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Sweeney: We may have to override Christie to end N.J. road funding crisis

Friday, June 10, 2016   (0 Comments)
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NJ.com 06/10/16

New Jersey's Democratic-controlled Legislature has never implemented a fully successful Gov. Chris Christie veto override after more than 50 attempts. But when it comes to replenishing the state's nearly insolvent Transportation Trust Fund, a veto override may be the only way. Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) says he's banking on the governor nixing any plan that contains a tax increase, which would be offset by tax cuts, to save the trust fund — which is slated to run out of money by the end of the month.

"I've got to get Republican votes," said Sweeney at an editorial board meeting with The Star-Ledger this week. "I'm going to need a certain number of Republicans to override a governor's veto because, at the end of the day, no matter what cuts we put in place," he said. "I expect him, I think there's a real, real (chance), that he'll veto any tax increase." Despite the most recent warnings from his own transportation commissioner that the fund will soon run dry, Christie sent a clear message to his political counterparts in Trenton: Send me a proposal.

Lawmakers are mulling a gas tax that could be offset by a 10 percent increase to the state's earned income tax credit and changes to the estate tax and charitable givings, Sweeney said. "We want to make sure that if we're going to do any kind of tax cuts that the middle class and the working poor benefit from it," he said. At the heart of the debate over replenishing the fund has been a proposal to raise New Jersey's gas tax. Democrats and the Republican governor have signaled they would support such a measure, but looming above the proposal has been staunch New Jersey opposition to hiking the tax.

Even though Christie is barred from running for governor again due to term limits, Sweeney suggested the governor may still oppose a gas tax plan because of the political ramifications. If a veto override of the entire Legislature is successful, it would be the first time the state's congress rebuked the governor. The state Senate, with the help of three GOP lawmakers, had a successful veto override in October on a controversial gun bill. But the measure fell short in the Assembly.


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