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Uncertain Funding, Looming Strike Could Mean Rough Road for New Jersey Transit

Friday, March 4, 2016   (0 Comments)
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NJspotlight.com 02/26/2016

At first, it sounds like good news for New Jersey Transit. Buried inside the budget documents that Gov. Chris Christie released earlier this month is a proposal to significantly increase New Jersey Transit’s state subsidy. In fact, it could get a boost of more than $127 million if state lawmakers sign off on the deal. But transportation experts and advocates say now is hardly a time to celebrate. NJ Transit faces a possible strike next month by 4,200 rail employees who have been working without a contract since 2011. But arguably the most pressing challenge for New Jersey Transit right now is the potential for a strike to occur on a March 13, a date that’s been set by unionized workers who’ve been unable to come to an agreement with management on both pay hikes and changes to health benefits. The agency’s last rail strike took place in the 1980s, with outside bus drivers pressed into service in an attempt to get commuters to work in Manhattan or elsewhere within the state. Dennis Martin, New Jersey Transit’s interim executive director, said it’s too early to discuss the specific details of his agency’s latest plans for another work stoppage if it were to occur. “NJ Transit is actively involved in developing a robust alternative service plan in the event the unions call a strike,” he said in a statement. “We are working with our regional partners, including NJDOT, to provide as much service as possible to our customers.”

Ray Greaves, chairman of the Amalgamated Transit Union state council and a member of New Jersey Transit’s board of directors, put the blame for the agency’s money problems squarely on Christie, saying he hasn’t made funding transportation enough of a priority. “Transit in New Jersey is in crisis,” Greaves said. “We have a governor that refuses to address the problem.” Christie’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, calls for a $160.9 million state subsidy for New Jersey Transit. That would more than quadruple the $33.2 million that was allocated for the agency in the budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. Another $62.1 million is budgeted for New Jersey Transit in Christie’s fiscal year 2017 spending plan out of the Clean Energy Fund, which is supposed to use revenue generated by a tax on New Jersey electric and gas users to promote cleaner ways of producing energy. And New Jersey Transit will receive $204 million from the New Jersey Turnpike Authority during the next fiscal year, a reduction from the $295 million that’s being provided during the current fiscal year, according to budget documents.


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