Governor Christie Affirms New Transportation Funding

 

In a late Friday afternoon news dump, Governor Chris Christie this afternoon authorized funding for the Transportation Trust Fund Authority (“TTFA”), a controversial plan that includes a 23 cents gas tax hike.

“Through this legislation, we are continuing our commitment to providing tax relief for working New Jerseyans of all income levels, senior citizens, military veterans and property owners, while ensuring  solid, reliable, state-of-the-art roads, bridges and mass transit systems,” said Christie. “Over the next eight years, a record $32 billion in state and federal funds will be invested in infrastructure improvements and modernizations in New Jersey. “This compromise legislation locks in what I called for from the beginning: tax fairness for all residents, leading to a more affordable state and an improved economy.”

The governor included an executive order:

Executive Order No. 216 (TTFA) –  Orders Executive Order No. 210, signed on June 30, 2016, and Executive Order No. 213, signed on August 17, 2016, rescinded. Executive Order No. 210, declared a State of Emergency and ordered the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation (“DOT”) and the Executive Director of New Jersey Transit (“NJT”) to plan an immediate and orderly shutdown of all nonessential work on the State’s transportation infrastructure that was funded by the TTFA.  Executive Order No. 213 declared a continuing State of Emergency and ordered that general State funds be transferred to the TTFA in amounts sufficient to permit transportation projects essential for health and safety to continue.

Senator Paul Sarlo and Senator Steve Oroho, the Senate sponsors of the legislation that provides renewed financing for the state’s Transportation Trust Fund and delivers a series of tax cuts, issued the following statements today after the bill was signed into law by Governor Christie:

“This is one of the most significant investments in New Jersey’s infrastructure and economy in recent history,” said Sarlo. “We can now put people back to work on stalled transportation projects and launch the renewed Transportation Trust Fund with the sustained investments needed to repair and improve the state’s infrastructure and to support economic growth. The roads, bridges, tunnels and railways are the lifeblood of the state’s economy. The dedicated funding of $2 billion a year will create 34,000 jobs, generate $4.7 billion in economic activity and help maintain an infrastructure that transports people and products safely, effectively and efficiently.”

“This is a plan that delivers tax fairness with a tax structure that is good for the economy and that provides savings for the working poor, for retirees who often live on fixed incomes, for veterans, and for parents, grandparents and small business owners who want to pass down their assets to their family. The elimination of the so-called estate tax will make New Jersey more competitive with other states and allow more people to remain in state,” said Oroho. “The plan also helps New Jersey’s motorists by having the many out-of-state drivers who use our roads help pay for their maintenance and improvements. It is a matter of economic necessity that we make the needed improvements to our infrastructure and a matter of fairness that out-of-state drivers share the costs.”

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen) released the following statement Friday after legislation replenishing the Transportation Trust Fund was signed into law:

“With this new law, we’ve ensured a stronger New Jersey and a safer New Jersey, put laborers back to work and taken a major step toward finally bringing our state a 21st century infrastructure.

“If the Transportation Trust Fund and New Jersey were to remain viable, we were going to need a serious discussion of the needs of the program. I started that discussion in January 2014 when I became Assembly Speaker, and while it may not have been popular, it was the right thing to do. The future of our state required it. The economic well-being of our state demanded it.

“This was a difficult process, but throughout it all I kept insisting everyone get in the same room and hash out the best agreement we could at this time that would get signed into law. I’m glad to see that effort come to fruition and to see projects resume across our state, putting people back to work.

“In the end, this will be seen as a pivotal moment for New Jersey’s future, one that laid the groundwork for a better future.

“I hope voters in November will now agree to my proposal to permanently dedicate all fuel tax revenue for transportation purposes. That will rightly ensure that transportation funding is handled responsibly from here on out. I’m confident the voters will see the common sense behind this idea.”

Senator Kip Bateman (R-Somerset) and Senator Jen Beck (R-Monmouth), both in battleground districts leading into a reelection year, voted against the TTF plan. Following the governor signing the new law, Bateman this afternoon said he plans to introduce legislation to repeal the 23 cent per gallon gas tax increase.

For her part, Beck slammed Christie.

“I’m disappointed that the Governor signed the gas tax into law,” she said. “I have no doubt that his office, just like my office and those of most legislators, was bombarded with calls from the many people of this state who oppose this billion dollar tax increase. Defying the will of so many people on such an important affordability issue will not help us to change the perception shared by too many residents that they are being taxed out of New Jersey.

“New Jersey is a commuter state, and this billion dollar tax increase will be a crushing blow to the many middle-class commuters who are already struggling to afford the costs of getting to work every day,” the senator added.