Christie: Making progress on TTF, hopes for gas tax deal soon
Gov. Chris Christie said he hopes for an agreement soon on the tax cuts enacted along with a gas-tax increase to fund transportation projects.
The Transportation Trust Fund has been without funding for almost three months, since the 2017 budget year began. Most state-funded transportation projects have been idled since early July, which has left thousands of construction workers temporarily unemployed.
“We have been having active discussions over the past two weeks between myself and the speaker, myself and the Senate president, myself and the Republican leader of the Assembly. And we’re making progress,” Christie said on ‘Ask the Governor.’ “And hopefully we’ll come to an agreement soon. But I’m encouraged by the conversations we’ve been having.”
Christie has said he’ll only sign a hike in the gas tax – most likely 23 cents a gallon – if other taxes are reduced at the same time. He turned down a package of tax cuts preferred by the Senate in favor of a deal he cut with the Assembly in June to instead cut the sales tax from 7 percent to 6 percent.
A caller Tuesday asked Christie why not just dedicate the money generated from 1 percent of the sales tax to transportation, rather than cut it and hike the gas tax.
“I’m very reluctant to divert general fund money to a dedicated purpose. We’ve done that already on property tax relief, where most of the income tax is dedicated to property tax relief. A half a cent of the sales tax is already dedicated to property tax relief, which is what Gov. Corzine did back in 2006 when he raised the sales tax,” Christie said. “I just don’t believe we should be doing that stuff.”
Christie said the point of a tax cut is to put money into consumers’ pockets and spur the economy.
“The idea of a tax hike on the gas tax is obviously something that nobody wants. But let’s remember something, New Jersey: We haven’t raised the gas tax in New Jersey for 28 years. And we have the second lowest gas tax in America,” Christie said. “We have big roadways and bridges to deal with in this state. And a big mass transit system – I think the third largest in the United States, in New Jersey Transit. We’ve got to pay for that.
Christie said the higher gas tax will also be helpful when the state, in cooperation with New York, assembles the money the states will need to pay for half of the Gateway Tunnel rail project under the Hudson River.
“The people of the state have to understand, these things need to be paid for,” Christie said. “And there’s not leftover money laying around. Believe me, if there was, I’d do something with it.”