The Dialogues of Prieto: speaker hopeful of Fox’s influence; evades questions of gas tax

LAWRENCEVILLE – The New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee on Wednesday will begin hearings to explore ways of mending New Jersey’s broken Transportation Trust Fund. As these discussions begin, Governor Chris Christie has appointed Jamie Fox, a veteran Democratic political strategist to assist in negotiations.

Tonight, General Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32), Secaucus, visited Rider University for the Governing New Jersey Lecture Series hosted by the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics and addressed the upcoming discussion as one of the issues he is glad to see come to the floor.

“I called in the Transportation Committee to start having hearings which are tomorrow, to start having this dialogue.” Prieto stated. “It is a problem that needs to be fixed, but the bottom line is we need revenues.”

He was ambiguous when describing where to find those funds. 

“$1.6 billion is what we try to raise for our roads every year,” said Prieto. “But we raise about $1.2 billion from gas tax that right now every cent of that is going to pay down debt. After Minnesota had that tragedy, we did a survey of our bridges,” he added, referring to the collapse of the I35-W Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis back in August of 2007, which killed 13 people and injured 145. “Thirty-six percent of them were either obsolete or structurally deficient. 11 million residents ride over these [New Jersey] bridges everyday so we want to make sure we are being proactive, not reactive,” the speaker said.

When asked where the funds would come from to be proactive, Prieto told PolitickerNJ, “It is a conversation that has to happen.” He suggested perhaps refinancing or consolidation but did not provide any further details. 

Prieto also told PolitickerNJ when asked about the gas tax, “Road repairs that are based on whether someone gets a flat tire or hits a pot hole are about $600 dollars a year,” said Prieto.  “A gas tax would be much less than that.” 

Prieto said he thinks that Governor Christie’s appointment of Jaime Fox to head the Department of Transportation (DOT) was a beneficial move that he hopes will produce positive outcomes.

According to the New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund Authority, New Jersey imposes a 10.5 cent per gallon tax on the sale of gasoline and a 13.5 cent per gallon tax on diesel fuel and is ranked in the range of 45th-48th lowest fuel tax rates in the country.  The question remains whether Fox be able to replenish funds without implementing a higher gas tax. 

Prieto evaded the answer in his remarks from this evening, but hinted he trusted in solutions coming out of Assembly meetings as another bitter winter quickly approaches for New Jersey’s roadways.

The Dialogues of Prieto: speaker hopeful of Fox’s influence; evades questions of gas tax