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Will NJ’s transportation fund go broke?

The head of the New Jersey Assembly has announced a series of hearings will be held, starting later this fall, to figure out how to find a permanent funding source for the state Transportation Trust Fund, which pays for all road and bridge work.

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According to Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto, the state has been borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars to keep the TTF afloat for the past few years, but this can no longer continue.

“We’re just kicking the can down the road, and our children and our grandchildren are being taxed at a higher rate,” he said. “That’s going to mean taxes for our future residents. Our reliance for borrowing to fund the Transportation Trust Fund is not acceptable.”

Prieto said having a solid transportation infrastructure is critically important to keep and attract many different kinds of businesses, but recent reports show “36 percent, over 600-some odd bridges I believe, are either structurally deficient or obsolete. We need to make sure these bridges are in good condition.”

So how will the TTF be funded?

“All parties need to sit down and discuss this — is it a gas tax or what is the other alternative,” Prieto said. “We have to really have an honest discussion because our downgrading of our bond rating actually costs us more to borrow. We need to start having that serious discussion because starting in 2015, we’re not going to have any money for it.”

He also pointed out the typical New Jersey driver is paying $600 a year to fix their vehicle because of roadway wear and tear.

“If you have one blown tire in a year, that’s probably more than you would pay in a gas tax but these are things we need to talk about,” Prieto said. “I’m not looking for us to burden anybody with more taxes, but we need to make sure that these roads are in safe shape to drive on and our bridges are structurally sound.”

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