Christie on ARC money: “I ain’t payin’ it.”

Gov. Chris Christie today said he has no plans to pay back the federal government $271 million already spent on the Access to the Region’s Core tunnel.

On Friday, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood informed the state that it expects payment in full, despite claims from the administration that it does not owe the money.  LaHood said the law is clear and since the state scuttled the tunnel, the money already spent by the feds must be paid back.

At a town hall meeting in Manalapan today, Christie told the crowd he plans to go to court over the money.

“They want that money they’re going to have to come and get it,”he told the crowd.. “I ain’t payin’ it. We’re going to go to court.”

The U.S. DOT has been demanding the money since last year when Christie, citing the potential for billions in cost overruns, stopped construction on the tunnel.  Christie brought on a team of lawyers to argue the state’s case, but so far the DOT is not listening.  The state has argued that it is being held to a different standard than other states that have cancelled transportation projects.

Earlier this year, the entire New Jersey Congressional delegation signed a letter asking LaHood to forgo the money, but the DOT Secretary is adamant that the state must pay up, even issuing a veiled threat to withhold future aid.