Still no solution for replenishing the state’s transportation fund
The Transportation Trust Fund is on pace to run out of money June 30, 2015. A deal between Gov. Chris Christie and the Democrat-controlled Legislature remains elusive.
Recent events had the head of the Assembly Transportation Committee wondering if an agreement could be reached before the TTF goes broke. He was not confident.
“Based on what the governor’s saying I don’t see how it’s possible that there will be a solution in place in time. If the governor’s taking the dismissive, mocking tone that he is on transportation funding I can’t see how we’re going to get to the solution that is going to be sufficient to solve the problem,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville).
Wisniewski has been a long-time proponent of increasing the gas tax to replenish the TTF.
At a New Jersey Business and Industry event Dec. 8, State Senate Budget Committee chairman Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) said there were enough Democratic votes to phase out the estate tax and lower income taxes for retirees in exchange for increasing the gas tax, but the governor had to be on board. That night on Townsquare Media’s "Ask The Governor" program, Christie dismissively fired back.
“First of all, he (Sarlo) hasn’t proposed it to me,” Christie said during the show. “Who can trust these people? Who’s he? He’s making policy now for the whole state? As far as I know he has no position of any authority in the Legislature except for budget chairman.”
Christie said he’s had no in-depth conversations with Sarlo on the issue and any talks he’s had with State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Thorofare) and Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto (D-Secaucus) would stay private. He did offer an overall view on the agenda that he felt has been repeatedly pursued by Democrats in New Jersey.
“I’ve said all along that all they ever want to do is raise taxes,” Christie said.
The governor has said this he would be willing to consider any transportation funding solutions that the Democratic leadership presented, but only if they were framed in the context of “tax fairness.”
On Friday, Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto (D-Secaucus) announced the introduction of legislation (ACR-1) to ask voters to amend the constitution guarantee that all revenue from the state’s gas tax is permanently dedicated exclusively to improving New Jersey’s transportation infrastructure.
“Unfortunately no agreement has been reached, but it’s important that voters be given the chance to dedicate all money raised by these taxes to transportation needs. Taxpayers must be confident every cent raised by these taxes goes to the right purpose; rebuilding and maintaining our roads and bridges,” Prieto said in an emailed statement.
For over a year, Prieto has said Christie and the legislature must have “honest discussions” about replenishing the TTF and that included talking about increasing the gas tax.
Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.