New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been spending most of his time out of state recently, headlining fundraisers for GOP gubernatorial candidates across the country and touting an agenda to “rein in government spending” to revive the economy and create jobs. This week, during a home visit between campaign stops, to the detriment of his state’s economy, he pulled the plug on a much needed commuter train tunnel between New Jersey and New York. His reason? He says the state “couldn’t afford it.” What the state really cannot afford is Christie’s shortsighted decision.
New Jersey was not shouldering the cost of the project alone. Of the $8.7 billion price tag, the state was expected to pay $2.7 billion, with the rest of the cost shared equally by the federal government and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The project was already well underway, which means that New Jersey will likely have to repay about $300 million plus interest in federal funds already spent on the project.
The project was also expected to create 6,000 constructions jobs a year over the next ten years. Now, rather than hiring workers, contractors are beginning to lay off those who had recently found work. Denise Richardson, managing director of the General Contractors Association of New York told the New York Times, “This was the project that I think everyone was counting on to revitalize the public-works sector. For construction workers that were counting on job opportunities, it’s a real blow to them.” The state Assembly’s transportation committee chair, John Wisniewski, said the project would have created $18 billion in economic activity.
As Paul Krugman wrote in an op-ed on Christie’s decision, “Canceling the tunnel was also a blow to national hopes of recovery, part of a pattern of penny-pinching that has played a large role in our continuing economic stagnation… By refusing to pay for essential investments, politicians are both perpetuating unemployment and sacrificing long-run growth.”