NJ gov-elect defends transportation borrowing

AP News
Posted: Dec 10, 2009 6:42 PM

Gov.-elect Chris Christie on Thursday defended his decision to go along with New Jersey's sale of more than $1.2 billion in bonds to pay for already approved transportation projects, saying it does not go against his promise to rein in state borrowing.

According to him, it's simply paying the bills that his predecessor rang up.

"This borrowing was Corzine borrowing. These are projects that have been approved by the Corzine administration, started by the Corzine administration," he said. "I am not going to be irresponsible and stop the payment of bills for people who are working _ laborers are working right now on transportation projects _ in my view that would be irresponsible, and candidly, I don't know that I have the authority to do it anyway."

Days earlier, the Transportation Trust Fund Authority approved selling $1.2 billion in bonds to pay for transportation projects through June 30 _ the end of the fiscal year and six months after Christie takes office.

The sale was more than five times the planned $225 million bond sale and means Christie, a Republican who campaigned on promises of reducing state debt and property taxes, won't have to approve the borrowing when he takes office Jan. 19.

Christie's spokeswoman said his transition team was being "consulted" on it. A spokesman for the Corzine administration said the decision to expand the bond sale was "jointly determined" by both administrations.

"The governor asked me if I would object to him paying the bills. These are bills, this is not new projects he's decided to undertake," Christie explained.

Last week, Christie pledged to scale back and scrutinize all state borrowing and put debt-holders on notice that their state contracts would be re-evaluated once Christie took office.

"We're going to re-evaluate everything and make sure that we have folks look at it and tell me whether or not this is something that is absolutely necessary in light of that burgeoning debt problem," he said.

Steve Lonegan, the more conservative candidate Christie defeated in the Republican primary in June, was critical of Christie's reasoning.

"This sketchy move, where $225 million in new borrowing suddenly became $1.2 billion in new borrowing, is a disgrace and a sign that while New Jerseyans voted for change, it appears that the Trenton insiders are still in control and it's just more of the same," Lonegan said.