Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ11) has been unfailingly polite in her public interactions with Congressional colleagues since she took office in January. But Sherrill, who represents the district that includes Verona, boiled over today at U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, following a report in Politico on Monday that Chao had designated her personal aide to secure at least $78 million in transportation funding for Kentucky. Chao’s husband is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and he is up for reelection next year.
“Monday’s report brings into question Secretary Chao’s ability to give an unbiased evaluation of projects presented to the Department of Transportation,” Rep. Sherrill said in a prepared statement. “It deepens the impression that rather than working on behalf of all Americans, this administration is making partisan decisions with respect to our tax dollars. This is yet another blow to the taxpayers of New Jersey, who already subsidize states like Kentucky – a state that gets nearly three times the return on their federal tax dollars as compared to New Jersey.” According to the Rockefeller Institute of Government, in 2017, New Jersey received only 82 cents for every dollar sent to the federal government while Kentucky got $2.35.
On the campaign trail last year, Sherrill was a vocal advocate of re-securing federal funding for the Gateway Tunnel, the aging rail tunnel that connects New Jersey to New York City. Under President Obama, the federal government committed to paying half of the $13 billion cost of renovating the tunnel, but the Trump administration has repeatedly blocked the release of any funding. “One can’t help but think,” Sherrill added, “would we have already broken ground on Gateway if it were located in Kentucky, not New Jersey and New York?”
In testimony to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure earlier this spring, Sherrill called Gateway “the nation’s most urgent infrastructure project.” She asserted that if even half the tunnel were to be closed, it would be a $22 billion hit to residential property values in New Jersey. “A complete collapse of the tunnel,” she said then, “could injure thousands and cost our economy an estimated $100 million a day.”