Gateway Funding; Tom MacArthur; Cuomo IG

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Gateway Funding Alternatives Considered

Let’s start with the obvious: increased passenger rail capacity under the Hudson River is vital to the economies of New Jersey and New York and constructing a new tunnel and its connections is of national significance. Superstorm Sandy revealed the fragility of our existing rail infrastructure; two recent NJ TRANSIT derailments reinforced the point. Glad we can all agree on that…

Now, to the question of money. After being cancelled in 2010 by Governor Christie who cited the potential for cost overruns, the tunnel program was resuscitated and rebranded in 2012 as the Gateway Program under the direction of Amtrak which has invested $300 million in design and planning to date. With the full support of the Obama Administration, the project looked to be back on track (pun intended). Given the new President’s NYC base, conventional wisdom is that the Trump Administration would support the project. And then the White House released its first budget which proposes draconian cuts to transportation funding and could threaten Gateway.

The Chairman of the Gateway Development Corporation, the entity charged with building the massive program of improvements, announced that the organization is exploring alternative funding options, including public-private partnerships (P3’s) – P.S., he also served on Trump’s Transition Team. The Trump Administration has made favorable statements about P3’s so we might already know how this story unfolds. P3’s are complicated and higher costs for riders are one of many challenges to be worked through, yet P3’s also hold significant potential for project delivery and may be the only way to complete mega projects like Gateway.

This is a huge infrastructure program with ramifications that extend far beyond transportation circles. We’re focused on potential opportunities and the public policy of P3’s, to make sure they’re done the right way and for the right projects. Contact us to discuss further.

MacArthur in the Spotlight

With every redistricting there are fewer and fewer “swing” districts and moderate Members of Congress. Jersey’s Tom MacArthur is working hard to buck that trend and the GOP effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is putting him in the spotlight.

MacArthur co-chairs the Tuesday Group, a caucus of moderate House Republicans that has emerged as a key player on the health care debate. MacArthur has a seat at the table and is reportedly working closely with the Speaker’s office and the White House. He is the only member of the New Jersey Congressional delegation to support the House GOP replacement and he’s received backlash from the liberal Save Our Care and conservative Club for Growth for doing it. MacArthur defended his position before those who matter most – his constituents – during a town hall meeting last week.

If the GOP regains its footing on ACA repeal/replacement and actually passes something, MacArthur may play a key role. That would further enhance his stature. It may also put a bigger target on his back. His district voted for President Obama in 2012 and President Trump in 2016. And he was one of 57 House Republicans targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) for the 2018 midterm elections.

Cuomo Proposes IG for Port Authority

New Jersey and New York have been jockeying for control of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey for as long as the agency has existed. Jersey electeds pushed back on a recent proposal from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo which they contend is designed to drastically enhance Cuomo’s influence within the powerful agency that controls the regions airports, bridges & tunnels, the World Trade Center site, and port facilities.

Cuomo included language in New York State’s budget establishing the position of Inspector General of the Port Authority, giving the position subpoena and prosecutorial powers, and reporting directly to the New York Governor. Cuomo’s office argues that this is a reform measure intended to fight corruption at an agency that has had its share of controversy in recent years. According to Port Authority Chairman John Degnan, a Christie appointee, that dog won’t hunt. Degnan charged that Cuomo’s proposed IG is meant to intimidate the agency to submit to his demands.

A bi-partisan group of New Jersey elected officials backed up Degnan late last week, charging that the proposed IG is “illegal” because laws pertaining to the Port Authority must be approved by the Legislatures in both states.

Much of this has to do with New Jersey’s push for a new Port Authority Bus Terminal (another transportation project that is vital to the region). Jersey needs the Terminal and wants it built on/near the current site in Manhattan. Cuomo’s not interested unless it’s built across the Hudson. Degnan and Cuomo have been feuding about the project for months and Cuomo is clearly frustrated that he can’t end-run Degnan.

Hopefully this stand-off will end soon and the Port Authority can get back to its core mission – repairing and upgrading our region’s critical transportation infrastructure.

NorthStar’s Inaugural Event

NorthStar hosted its first event at our repainted and redecorated offices at 310 West State Street last week, as we hosted a fundraiser to support the reelection of our friend, Assemblyman Gary Schaer. Thank you to everyone who attended in support of Gary and NorthStar.

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