Fix Our Infrastructure
The Federal Railroad Administration recommended a $12,000 fine for NJ Transit for failing to install “positive train control” a system that helps trains avoid collisions and derailments like the ones that kill and injure commuters.
Twelve thousand dollars might not sound like a lot of money for a big state agency, but as the increasingly outstanding NorthJersey.com reports, “railroads often pay less than the proposed penalty.” Who knows how small the actual fine will be!
Anyway. It’s some public pressure. Good thing NJ Transit is not a politicized mess.
You can now get Wawa “hoagies” (whatever they are) delivered if you live in Cherry Hill, Haddon Township, Collingswood, Maple Shade or Pennsauken, Joe Brandt at NJ.com tantalizingly reports, though the wait-time is 45-55 minutes.
Delivery services are actually provided by GrubHub. No word on whether they’ll be pushing shoreward any time soon.
$3 Billion -$7 Billion
Historically unpopular lame-duck Governor Chris Christie signed a bill yesterday that would give at least $3 billion–and potentially up to $7 billion–in tax subsidies to the giant tech-retailer-innovator-whatever company Amazon, which is putting all your favorite Walmarts out of business.
As you may know, Amazon is holding an unprecedented public auction to decide where to locate a second corporate headquarters, and it has states and municipalities falling all over themselves to offer the most attractive subsidies. Chicago hired Bill Shatner to do a promo video, for instance. In Pittsburgh, Primanti Brothers is offering free sandwiches to Amazon employees. Amazon has a market cap in the $600-billion range, so they don’t need tax subsidies. They just want them. But nobody wants to give them subsidies more than New Jersey, Christie said in his announcement, which contained a number of buzzwords including: “innovative” “jobs creator” “grow” and even “bipartisan.”
Do corporate handouts like this even work? Or are huge corporations basically holding small-time public officials (like our governor) hostage, where if they don’t make the necessary gestures, they’re seen as anti-business?
Greg LeRoy, the founder of Good Jobs First, who’s been writing about it since 2005, described the situation as a kind of prisoner’s dilemma. “In an asymmetrical power dynamic, companies are free to play states and localities against each other while the affected public officials cannot cooperate with each other. Instead, those charged with managing our public budgets passively do what they are told to do: offer more subsidies.” Does that sound about right? Almost enough to make you feel bad for Chris Christie.
Rather than cooperate or at least make a transparent case for why their bids are in the public interest, a lot of cities are keeping quiet. The Associated Press reported yesterday that more than 15 cities and states refused its request “to detail the promises they made to try to lure the company.” Some cited the information was a “trade secret” and would put them at a competitive disadvantage. New Jersey has actually been more transparent than some competitors.
Meanwhile, former state assemblyman and gubernatorial hopeful Jack Ciattarelli dropped some “truth” on readers of the Star-Ledger with this list of things Phil Murphy promised but we can’t afford, including:
* “to to fully fund the current school funding formula”
* “fully fund pre-K”
* “fully fund public pensions”
* “higher property taxes” ” (Ok, but for whom?)
* “a $15 minimum wage”
Granted he blamed “progressives” for our broke-itude not the dude who just signed the $7 billion tax break but what are you going to do?