No quick fix for NJ’s Transportation Trust Fund, says DOT boss
The days of finding a quick fix to fund New Jersey's Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) are over, according to the state's top transportation official.
"We've been putting it off for 25 years and I think that we've extended the debt as far as we can. We are now just paying debt so we don't have an ability to borrow any more even if we wanted to," said Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Jamie Fox before an Assembly Budget Committee on May 4.
Without a recurring source of revenue, the TTFwill go broke on July 1, 2016. The most talked about funding solution is an increase in the gas tax.
The debt is being paid down with revenue collected through the state's 14.5 cent gas tax which has not increased since 1988. The state has $30 billion in transportation debt and is paying it off at a clip of $3 billion per year.
Assembly Budget Panel Chairman Gary Schaer (D-Passiac) asked Fox if that means state gas tax collections are not being used to fill potholes, build bridges or repair roads. Fox said that was the case. The state also receives federal transportation aid which is being used to fund those things, but not at the rate the state would like.
"The short term fix is anything but ideal," Fox said.
As 2014 drew to a close, the hottest topic in Trenton was finding a funding source to replenish the nearly bankrupt TTF. Democratic leaders in the Legislature said they were speaking privately with Gov. Chris Christie and hoped to unveil a plan in early January.
That did not happen.
"I'm hopeful that the Senate president and the speaker and I will be able to come to a resolution sooner rather than later, but, you know, again, it's not a crisis at the moment, because we're funded pretty well now," said Christie on the Feb. 25 edition of Townsquare Media's "Ask the Governor" program.
The governor made his comments the day after he gave his budget address. The budget proposal includes a plan to give the TTF a cash infusion through borrowing by issuing approximately $600 million in unused bonds.
"The speaker and I are in the same place now. I don't know what the governor's doing. We're not on the same page," said state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) in March.
There are 577 structurally deficient bridges in New Jersey, 289 of which are run by the DOT. The rest are county and local bridges.