So, the ARC tunnel project will be put to rest in a fashion akin to lethal injection. We sorta knew a month ago that this was coming when Governor Christie suspended all new work. So, it was no surprsie when the final announcement came down Thursday.
Here is what is interesting: how quiet labor has been. The cancellation of the tunnel will mean the loss of 6000 jobs at a time when the building trades are running at 30% unemployment. We have heard outrage about the end of ARC – although mostly from Democrats. People down south and along the shore ( who voted for Christie in huge pluralities ) are probably satisfied that New Jersey’s money for ARC may soon be diverted to shore up the Transportation Trust Fund, and not some North J project. More on that in just a minute.
I’m told by a few people associated with organized labor that they have been “holding their fire.” and the reason is because the Christie Administration reached out to these groups and told them to mute their criticism if ARC goes down on the understanding that the Governor will indeed transfer that $2.7 billion originally slated for the tunnel into the TTF; thus guaranteeing future work for the trades on other projects – roads, bridges, highways.
Could it be??? Labor not supporting their friends the Democrats in order to cozy up with the Republican Gov??? Well, no one wants to talk about this on the record but that appears to be what is happening. I mean, as long as the union guys get work…who cares what it is, right?
But herein lies rub…critics say even a $2.7 billion shot into the TTF is a “short term fix.” Not necessarily. In a very under-reported development, when work on 100 projects statewide was suspended on Monday, then subsequently resumed after a bond sale, not all of them were actually – well , resumed. “Early phase work on new projects continues to be on hold,” says Joe Dee from DOT. That is pending a top to bottom review of their worthiness. That means a scale-back is coming to stop burning through so much TTF money so darn quickly. Moreover, at least one insider says Christie is looking at ways to make an infusion of cash go even further. For example, by taking salaries outta the TTF ( which is a lot of money ). The TTF money would then only be used for capital projects.
So, if that money wouldn’t be going to solid union salaries, is there a possible bait and switch here?? Could that mean New Jersey would wind up outsourcing the work to cheaper firms??? I’m not sure, but perhaps labor should investigate that before they hold their tongues on ARC’s suspension.
In conclusion, you gotta give the Gov credit. While he has a reputation for bluster, he has actually been quietly euthanizing his potential adversaries and buying off other critics with a mixture of carrots and sticks. Let’s do an update on the Teresa Ruiz situation. Christie was annoyed Joe D could not force her to abstain on the subpoena vote in the Senate last week ( see earlier post ). Was I the only one who noticed she was the only legislator not invited to share the stage with Christie at the UMDNJ event Wednesday???
Well, if the actual subpoena hearing this Thursday was an indication of how Ruiz is coping with Siberia, it sounds like she’s feeling awfully cold being out of the circle of trust. As Senator Kean was running interference before the hearing even started ( gotta give him credit too btw…the Schundler stuff was both damaging and new, and Kean did his best to smother and obscure it ) Ruiz chimed in on his side. In fact if you look at the broadcast piece I did for NJN News, she can be heard off-camera furiously interrupting Barbara Buono to second Kean’s motion that would allow Kevin O’Toole to substitute for Joe Kyrillos on the Legislative Oversight Committee. It’s worth a listen.