Today’s Governor’s Races Put Transportation on the Ballot, Indirectly

» First in a series of three articles on today’s elections. The second considered ballot measures; the third reviewed mayoral races.

Two governor’s races will be the highlights of the day, which some are claiming to be a “referendum on President Obama.” Whether or not that’s the case, the citizens of New Jersey and Virginia will be deciding a lot about how they want their states to be run in their respective elections. Top on the agenda: transportation.

Governor of New Jersey

Jon Corzine (D-incumbent) vs. Chris Christie (R) vs. Chris Daggett (I)

Update: Chris Christie wins the race with 49% of the vote, compared to Corzine’s 44%.

If there was one moment that defined Governor Corzine’s first term, it was his fateful car crash in 2007. A state trooper, at the Governor’s orders, was driving him at over 90 mph on the Garden State Parkway. The SUV hit the guardrail and Corzine, not wearing a seat belt, was severely injured. The Governor’s recklessness in his vehicle is indicative: during his four years in office, Mr. Corzine has been reckless with state transit funds.

The Transportation Trust Fund, which pays for New Jersey Transit operations expansion, is languishing, and Mr. Corzine’s response in 2006 was to borrow $6 billion to pay for its continued survival. That’s an irresponsible use of state money when raising taxes now will save money in the future, especially when the Trust Fund will be out of money by 2011.

Of course, Mr. Corzine has also encouraged a massive increase in state transportation capital expenditures, providing funding for new North Jersey lines, expanding the offerings in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and, perhaps most importantly, securing funds for the Mass Transit Tunnel/Trans-Hudson Express/Access to the Region’s Core project. These initiatives have made a more transit-friendly future for the state realizable.

Mr. Corzine has in recent weeks argued that he’d be willing to consider a gas tax increase — something his competitor Chris Christie has ruled out. Mr. Christie’s support for light rail expansion comes in the context of his dislike of the DMU River Line between Camden and Trenton, which cost $1.1 billion but only serves about 8,000 daily users. His primary campaign theme also appears to be cutting taxes; anyone with that point of view is not going to be able to support true transit improvements. Mr. Corzine should win this race.

Chris Daggett is also running in this campaign with a strong transportation platform, but he’s a distant third in polling.

Governor of Virginia

Creigh Deeds (D) vs. Bob McDonnell (R)

Update: Bob McDonnell wins an easy victory over Creigh Deeds. Perhaps the most damaging result of the night for transit advocates.

Bob McDonnell stirred controversy during the campaign when his college thesis berating women and gay people was released to the public — but Creigh Deeds has run a lackluster campaign that he’s now likely to lose.

That’s too bad, because Mr. Deeds has presented a solid, well-considered project for the state’s transportation problems, with a focus on mass transit. His own transportation plan provides strong evidence that he’d support high-speed rail for the state, that he’d ensure the completion of the Dulles Metro to Loudoun County, that he’d sponsor direct state grants to localities investing in bus rapid transit and light rail, and that, most importantly, he would connect transportation with “smart land use decisions.” He’s also been clear in his willingness to consider new taxes to support transportation financing, an essential campaign platform. Can’t get much better than that.

Mr. McDonnell, on the other hand, has suggested lowering taxes in this congestion-prone state. As the Washington Post put it:

“Mr. McDonnell… proposes to pay for road improvements mainly by cannibalizing essential state services such as education, health and public safety — a political non-starter. And rather than leveling with Virginians about the cost of his approach, as Mr. Deeds has done, Mr. McDonnell lacks the political spine to say what programs he would attempt to gut, or even reshape, in order to deal with transportation needs… Mr. McDonnell, champion of a revenue-starved status quo, remains in denial. He professes to feel the pain of Virginians struggling with financial hard times. In fact his transportation policy, a blueprint for stagnation and continuing deterioration, would subvert the state’s prospects for economic recovery and long-term growth.”

Though Mr. McDonnell has mentioned Dulles Rail and high-speed rail in his platform, his priority is clearly on paying for more roads in Northern Virginia. That’s the exact opposite of the approach the state needs.

6 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Russell Warshay

    …raising taxes now will save money in the future…

    During, or when emerging from a recession, raising taxes should be avoided at all costs. This isn’t even a politically viable option.

  • Fritz

    Nice article, wonder if anyone will be reading it before heading out to the polls. McDonnell’s campaign has been terrible and I think the WaPo article got it just right. If you’re going to cut taxes, fine, just start talking about the programs you’ll cut. You can’t have it both ways except for under very specific and unpredictable economic circumstances. I hope for the sake of Virginians that McDonnell won’t directly or indirectly cut VRE (I know its mostly county funded, not sure how much the state is a part of it) or the new Amtrak service.

    Although, in all honesty, if Virginia falls behind in rail it mostly effects Virginians. If New Jersey doesn’t keep up with investment it effects the whole NEC. But, if you’re running in New Jersey you can’t get away with not funding rail, especially when you can get Federal money to do it so hopefully that won’t be a problem.

    Interested to see what you have to say about the Bloomberg race :)

  • Well done. Third party candidates like Daggett need to start winning races and then maybe there will be change. The Republicans continue to try everything in their power to run the country into the ground (but you’ll get a tax cut!) and Democrats can push any progressive legislature through despite their majorities in the House and Senate. Shame on both parties.

  • t1ewis

    ^^i agree with u Alexander

    but about VA, we’re screwed either way. cuz truth be told, whoever is in office, the GA will kill w/e bill comes there way. they’re like a paranoid man with a gun. If Deeds is in office, they’ll kill his proposal for new taxes. If Mcdonnell is, they’ll keep him from cutting possibly everything. they def won’t let him touch education. As Alexander was saying, both are to blame, especially when it comes to VA. over 20 yrs and they still can’t come up with a proper means to fund transportation. very sad

  • Loren Petrich

    Election results (CNN, as of this writing):

    Both Republicans are likely winners.

    New Jersey: Christie 50%, Corzine 44%, Daggett 6%, 81% reporting
    Virginia: McDonnell 59%, Deeds 41%, 99% reporting

  • […] bluff on the 30-day moratorium issued in mid-September, reminding us that the Governor was just not that into public transit in the first place.  It’s hard to imagine that the funding is the real issue when New Jersey was […]

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