NJ Senate to hold Transportation Trust Fund hearing next month
As work within much of the New Jersey Legislature slows down this summer, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) said in Thursday that work will still be done, particularly in the Upper House.
As he campaigns for president, Gov. Chris Christie is often gone from New Jersey for stretches at a time. The Assembly is on summer break and because all 80 seats in the People's House are up for grabs in November's elections, current members are not expected to return to Trenton until the fall. That leaves the Upper House and in a phone interview this week, Sweeney said Senate voting sessions will take place.
Senate committee hearings were scheduled for July 20 and a Senate voting session was set for July 23. Sweeney said a big day will be Aug. 10.
"We're going to be having a Senate Legislative Oversight Committee hearing on transportation and bringing the commissioner of transportation (Jamie Fox) and the head of NJ Transit (Ronnie Hakim) in to have a discussion about the condition of our roads and where they see the future and where we need to go" Sweeney said.
The Transportation Trust Fund is on pace to run out of money when this fiscal year ends at midnight June 30. At the tail end of 2014, Sweeney said it appeared a deal would be reached that included a gas tax increase, but at the 11th hour things fell apart. Christie says the TTF is not a crisis at this point.
"We need to really start identifying where we're heading, what we're doing, when we're going to run out of money so everyone understands how serious this is and we have to have an honest discussion about this. Our roads are in horrible condition and they're only going to get worse. We're not making the right investments in transportation now," Sweeney said.
No transportation-related topic will be off-limits Sweeney said, but potential TTF revenue sources could and should be discussed. He did not expect a silver bullet solution to be introduced at the hearing.
"People need to understand that whatever solution we do ultimately come up with, there are no free roads," Sweeney said. "There are no free bridges, but whatever we come up with we have to guarantee that we constitutionally dedicate whatever funding it is only to repairing roads and bridges and not running department."