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Christie’s Treasurer Says Transit Funding to Be Negotiated with Lawmakers

Friday, April 8, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Aidan Sander
Share | 04/08/2016

With a growing surplus and a modest growth forecast that lines up closely with the latest revenue projections from nonpartisan legislative analysts, the state budget seems to be in pretty solid shape heading into the next fiscal year. But that stability will face a strong test over the next few months as several big issues remain unresolved, including an elusive deal on state transportation funding and a looming court decision that could further weaken New Jersey’s public-employee pension system. Those concerns and others are giving lawmakers much to worry about as they start to dig deeper into Gov. Chris Christie’s $34.8 billion proposed spending plan in advance of July 1, the deadline that’s set in the state constitution for a new budget.

But the two quickly got down to business, with Sarlo pressing the acting treasurer on a number of the state’s most pressing budget issues, including the lack of a concrete plan to renew the state Transportation Trust Fund. The state has been spending more than $3 billion annually – counting federal matching funds -- on road, bridge and rail-network improvements. But the trust fund will run out of money at the end of June unless a new source of revenue can be found. Christie’s proposed budget includes only a placeholder that assumes there will be $1.6 billion available for transportation spending. Democrats have called new borrowing and increasing the state’s gas tax, but so far Christie has yet to agree with them. Part of a potential deal that has emerged has been a proposed trade-off of new revenue from the gas-tax hike sought by Democrats for a phase-out of New Jersey’s estate tax, which is something that Republican lawmakers have long sought. Lifting the state income-tax exemptions on retirement income from pensions and 401(k) plans could also be part of a deal, along with allowing charitable contributions to be deducted from state income taxes.

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