Lawmakers in Trenton will be holding a legislative committee hearing this coming Thursday on New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s plan to renovate the State House, a project estimated to cost the state $300 million and expected to run over into the administration of Christie’s successor when he is term-limited out in 2018.
State Senator Ray Lesniak, a frequent critic of Christie who decided to relaunch his campaign for governor this week, called the public hearing of the Senate Economic Growth Committee for January 12th.
Lesniak, one of the state’s most outspoken progressives, called for details from the governor on where the funds will come from to make the improvements to the more than 200 year-old building.
“The governor made an announcement of his plan to spend $300 million to renovate the executive section of the State House without providing a full explanation of the importance of the renovations or its costs and he refused to answer any questions on the proposal,” said Senator Lesniak, who chairs the committee that has jurisdiction over the Economic Development Authority, which would issue the bonds to finance the project.
“The public and the Legislature need to review a detailed plan for the construction work, with substantiation for the cost estimates, and the EDA needs to explain its role in taking on the debt without voter approval.”
Lesniak filed the paperwork necessary to run for governor on Wednesday. He will face long odds against predicted Democratic favorite and former Goldman Sachs executive Phil Murphy, who is also facing a primary challenge from Assemblyman John Wisniewski.
Back in November, the announcement of the renovation served as Christie’s opportunity to change the subject amid speculation that he would be going to Washington for a cabinet position under president-elect Donald Trump. No questions from the press were permitted at that press conference, and Christie has not held another since.
Proceeding with the renovation would force Christie’s successor out of the State House and into rented space several blocks away.
“I’m hopeful the project will take about four years,” said the governor, whose 19 percent approval rating has sunk to the lowest of any governor in the country. “I’ll come back maybe as a tourist. For the governors who come after me, they deserve this to be done.”
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.