Sweeney wants more money for local roads, bridges
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- Senate President Steve Sweeney is renewing calls for New Jersey to roughly double the share of money local governments receive for road and bridge projects.
Sweeney detailed his plan during a news conference Thursday at the statehouse, speaking alongside members of the New Jersey Association of Counties, League of Municipalities and AAA. It calls for increasing funding from about $200 million to $400 million but so far does not include a funding source.
Sweeney says he has been talking with Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Gov. Chris Christie to find a way to pay for the increase. He has called for such increases before, as recently as last month during a conference in Atlantic City.
“What it comes down to is the speaker and the governor and I getting together, coming to an agreement on whatever it is. We have some ideas, but we’re not going to throw anything out until we know it works. There’s a lot of different ways to fix this and I’m not going to say which way until the governor and the speaker and I agree,” Sweeney said.
The difficulty with finding a way to pay for the infrastructure plan stems from voter opposition to higher gasoline taxes, which Sweeney said would be needed to fund transportation projects.
"There's no free ride here," he said. "There's no free ride at all. Someone has to pay for it."
The plan comes as the Democrat-controlled Legislature and Republican governor grapple with an impending transportation trust fund debt limit. Christie has said all options are on the table. Some Democrats have proposed legislation that would increase gasoline or petroleum taxes to pay for new infrastructure projects.
The Association of Counties and League of Municipalities lauded Sweeney for his proposal, saying local roads and bridges carry 53 percent of the state's traffic while receiving only 12 percent under the current capital planning program.
"It's clear that we at the local level bear the brunt of dealing with our state's crumbling infrastructure," Montclair Township Mayor Robert Jackson said. "We have not, however, received the funding we need to make the necessary improvements without impacting property taxpayers."
The Association of Counties is holding a summit Friday on the transportation trust fund.
Kevin McArdle contributed to this report.
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