Labor Leader Pocino Criticizes Guadagno for Gas Tax Stance

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who broke a long silence last week when she came out against a ballot question favored by Governor Chris Christie (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who broke a long silence last week when she came out against a ballot question favored by Governor Chris Christie (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images) Getty Images

Following Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno’s abrupt break with Governor Chris Christie and Democratic majorities in the legislature, Port Authority Commissioner Raymond Pocino is criticizing Guadagno for her stance against a plan to dedicate funds from the state’s recent gas tax hike to transportation projects.

That plan will go to voters in the form of a ballot question on election day, and was the least controversial among several warring proposals during the long battle between the Assembly, the Senate and the Governor over how to offset the hike with additional tax cuts. Guadagno, who stands to benefit from distancing herself from Christie ahead of an anticipated gubernatorial bid, told N.J. 101.5 FM that she opposes the ballot question last week.

Pocino serves as a commissioner with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and as President Emeritus of Construction & General Laborers Local 172 in Trenton, alluded to the political advantages Guadagno might reap from opposing what he called a necessary step for the upkeep of the state’s transportation infrastructure.

“I can’t figure out if Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno’s call to vote no on public question # 2 is an act of political opportunism and dishonesty or simply a dereliction of duty,” Pocino said in a statement. “Either way, it is wrong. Public Question # 2 gives voters the power to ensure that money raised from the gas tax goes to maintaining and fixing our transportation infrastructure and nowhere else.  Simply put, money raised through transportation will be dedicated to transportation.  Makes sense.

“But let’s be clear what the Lt. Governor’s ‘no’ vote would do: there would still be an increase in the gas tax, as well as tax breaks for New Jerseyans, but what there wouldn’t be is a constitutional check on where that money goes.  Free money for politicians!  That will end well, right?”

“A vote for question No. 2 is a vote for the gas tax. If you like the gas tax you’ll like No. 2,” Guadagno said on the air last Thursday. “What we’re really saying in this question is that you have my permission, you meaning the legislators, have my permission to borrow $12 billion and pay for it with that 23 cents, the diesel fuel tax and the ‘baby oil’ tax.”

Sponsor and Assembly Speaker Vince Prieto suggested that Guadagno may not have actually read the question itself, which does not mention borrowing. Christie spokesman Brian Murray, meanwhile, said that Guadagno’s comments seemed out of character.

“The governor finds it hard to believe that the lieutenant governor supports giving an unguarded pot of money to the Democrat-controlled legislature, rather than on needed infrastructure projects,” Murray said in a statement. “It must be a misunderstanding.”

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