As Christie loses mojo, transportation crisis explodes | Moran

By Tom Moran | Star-Ledger Editorial Board
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on July 01, 2016


It is hard to believe, but Gov. Chris Christie has reached a new low.
The bulldozers that repair and build our roads and bridges will start shutting down within days, thanks to his neglect, his stubbornness, and his cynical habit of using New Jersey as a vehicle to promote his standing among national conservatives.
He is trying to blame Democrats for the failure to reach a compromise over transportation funding. That's laughable.

He rejected a bipartisan deal in the Senate that gave him the repeal of the estate tax he wanted. And his final plan died after Republicans in the Senate rejected it because it included nearly $2 billion in tax cuts with no means to cover the cost.
Here are the facts: This governor has presided over a fiscal disaster in New Jersey, one that led to record number of credit downgrades, and the nation's second lowest rating, aid to public schools and colleges has been frozen for five years, transportation has been neglected, and the debt has soared.
Christie's plan, even by his administration's own estimate, would have dug that hole much deeper by cutting the sales tax a full percentage point, and handing out fresh tax breaks to seniors. The Senate, both Republicans and Democrats, rejected it for good reason.
If there is any consolation to this meltdown, it is the confirmation that Christie's power to steer events in Trenton is draining away decisively as his credibility collapses.
Republican legislators for years have been eager to throw their coats over any puddle in his path. But that ended last week when Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union) rejected this awful plan. Christie no longer controls events.
Instead, the governor lashed out on Thursday night by ordering a work stoppage on transit projects, even though there is money to keep going for a few more months while a new deal is worked out.
So the men and women who do this work will soon be unemployed. The potholes will go unfilled, the bridges unrepaired, and the pressure for more hikes in this state's outrageous tolls and fares will build. Common people, to Christie, are a political tool, useful as a pressure tactic against those who actually care about these things.
"All my friends are going to be put out of work at the end of the day," says Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester), a career ironworker who is now an officer in their union. "There's no reason for that. We want a compromise."
The governor apparently does not. He wants capitulation. And he knows that a big battle like this will make the national news, and that he'll be the guy fighting for deeper tax cuts -- just in time for the GOP's national convention.

His unlikely ally in this stunt is Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson), who agreed to push this nutty plan only a few hours after the governor called him into his chambers and presented it Monday afternoon.
Prieto was used. He seems so thrilled to finally be at the table with the governor that he surrendered his good judgment. Why Democrats in the Assembly continue to follow his bewildered lead is a mystery.
What we need is a clean hike in the gas tax to fund transit projects. No one has a better idea. Slathering tax cuts on top of it to help the medicine go down will only hasten New Jersey's decline.

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