Simpson admits gas tax not on the table

TRENTON – It’s budgetary bedlam here as Department of Transportation Commissioner James Simpson pushes to get bonding in place to keep the Transportation Trust Fund afloat and runs into Democrats eager to pin him down on the longer term plans for a broken trust fund.

According to the Department of Transportation, a resolution on the table would approve the sale of up to $1.25 billion in bonds and the refinancing of up to $500 million in existing debt was anticipated to occur before the end of September to carry projects forward into the spring of 2011.

“Before I give a vote today for over a billion dollars’ worth of borrowing, why are we borrowing without a plan in place? Why am I doing this if I am literally at the doorstep of an answer (for a long term plan to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund),” asks Assemblyman Lou Greenwald (D-Voorhees).

“We’re here to reauthorize these bonds, I’d like to move the bonds,” says state Sen. Tony Bucco (R-Boonton) in defense of Simpson.

Sarlo goes on attack, plugging Simpson for answers on the administration’s farther reaching plan.

Gas tax?  

“We’ve had pie sales on the table, too,” Simpson says. “What ultimately sticks at the end of the day is what we’re talking about right right now, all kinds of crazy things, including selling roads.

“The gas tax hasn’t been raised in over a quarter of a century. That must tell you where people are on the gas tax.”

All right, says Sarlo, the governor doesn’t want a gas tax. This much is true.

ARC tunnel breakdown?

“Is money from the ACR tunnel a potential solution to the long term problem?” Sarlo wants to know. 

“I don’t know,” Simpson says. “You’ve got a billion dollars in federal dollars that would ordinarily be associated with highway projects; roads and bridges.”

Greenwald (D-Voorhees) tells Simpson that he’s inclined to approve borrowing to keep the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) in working shape, but first he needs answers on how the Christie administration intends to restructure the long-term health of the TTF. The assemblyman later complains about what he sees as a lack of Christie administration candor, and says three different members of the administration quoted existing TTF figures running from $300 million to $100 million to $50 million in just four days. 

“He didn’t have to put people out of work,” Senate Majority Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen) says of the governor. “But he halted $1.7 billion in transportation projects because he could.”

Democrats did nothing when they were in power for eight years, argues state Sen. Tony Bucco (R-Boonton).

“The time has come that we put our heads together across the aisle and get to the bottom of what the problem is so we don’t have to keep coming back with temporary fixes,” Bucco says.

“This administration has had nine months and all they’ve come up with is a billion dollars in borrowing,”” Sarlo complains.

“You had eight years,” Bucco snaps.

Simpson admits gas tax not on the table