NJ: How’s the New Governor Workin’ Out for Ya?

It’s been a while since I’ve lived in New Jersey, although I see it frequently from the Hudson River’s other shore. And I’m really curious to know how actual New Jersey residents feel about Gov. Christie so far. ‘Cause if I still lived there, I don’t think I’d like him much.

First, he killed the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) project, already underway, which would have provided new train tunnels under the Hudson from New Jersey to midtown Manhattan. The tunnel was considered essential to New Jersey’s future economic growth.

And commuting from New Jersey into Manhattan, which half the state seems to do every weekday, is slow, stressful, exhausting. The amount of gasoline burned as traffic creeps across the George Washington Bridge or through the Lincoln tunnel every morning and evening is incalculable. And I haven’t seen any estimates of how many people lost jobs when the project stopped.

Richard C. Leone writes for the Newark Star-Ledger that many “saw the step as a ploy to redirect New Jersey’s share of the cost of the tunnel to the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which is broke.” Normally the Transportation Trust Fund would be replenished by adjusting the state gasoline tax. But of course there is nothing more important than not raising a tax.

The essential paradox is that curtailing public-sector projects when confronting a weak economy is damaging in two ways. First, it ignores the healthy effects on the overall economy of a boost in capital spending by either the public or private sector. Infrastructure jobs tend to pay well and, of course, have a multiplier effect as those who work on such projects spend more on other goods and services.

Secondly, capital expenditures have a beneficial, long-term effect on economic growth.
Despite these factors, which are pretty much acknowledged by economists of just about every stripe, the United States is falling behind in infrastructure — and not just behind the most advanced nations. We are lagging well behind the huge capital outlays in China, for example. Of course, giving up something now in order to have more later requires a certain amount of trust in the entity making the investments.

In our case, we are experiencing billions of dollars being spent to argue the case that government can’t be trusted to do anything.

Now Christie’s balancing the state’s budget by cutting 1,200 state government jobs. And he promises to “monitor tax revenues and make adjustments if warranted.” But revenues are likely to go down because of job losses, so more layoffs will be needed.

At least Christie says (so far) he’s resisting the many calls to run for president in 2012. What a guy.

Update: The Washington senate race has been called for Patty Murray.

22 thoughts on “NJ: How’s the New Governor Workin’ Out for Ya?

  1. He got mixed numbers (44% approval, 43% disapproval) in a June Quinnipiac poll, but by August, sorry to say, he was up to 51%-36%. That was before the tunnel project and the recent layoffs and (I think) before the loss of federal Race to the Top school funds. We’ll see what the next poll says.

    • Steve M. — I secifically want to know what New Jersey thinks of the tunnel project and will be looking to future polls with great interest. I will be surprised if he doesn’t take a dive for that.

      The thing is, New Jersey has a long history of electing and re-electing moderate Republican governors, and I mean “moderate” in the old dictionary sense of the word. Tom Keen was very popular, but he’s the sort of Republican who would be drummed out of the party today, a la Lincoln Chaffee. He stayed out of culture war issues and was not driven by anti-government ideology. Christine Todd Whitman was more controversial and less effective, but she was pretty good on environmental issues — as governor, anyway — and she vetoed a partial birth abortion bill. The Fetus People went overboard demonizing her for that, and I strongly suspect that helped her get re-elected in 1997.

      Christie ran as a moderate Republican but he’s governing as a tea party Republican, and I don’t think that’s what New Jersey wants.

  2. Ah, NJ, where the state motto should be: “Just hold your noses while we run up the windows, kid’s, ’cause that horrible smell means we’re only about an hour from NY CITY!!!”
    When I used to get gas on trips to and from NC to NY, I’d stop to get gas in VA and NJ, which had by far the lowest gas prices on the Eastern Seaboard, north of SC.
    So, let me see if I get this, NJ won’t raise taxes on gas to help build tunnels that’d allow people to burn less gas and time getting into NYC, where a good chunk of them work, because raising the gas taxes to finish the tunnels, which would save them gas and time, would piss-off the people wasting gas and time trying to get to work, because if you raised the taxes then they couldn’t afford getting to work, in order to pay for the gas and time they’re wasting trying to get to work and back.
    Ouch! I think I hurt myself…
    I think NJ is a perfect microcosm of the rest of our country. Penny wise. Dollar foolish. An economic, environmental and energy catasthrophe. And a place where you can’t raise taxes to help fix any of the above problems.

    • NJ won’t raise taxes on gas to help build tunnels that’d allow people to burn less gas and time getting into NYC, where a good chunk of them work, because raising the gas taxes to finish the tunnels, which would save them gas and time, would piss-off the people wasting gas and time trying to get to work, because if you raised the taxes then they couldn’t afford getting to work, in order to pay for the gas and time they’re wasting trying to get to work and back.

      Yeah, pretty much, although I don’t know if “New Jersey” is happy with killing the tunnel project. That was something Gov. Christie did that may very well have taken New Jersey by surprise. I believed when he was elected that he was more right wing than New Jersey voters realized, and I predicted they would regret electing him, sooner or later. We’ll see.

  3. My roommate (we live in Brooklyn) commutes to Paramus, NJ, every day via bus either through the Lincoln Tunnel or over the GWB, and even with the reverse commute, traffic is terrible. She was somewhat horrified to find out the tunnel project was killed. Which maybe doesn’t count because she’s not a Jersey resident, but I would guess that anyone who has to travel over/under the Hudson every day is not pleased.

  4. maha,
    What I love about the Christie situation in NJ is that the citizens there are all upset at him about what he’s doing with the schools in the state – despite the fact that that’s what HE RAN ON! In other words, this is the rare SOB who ran for office and who’s actually doing what he said he promised he’d do.
    I don’t recall specifically if he ran against the tunnels when he was campaigning, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did (I’m too lazy to check). And even if he didn’t, when someone runs as a fiscal conservative, people shouldn’t be surprised just because this is the one guy who turns out to try to do what he said he would in trying to keep costs down. Isn’t that why you voted for him?
    Or, as I’ve long suspected, are the voters voting for ‘fiscal conservatives’ who say they’ll end the government gravy train, but don’t really expect it, and only get upset if, when there’s actually any gravy that’s cut at all, it’s the giblet one that they like that gets cut, and not some other. “Hey, mine’s GIBLET! Why not cut the other guys gravy – it’s PORK?”

    Again, NJ is a microcosm of the nation and should serve as a warning: ‘Be ccareful what you vote for, you just might get it!’ Assholes…

    • c u n d gulag — my impression is that a lot of people voted for Christie without knowing much about him because they were voting against Gov. Corzine. And that’s a complicated story I don’t have time to go into. Basically, though, I think you are right about the “gravy train” versus the giblet.

  5. maha,
    “… a lot of people voted for Christie without knowing much about him because they were voting against Gov. Corzine.”
    Well, if people are going to do that, as they clearly are, then maybe the line should be, “Be careful who you vote against, since you probably don’t know what you’re going to get.”
    This, from John Cole at ‘Balloon Juice,’ is the single best analysis I’ve read in years. He got this in an e-mail:

    ‘But if we’d gone to an actual party, then we would’ve missed a special lesson from a Murray supporter named Buddy Foley, 65, a pianist and handler-wrangler who won’t say what he handles or wrangles (besides the Stella Artois in his hand).

    “Let me tell you how America works,” says Foley, who wears a plaid shirt, a mallard-print tie and a woodpecker feather in his fedora. “You have Democrats voting for Democrats and Republicans voting for Republicans and then you have these people down the middle who are—” he lowers his voice ”—undereducated, and are trying to make a living and do the best for their children, but they’re so busy that they realize two weeks before an election that, ‘Gee, I better start watching TV to get some news,’ and by then the richest [expletives] in America have shoved their [expletiving] money into attack ads and that’s what this middle group of people sees, and they vote accordingly and they’re the ones who steer the country.”’

    So, NJ, you voted against the Governor you had, for someone you weren’t sure about. You watched the negative ads in the last month or so. You were too pissed-off at the world, the economy, and our government to even look into who you were going to pull the lever for. You just figured that the grass over there was greener…
    To all voters, if you’re not sure why you’re pulling the lever for someone, just stay home, yank your own lever, and leave the rest of us who have a clue do what’s best for you.
    To make a long story short, if you don’t know who the f**k you’re voting for, or why, outside of the fact that that may be the one thing you remember from Civic’s Class in HS, or a recent TV ad reminding you that it’s your duty to vote, maybe your real civic duty is to just stay home, or go to a bar and peel an “I Voted!” sticker from someone’s jacket when they go to the john, and put it on, and let people think you did.
    Really people, do a little homework. Your family and the nation, and with a country as large and powerful as ours is, the world, really do hinge on the decisions of the people who show up to vote.
    I, of course, am an advocate of all eligible people having the right, and access, to vote. So, I’m just being a jerk above. But, I needed to get that off my chest.

  6. Don’t live in Jersey, but my sense from talking to Jersey residents is that they’ll vote for anyone that will lower the much-too-high taxes.

    • lower the much-too-high taxes.

      It’s the local property taxes that kill you in New Jersey. I’m guessing New Jersey homeowners pay more in property taxes than at least 45 other states, if not more.

      State income and sales taxes are probably about average for the region, however, or at least are a lot lower than New York’s. But New Jersey levies progressive income taxes, so income over $500,000 gets taxed at almost 9 percent, which is high for a state. And those people do bellyache about it. But for low-to-average income people it’s not that bad, or at least is pretty much in line with most other states’ income taxes.

      But voters vote for state legislators and governors who promise to cut or at least not raise state taxes, and then the budget gets balanced by cutting subsidies to localities, and the local governments make up for the shortfall by raising property taxes. A remarkable percentage of the states’ residents don’t seem to notice that pattern, which has been going on for years. One of the things Gov. Corzine did was to change the way schools were funded in a way that gave considerable relief to communities with a limited industrial tax base, which could have enabled lowering property taxes. But then people got bent out of shape over a 1 percent increase in state sales tax.

      Along with the high property taxes, New Jersey has a high cost of living generally compared to other states, and residents pay higher rates of auto and health insurance than most other states. I think a lot of people see that their incomes are going somewhere beside their wallets but aren’t terribly clear which of the expenses are “taxes” and which are not.

  7. Whats the matter with you folks, don’t you understand todays methods of handling these things. A private company will build the tunnel and it will be a toll tunnel with very high tolls. That way the people who really count in this country will be able to take a leisurely drive from N J to N Y without all the serfs getting in the way. It’s much better to pay a toll for your own convenience than pay a tax for everyones convenience don’t you know.

  8. “At least Christie says (so far) he’s resisting the many calls to run for president in 2012. What a guy”

    No thanks Jersey, you can keep that fat slob all to yourselves.

  9. Yeah, maha, I remember arguing about this with conservative imbeciles during Reagans first term.
    ‘What do you think’s gonna happen to your state and local taxes for roads, schools, parks and other things?’ I asked, which were then subsidized by the Federal Government.
    ‘Oh no, all of our taxes will go down. Why would those have to go up?’ was the frequent reply.
    And now we’re living the dystopian nightmare that a lot of us Liberals saw coming like a run-away freight train.

  10. I read about Christie killing the tunnel project a few days ago, in articles that hailed it as a Bold Move in Fiscal Responsibility, Wish Every Governor Was Like This. Don’t exactly recall the sources, but they didn’t seem particularly right wing. I’ve been waiting to hear the other side of Christie’s wonderful idea.

    Not only are we falling behind in new and needed infrastructure, because of decisions like this, but governments are actively trying to sell off the existing infrastructure to foreign governments to make up revenue shortfalls. See America For Sale by Matt Taibai. Excerpt:

    …”I was in a meeting where a bunch of American investment bankers were trying to sell us the Pennsylvania Turnpike,” he said. “They even had a slide show. They were showing these Arabs what a nice highway we had for sale, what the toll booths looked like . . .”

    I dropped my fork. “The Pennsylvania Turnpike is for sale?”

    He nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “We didn’t do the deal, though. But, you know, there are some other deals that have gotten done. Or didn’t you know about this?”

    As it turns out, the Pennsylvania Turnpike deal almost went through, only to be killed by the state legislature, but there were others just like it that did go through, most notably the sale of all the parking meters in Chicago to a consortium that included the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, from the United Arab Emirates.

    There were others: A toll highway in Indiana. The Chicago Skyway. A stretch of highway in Florida. Parking meters in Nashville, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and other cities. A port in Virginia. And a whole bevy of Californian public infrastructure projects, all either already leased or set to be leased for fifty or seventy-five years or more in exchange for one-off lump sum payments of a few billion bucks at best, usually just to help patch a hole or two in a single budget year.

    America is quite literally for sale, at rock-bottom prices, and the buyers increasingly are the very people who scored big in the oil bubble.

  11. I had heard about the toll road in Indiana that was sold for, I believe, 3 billion but which would have generated over ten times that in revenue over a certain time period. What’s that about needing business people in office? The long and short of it is everyone thinks their taxes are too high and they need to go down. Everyone wants the gov’t services, though, that somehow magically appear without those tax dollars. How many studies do we have to see that show that Europeans have a higher standard of living and are generally more happy people, have more social mobility and pay incredibly higher taxes? If Christie was the King of England, he would have stopped the Chunnel half way through.

  12. I used to use the indiana toll road before they sold it off, now I drive out of my way.to avoid it. I hear the company that runs it now are doing a crappy job, they automated the tolls but they don’t work half the time. It was quite a scam, we paid taxes to build it and paid. Tolls to maintain it and our governer gave it away for pennies on the dollar. Now he’s considered a serious candidate for prez!

  13. Here in Tampa, we had a light rail initiative that would have expanded the bus system and improved roads. It was voted down.

    Off Topic – and a suggestion for Barbara. Pull up a picture of Rick Scott and the main character and vilain of the new cartoon movie – Megamind. One is a clone of the other, but I am not sure which came first. Put them up side by side and let the Internet decide.

  14. “Everyone wants the gov’t services, though, that somehow magically appear without those tax dollars.”

    Saint Reagan told EVERYBODY could have a pony. For free.

  15. I’ve already watched this scenario in 94 when the repugs were voted into in both houses with a majority vote from the American people. Now get ready for the same things that Cliton had to go through when he had office at that time. When are we gonna learn? It saddens me, when I think about the things to come. Don’t ask me what things, I can’t say. It seams to me that the main stream media plays more of an influnce than I thought.

  16. Jugheadjack—I am also saddened about things to come and too afraid to spend time thinking about what they might be. I also totally agree with you about the mainstream media’s influence, it’s been downight frightening to watch. If there is anything to be gained by all of this–I am hoping that it has toughened Obama up and he comes out fighting. And, I don’t know why, but I was very relieved to see Rahmmy Boy leave, and wasn’t all that happy when he was appointed, gut instinct, I think.

    It took the mainstream a couple of decades to realize or admit to the fact that Reagan was an idiot, I knew that waaay back then as a single working mother, back when child support enforcement was a joke. I don’t think I’ll live long enough to say ‘I told you so’ to this debacle….so I’m hoping we will be able to see it clearly by 2012. A question, now that this election is over, will we be hearing less from Sarah Palin? I can’t believe how enamored the mainstream media was by her every move and utterance. Whatever happened to responsible journalism in the mainstream news? Oh, I know, they all moved to blogging on the internet.

    I love you guys, just to know there are others like me out there, who think like I do, is less depressing. Gulag, you are a total joy to read…thank you.

    Speaking of infrastructure, would it surprise anyone that the two poorest states in the nation…Mississippi and Louisiana have no viable mass transit systems and the richest states, such as my home, Hawaii, has world class mass transit. I guess the good ol’ boys down here would prefer to just think of the poor as shiftless and lazy…never dawns on them that poor people can’t afford cars, gas, insurance, etc. and without mass transit, things like job training, college and just looking for a job, let alone having one requires a way to get them there. It’s just good to know that nothing is going to change here so I can keep planning my escape back toward the Pacific Ocean. I want to feel some of the joy we had when Obama was elected……let’s hope he gets re-engergized.

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