Debating a gas tax hike versus spending cuts
As Gov. Chris Christie and state legislators scramble to find the best way to replenish the almost bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund, the debate continues about how best to accomplish this task.
An increase in the state's gas tax is the most talked about solution, but there is some push back as Republican lawmakers have started asking why there's no talk about finding revenue elsewhere.
"All of my friends across the aisle, the Democrats are focused on raising the gas tax, but I haven't heard any discussion of where else can we find revenues," said Assembly GOP Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield).
The state simply doesn't have the revenue to support the obligations it has, said Assembly Transportation Committee chairman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville).
"If the notion of fixing the Transportation Trust Fund is we can fix it, but we don't need new revenue then we're essentially agreeing to not fix it," Wisniewski said. "As unpleasant as the fact is, the most robust way of raising revenue to fund transportation is the gas tax."
According to Bramnick, there are areas that could be explored to save the state money that could be dedicated to the TTF.
"There should be a discussion of changing the school funding formula -- $12.5 billion is available with respect to school funding," Bramnick said. "When is the legislature going to sit down and possibly save a billion dollars by funding schools that are successful not a formula, but what we call a results oriented formula?"
The school funding formula option did not sit well with Wisniewski, who criticized Bramnick for calling on cuts in education spending. Bramnick said he is simply asking for a global discussion on other revenue options.
The TTF cannot be replenished through spending cuts alone, said Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto (D-Secaucus), the former chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee.
The TTF is expected to run out of money for new projects on July 1 and all of the money coming would have to be used to pay down existing debt.