Remember that audit to fix NJ transit? We’re still waiting
After he was sworn in as the governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy announced he was focused on two front-burner issues.
One was to get a comprehensive audit of New Jersey Transit completed within 100 days, so efforts could move forward to fix the dysfunctional agency. A second was passing a bill to legalize recreational marijuana for adults.
More than eight months later, neither one of these goals have been met, but Murphy insists good progress is being made on both fronts.
After the NJ Transit audit completion date was pushed back last spring, New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scacetti said the report was expected to be completed before the end of September.
When Murphy was asked about the status of the audit during a news conference in Cranford on Thursday, he said the audit should be finished within a month – which would mean sometime in October.
“I don’t know for sure what it will say. If you’re using NJ Transit, particularly the rails, you’re frustrated I suspect more than not — and I don’t blame you. So am I," Murphy said.
He said his administration “inherited a mess," but is fixing it.
"I now have even more confidence than the last time one of you asked me about this," he said, "It will be fixed.”
In recent weeks, the agency has seen cascading, last-minute cancellations of trains, which it blames on engineer shortages and the much-delayed work being done to install positive train control — a breaking system experts say might have prevented deadly crashes on NJ Transit and other systems. It's more recently cut back service levels in an attempt to provide more consistency and minimize surprise cancellations.
“We are not where we need to be, let there be no doubt about it," Murphy said. "But the path forward, the reality of what it will take to fix NJ Transit is completely within us and we will get there.”
When Murphy was asked whether he was concerned about not having a measure yet to legalize marijuana in Jersey, he insisted progress is being made.
“I’m not as frustrated," he said. "There are some reports out there or quotes from people that are implying that this is being dramatically delayed. I haven’t actually seen that yet.”
He said there are continued talks with the leadership of the state legislature to move proposals forward — to not only focus on legalizing recreational pot but also expanding the state’s medicinal marijuana program. The legislation will also look at how to deal with non-violent low-level marijuana possession arrests that have taken place in the past, Murphy said.
Senate president Steve Sweeney later on Thursday said he has scheduled a vote on October 29 on a bill that has not yet been introduced in committee. Two issues have yet to be worked out, but he did not disclose the issues.
During an appearance on New Jersey 101.5 last week Sweeney said that the tax on marijuana was still under discussion. One proposal set the rate at 10 percent, according to Sweeney, while Murphy wanted a rate of 25 percent.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.
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