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Governor Christie: Unwilling to write a blank check

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Published on Oct 29, 2010

Governor Christie responds to a question during a town hall meeting on October 28, 2010. Says that he is unwilling to write a blank check; stands up for New Jersey taxpayers. (Transcript Below)


Q: Full disclosure, I did not vote for you and I changed from an R to a D in 2008. I am shocked that I agree with some of your stands on education when it comes to the question of investing in our children. You talk about business. I have an economics background. I understand investment I think. And to that end, given with all due respect, your role as chief executive of this state, I reject your unwillingness to reconsider the tunnel because it is an investment. I can't imagine what would have happened a hundred years ago, people that were paying for the original tunnel at that time saying times are a little hard and we can't afford it. I reject the notion that we can't afford an investment, particularly in this state, noted that we're the highest-taxed state in the nation. No problem. We are also one of the highest income-earning states in the nation. People in this room earn a lot more money than people from across the rest of the country, and the point is that this region generates a substantial contribution to the national economy. You benefit from the pay. You benefit from it.

A: The home-improvement analogy was not to analogize the tunnel to a home-improvement project. It was talking about budgets and how budgets get out of control. And no matter what project you're building, budgets tend to get out of control, people tend to lowball things in the beginning and there's a bigger price at the end. So that's all the analogy was, it wasn't analogizing the value of the investment. Here's the problem with your investment theory. I agree with you. Government money spent on infrastructure is some of the best government spending that we can do because only government can do it. Private industry doesn't go out and invest in infrastructure in general that can be used by the masses. It can be used by anyone and everyone. Buy a ticket get on a train. Get in a car, get on an entrance ramp get on a highway. Go to a river, cross a bridge. Or go in a tunnel. So I agree with you on that. Here's the problem. The problem is people a hundred years ago , the people hadn't gone through decades of fiscal mismanagement that we had gone through. The problem is I have to certify to the federal government that I have the money to pay for any overages that may happen and I don't have it. Think about this: to pay for the $5B in overages, for the tunnel, $2.7B is the original investment, $5B is the overage in the original investment that we would be responsible for. So, we've already identified the revenue to pay for the $2.7B. The $5B we haven't. If we were to pay for it with an increased gas tax, each penny on the gas tax increase raises $50M. That means I would have to raise the gas tax $1/gallon to pay for the overages. I'm not doing that to pay for the tunnel. And I would say that this issue falls under the category that I mentioned before about well-meaning people being able to have a difference of opinion. You might believe that raising the gas tax $1/gallon to pay for the tunnel is a good idea for that type of investment. You might think going $5B into debt and paying the debt service, when I haven't identified how to pay for the overage, is a good idea, any fund, any stream of revenue might be ok but then what you'd have to sit down and do is ok, what are we cutting now to pay for it. What are we cutting to pay for the debt service on that which programs are we going to eliminate. Since we are the highest --taxed people in America, I'm not raising taxes on the highest-taxed people in America, and as to your last point about our benefiting from federal taxes that we pay, New Jersey is 50th, dead last in the return on tax dollars that we get from Washington, DC. 50TH. That has two reasons for it. One, because we send more than most people do, because we are a higher-income state. Also because we have not stood up for ourselves to get more of our money back to you. I'll give you another example, high-speed rail lines. In Florida the Obama Administration has set up a program where Florida gets high-speed rail, and the match, the money that Florida has to give the Federal Government is 20% of the cost of the project. So it's an 80/20 federal-state. So that tells me that the Obama Administration believes that high-speed rail in Florida is a national-priority investment. Do you know what the federal-state split on the tunnel project was as proposed by the government, and after I raised the issue. Both the Clinton Administration, the Bush Administration, and now the Obama Administration, because the guys I'm dealing with now aren't appointed by George W. Bush. They were appointed by Barack Obama...

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