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Democrats Challenge Christie to Step up to Plate and Share his Transit Plan

Thursday, April 14, 2016   (0 Comments)
Share | 4/14/2016

Democratic lawmakers have listened to Gov. Chris Christie say for weeks that it’s on them to come up with a plan to renew the state’s Transportation Trust Fund before it goes broke this summer. Now they’re firing back, saying it’s the governor himself who is hiding from that responsibility. The war of words comes as the state currently has no clear plan in place to extend capital funding for road, bridge and rail-network projects beyond June 30. Meanwhile, Christie has been locked in a stalemate with Democratic legislative leaders over whether to hike New Jersey’s gas tax, which is the trust fund’s main source of revenue. Christie has repeatedly said that if Democrats want to increase the gas tax, the state constitution gives them the sole authority to pursue such a remedy. And his proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 includes only a $1.6 billion placeholder for state transportation spending, with no specific explanation of how his administration would come up with the cash. During a lengthy Assembly Budget Committee hearing on state transportation spending that was held yesterday (April 13) in Trenton, Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Burlington) said its traditionally been the role of the governor going back decades to the creation of the trust fund to craft each reauthorization plan. This year, however, with the 14.5-cent gas tax now only producing enough revenue to pay down the fund’s significant debt, Christie is attempting to shift the burden onto lawmakers, Singleton said. Still, many believe the governor and lawmakers will ultimately reach a bipartisan deal that will include some new tax cut that Christie and other Republicans prefer as well as the gas-tax increase that Democrats have said is necessary. Under that scenario, lawmakers would also have to approve any increase in borrowing for the trust fund, which reached its debt ceiling late last year. Christie said that while lawmakers want to talk primarily about the gas tax, he also wants the conversation to include overall “tax fairness” for New Jersey residents. He went on to criticize the aggressive nature of New Jersey’s estate tax and the state’s lack of an income-tax exemption for charitable contributions, suggesting those are items that lawmakers should be concerned about.

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