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Christie: Concept of Transportation Trust Fund is 'obsolete'

Friday, June 3, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Aidan Sander
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Politico.com 06/03/16

Gov. Chris Christie said on Wednesday that he was loath to back an increase in the state’s gasoline tax and said lawmakers should seriously consider developing a plan built around general-fund spending. “The Legislature says they’re for better roads and bridges. OK. And for more mass transit funding,” the Republican governor said at an unrelated news conference in Trenton. “Well, then maybe they should have to choose inside the general fund about how to do that rather than just asking the people of the state for more money every time they want to do something. Make choices. Make choices inside the general fund. There’s places to cut.”

Christie appeared on Wednesday to reject even the premise of the Transportation Trust Fund, which was signed into law in 1984 by Republican Gov. Tom Kean and was designed to “provide a stable and predictable funding source for transportation system improvements in New Jersey.” “That was 25 years ago and no Legislature or governor has raised the gas tax in 25 years. So I think that’s obsolete,” Christie said. “The concept, I mean, is obsolete.” The governor offered some supportive words for a proposal offered by state Sen. Jennifer Beck, a Republican from Monmouth County. Beck has called for consolidating transportation agencies, implementing cuts to public worker health benefits and tapping revenues from various sources to produce enough money for a new, $1.6 billion trust fund — all with no tax increase.

Beck has said her proposal is feasible and even some of its most ambitious components, like putting state agencies under one roof, could be done in a few years. Democrats and advocates for infrastructure spending, though, have said Beck’s plan is merely pie in the sky thinking that does little to solve the immediate problem facing policymakers. Christie said the plan “deserves some merit and some study.” It would be heavily reliant on the ups and downs of the state’s economy. The primary source of revenue for the general fund is the income tax, the state’s most volatile. It’s one reason the treasury’s initial revenue projections were off by about $1 billion for the current and next fiscal year. Beck built a $100 million annual “cushion” into her plan to account for slower than expected growth.

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