TEANECK – The river bank was muddy and the overhead bridge awfully decrepit. It was more than looks. A union man pointed to the “bearings” underneath that were supposed to be straight.
Not these. They were crooked.
All this made below the Route 4 bridge over the Hackensack River a splendid spot for Josh Gottheimer’s press conference Monday morning about federal infrastructure bill money and New Jersey. This was a well-attended event that belied the rather gloomy surroundings.
About 30 union members representing various crafts, including pipefitters, sprinklers, electrical workers and roofers, stood behind the CD-5 congressman as he spoke.
Gottheimer had visited this spot near the FDU campus before – back when he was pushing for the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill and after it passed in 2022 in a rare bipartisan vote.
An immediate benefit of the bill will be the construction of a new rail tunnel under the Hudson, a project shelved by then-Governor Chris Christie back in 2010. That plan was highlighted last week.
This morning, Gottheimer had more modest improvements in mind, like fixing the aging bridge above him. But beyond roads and bridges, the federal legislation will pay to remove lead from water, improve airports, install electric car charging stations and expand broadband to rural areas.
Part of the funds will be allocated by a formula. But the rest – an unspecified amount at the moment – will be awarded through grants.
Who’s going to get them?
That was the premise of Gottheimer’s event. He announced that his office is developing a website portal that will inform district officials what grants are available and how to apply for them. The site, which should be live in a month, will also track the application process. The 5th District covers parts of Bergen, Sussex and Passaic counties.
A lot of things about the federal government are complicated and the congressman said the portal is needed because info on grants can be hard to find.
Gottheimer said he discovered that last week when he called a number of mayors in his district and many were unaware grants for projects in their towns could be available.
“That is not a formula for success in my opinion,” he said.
Competing for grants with other towns and states is right in line with Gottheimer’s often stated goal of getting federal aid for New Jersey and away from the “moochers.”
The point is that taxpayers in a high income state like New Jersey pay much more in taxes to Washington than they get back in aid. Many states – especially low income states in the south – get much more money back from the feds than their residents pay in taxes.
So it was no surprise that Gottheimer made the following point: Unless New Jersey aggressively goes after these grants, money is bound to go to the “moocher states.”
As an example, he mentioned Louisiana – one of those so-called moocher states – which has already developed a statewide website to inform local officials about available grants.
Tax money going to Louisiana and similar states at New Jersey’s expense is unacceptable to Gottheimer:
“I don’t like to lose to the moochers,” he said.