Christie shrugs off roadwork shutdowns: ‘Cry me a river’
A Senate committee meets Friday to consider the latest incarnation of the gas-tax fueled solution for financing the Transportation Trust Fund, but the vote probably isn’t a sign that a resolution is on the immediate horizon.
The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee already endorsed a similar version of the plan five weeks ago, so its approval for a second time wouldn’t be a surprise. Its path from there is unclear: The plan isn’t currently listed for a vote at Monday’s Senate session, couldn’t pass the Assembly last month and is still opposed by Gov. Chris Christie.
“I’m fighting on the Transportation Trust Fund not because I don’t want to rebuild roads and bridges but because I have said all along that if you’re going to ask for a tax increase at the pump for people in this state, you better give them a tax cut someplace else so you don’t reduce the amount of money they have to be able to spend on their families,” Christie said Thursday at an event in Fair Lawn.
“I don’t care how much pressure they put on me – that roadwork has stopped, and this project or that project. You know, cry me a river. My job is to represent you and your pocketbooks,” Christie said. “And so I’ll take the heat. I’m happy to take it. After seven years of taking heat, man, it doesn’t even feel that hot, you know? We’ll do what we need to do. I will stand up and continue to fight.”
The state temporarily halted all state-funded construction projects three weeks ago. Close to 1,000 workers were estimated to have lost their jobs, with that number likely to grow if the impasse drags on.
“A lot of people are being hurt right now, so we really need to find a solution,” said Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester.
“If we don’t correct this, you’re going to have thousands of people out of work,” Sweeney said.
The Senate committee plans to vote Friday on a bill that would raise the gas tax by 23 cents a gallon, costing drivers $1.2 billion a year, in order to help finance a $2 billion a year, eight-year plan for road, bridge and rail construction.
The package also includes tax cuts estimated to cost the state $900 million a year in revenue once phased in completely. The cuts would benefit wealthy estates, the working poor, retirement income, commuters and veterans.
Christie is insisting on a wider tax cut. The Assembly voted in late June to reduce the sales tax from 7 percent to 6 percent as part of a gas-tax deal, but the Senate has balked.
“And that’s why I’m not doing the transportation funding right now, until we get some type of broad-based tax reduction for people like you. Not just for when you die. I’d like to reduce your taxes for when you’re alive,” said Christie, who acknowledged he would like the estate tax reduced.
“What I said to them was I’m not going to raise a tax like the gas tax that everybody pays unless I’m going to cut a tax that everybody pays, too. And everybody pays the sales tax,” Christie said.
“And if you don’t think that makes a difference to you, a 1 percent cut in the sales tax is about a $1.6 billion tax cut for people in the state. It’s a lot of money,” he said.
Sweeney says it’s too much money.
“The governor’s in a place that I said from the beginning we can’t afford,” Sweeney said.
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