Christie Doubles Down on Budget Cuts
By Daniel C. Vock, Staff Writer
The budget-cutting has made Christie a pariah to many Democrats, who say his cuts have hurt the poor and vulnerable, even as he is celebrated by Republicans, who praise him as a fiscal conservative to be emulated. Christie is so popular nationally on the GOP side that he has been campaigning recently on behalf of other Republicans running for governor, including those in Iowa and Michigan, even though he himself was elected only last November.
On Thursday (Oct. 7), Christie took perhaps his most aggressive step yet on the matter of budget-cutting: pulling New Jersey out of the nation's largest public works project , a commuter rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River from North Bergen, N.J., to Manhattan. Christie says the project - which has been in the planning stages for nearly two decades and has secured $3 billion in funding from the federal government, along with the potential of another $3 billion from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey - is simply too expensive. "I simply cannot put the taxpayers of the state of New Jersey on what would be a never-ending hook," Christie says.
The decision is sure to keep Christie in the spotlight, and it is already prompting a broad range of reaction from politicians, transit advocates and opinion writers in New Jersey and elsewhere. Here is an overview from Friday's newspapers:
- Christie has single-handled created a " Tunnel to Nowhere ," as Mark Di Ionno, a columnist with The (Newark) Star-Ledger , puts it. Di Ionno notes that the preliminary work on the tunnel has been under way, and he views the governor's cancellation as an overnight reversal of generations of preparation - not to mention a waste of taxpayer dollars. "After 53 years of talking, 17 years of actual studying and planning, and $478 million spent, this is what we got: a dirt lot, a shuttered storage center, and a new concrete overpass," Di Ionno says.
- Not so, counters Paul Mulshine, another writer with The Star-Ledger . Mulshine believes cost overruns from the project could have strapped New Jersey taxpayers with "astronomical" new obligations in the future , and that it is better to pull out now than to continue down a precarious path.
- "Killing the...tunnel will go down as one of the biggest public policy blunders in New Jersey's history ," the state's senior U.S. senator, Democrat Frank Lautenberg, says. "Without increased transportation options into Manhattan, New Jersey's economy will eventually be crippled." The tunnel was considered a pet project for Lautenberg and two other prominent New Jersey Democrats, former Governor Jon Corzine and the state's junior U.S. senator, Robert Menendez.
- Republicans, some of whom had initially expressed support for the tunnel, did not criticize Christie's move. Instead, they agreed with the governor. "Every dollar of the expected $5 billion of cost overruns would have been paid for by New Jersey taxpayers," state Senator Joe Pennacchio says. "Governor Christie's decision to cancel the...tunnel will directly save New Jerseyans billions of dollars."
- Some saw ulterior motives at work. The Star Ledger 's editorial board says the real reason that Christie stopped the tunnel is to avoid raising taxes , one of his key pledges as a candidate and governor. "The evidence makes it clear that he wanted to kill this tunnel project so he could grab the money New Jersey had set aside for it," the paper writes. "That is the only way he can avoid raising the gas tax to finance transit projects within the state's borders."