):
We are no longer the nation that used to amaze the world with its visionary projects. We have become, instead, a nation whose politicians seem to compete over who can show the least vision, the least concern about the future and the greatest willingness to pander to short-term, narrow-minded selfishness.

What Krugman is referring to is NJ governor Chris Christie's scrapping of the plan to build a much-needed tunnel under the Hudson River. Christie has become a darling of Republicans, especially Joe Scarborough, who some days seems about ready to kick Willie Geist out of the 5:30 AM slot and make Chris Christie the newest right-leaning personality at MSNBC. And unless you live in New Jersey, and you're seeing the kind of property tax bills you're getting, you might even be inclined to applaud Christie's fiscal machete (which interestingly, doesn't apply to his own or his wife's entourage or travels). Yes, Christie's implemented a 2% cap on property taxes, but that doesn't include things like increases in municipal employee pensions and health benefits or emergency expenses, so we're still seeing towns implement double-digit tax increases. Of course none of this affects Christie, because it isn't coming from the state. This makes him just like the last Christie who governed this state, Christine Todd Whitman, who stiffed the state employee pension fund and borrowed to pay for tax cuts, which started the state down the road into this mess in the first place.

Now Christie seems to be making trips across the country to stump for Republican candidates, amassing a stack of chits he can cash in for what's starting to look like his own potential run for the White House in 2012. In case there's any doubt, Christie's latest jaunt was to Iowa, where he spent New Jersey taxpayers' money to go to the location of the first presidential primary and suck up to Republicans out there.

Chris Christie may be able to boast about how he killed a project that he believes would have run way over cost, but as Sen. Frank Lautenberg has pointed out, Christie has already taken the federal part of the project and spent $300 million of it -- all of which now has to be paid back:
If New Jersey pulls out of the project to build a multi-billion commuter rail tunnel under the Hudson River, it will have to repay the federal government $300 million for money already spent, U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) said.

The state has spent around $600 million so far on the project, including $300 million in federal dollars. Gov. Chris Christie on Sept. 10 called for a 30-day time out on the project amid concerns that the original $8.7 billion price tag would balloon by as much as $5 billion.

He could make a decision this week on whether to resume or cancel the tunnel project. Speculation is that he will scrap the tunnel and use New Jersey’s more than $2 billion share of the project to replenish the state’s nearly bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund, which pays for road and bridge repairs and transit services.

But killing the tunnel would violate agreements between New Jersey and the federal government in which the state committed to the project in exchange for federal dollars, said Lautenberg, who has been trying to keep the train tunnel project on track. The law also allows the federal government to collect interest and penalties from the state.

“How does it make fiscal sense for the state to write a $300 million check to the federal government right now?” asked Lautenberg, who compared the amount to the $400 million New Jersey lost in the screw-up over Race to the Top education funding.

(Since Thursday, when the above article was published, Christie has, in fact, completely scrapped the project. So yes, New Jersey taxpayers, we are now on the hook for $300 million.)

But hey, at least Chris Christie can sell himself in Iowa as the Guy Who Shut Down the Tunnel Project, never telling them about either the $300 million he now owes or the state of New Jersey's infrastructure. Nor will he brag about how he doesn't have a clue how to solve the problem of the nearly broke state transportation trust fund. And every day, drivers like me will drive over bridges where the pavement is so pockmarked that you can see the webbing of the bridge's understructure.


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Blogger casey said...
Hello Jill,

Thank you for your reporting on the Rethugs idealized version of "Hell on Earth" aka Rethugs in charge of anything from a school board to the Federal Government.