When will lawmakers discuss transportation funding?
Top lawmakers within the New Jersey Assembly are confident the Legislature can find a solution to to replenish the nearly bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund, but Republicans and Democrats are divided as to when discussions will begin.
The top Republican in the Assembly believes it won't happen until after the November elections, while Democrats are ready to begin discussions immediately.
"I can guarantee you that come after this election the Democrats will be happy to talk about the Transportation Trust Fund," said Assembly GOP Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield). "I can assure the people that we will come to a solution because we have to."
Government works best when in crisis, Bramnick said, and while the TTF is not in crisis now it will be soon.
"There's no reason why we couldn't work on it now," said Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Voorhees). "There's no reason why we couldn't publicly stand up together and say that we've agreed on something and be ready to move that as soon as we come back after the elections, as soon as the legislative break is over."
The TTF is the pot of money the state taps into for road, bridge and tunnel projects. State Transportation commissioner Jamie Fox has said the fund will run out of money when the current fiscal year ends at midnight June 30, 2016 unless a recurring source of revenue is identified. The most talked about idea is an increase in the gas tax. Bramnick conceded that would be part of the discussions.
"I'm in the same position as the governor; everything thing is on the table. If you didn't have that position I'm not sure that you could get anything done," Bramnick explained.
Told in a phone interview Tuesday that Bramnick was open to at least talking about a gas tax hike, Greenwald said he was surprised.
"That's the first comment I've ever heard of him saying that and as I've said time and time again, every day is an opportunity to get something done and if he wants to reach out to me and put together a proposal there's no reason why we couldn't work on it now," he said.