April is proving to be an unusually unkind month for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R).
First, Newark’s Star-Ledger ran a lengthy, detailed report documenting the extent to which the governor’s legislative proposals, executive orders, and agency rules were written, at times word for word, by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a shadowy far-right group that seeks to impose a conservative agenda in state legislatures.
Then, the New York Times helped shine a light on Christie’s corporate welfare practices, in which the governor is handing out lucrative tax credits to preferred in-state corporations.
Today’s revelations, meanwhile, may be the most damaging to date.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey exaggerated when he declared that unforeseen costs to the state were forcing him to cancel the new train tunnel planned to relieve congested routes across the Hudson River, according to a long-awaited report by independent Congressional investigators.
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.
Even at the time, Christie’s decision on this project in 2010 was hard to understand. Conservatives, who’ve become increasingly hostile towards American infrastructure improvements, cheered the move, but from a substantive perspective, the governor’s decision was fairly characterized as “destructive and incredibly foolish.”
But this new report casts that decision in an even more damaging light. The Government Accountability Office is a non-partisan research/audit arm of Congress, and it’s reporting this week that Christie’s rationale for his strange decision wasn’t even true. It was a mistake to scrap a major public works project during a weak economy; it was a bigger mistake to explain the move with dishonest claims.
Also note, this didn’t just hurt New Jersey – the project was intended to alleviate congestion between Boston and Washington, D.C.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who requested the GAO investigation, said in a statement this morning, “This was the most important transportation project of our time. [The ARC Tunnel project] was critical to the future of New Jersey’s economy and it took years to plan, but Gov. Christie wiped it out with a campaign of public deception.”