Christie: Lautenberg is an Embarrassment


lautenbergNew Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg don’t appear ready to end their ongoing feud.

The Republican governor teed off on Lautenberg on Thursday, one day after the Democrat chaired a hearing in Washington that put Christie ally Bill Baroni, deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, on the hot seat over toll increases.

Christie called Lautenberg “an embarrassment to the state” for trying to ambush Baroni over toll hikes when Lautenberg received free E-ZPass perks as a one-time Port Authority commissioner.

“For a guy to be sitting there complaining about the fairness of tolls when he fed at the trough for 24 years – a multimillionaire, a guy who brags about how rich he is, couldn’t go into his pocket to pay the tolls,” Christie asked. “That’s the guy who’s going to be a paragon of virtue, who’s going to judge the Port Authority?”

Lautenberg is sponsoring a bill that would give the secretary of transportation the power to reject toll increases on highways and bridges that receive federal aid if they are judged to be excessive. Commuters were hit with the first of several toll increases in September that will bring tolls at New Jersey-New York bridges and tunnels to $15 in 2015. Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo refused to go along with a steeper increase that the bi-state agency requested.

Lautenberg on Thursday called Christie “the name-calling governor,” and said he’s trying to deflect attention from the unpopular toll increases.

The two officials have also tangled over a new commuter rail tunnel between New Jersey and New York, which Lautenberg secured $3 billion in federal funding for before Christie killed it because of potential cost overruns.

Their most recent sniping has been over Christie’s proposed merger of Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University, which Lautenberg opposes.

{The Associated Press/ Newscenter}