Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Big Dig

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) turned down a whole lot of money to build a new tunnel between New Jersey and New York because he said it would cost too much. Yeah, not so much.

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.

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.

So he did it just to polish his right-wing creds and it had nothing whatsoever to do with the actual cost to his state.

This will probably make him the front-runner for the VP slot on the Republican ticket.

(By the way, he’s not the only governor to turn down a really big job-creating infrastructure-building pot of money from the feds just so he can sound all butch for the Tea Party. Yeah, how’s that working out for him?)