The first district Republicans have seized on a new report from a Wall Street lawyer that says monetization could increase tolls by 150 percent.
The analysis by New York-based attorney Peter Humphreys, reported by the Associated Press this morning, said that issuing bonds to bring about a cash infusion would increase tolls in the long run. Although the details of the plan have not been made public by Gov. Corzine, Humphreys said that the average commuter on the Turnpike could wind up paying $2,400 a year in tolls.
State Senator Nicholas Asselta and his Assembly running mates Norris Clark and Michael Donohue have made monetization the central issue of their campaign. They’re facing Assemblyman and state Senate candidate Jeff Van Drew, along with Assemblyman Nelson Albano and newcomer Matt Milam, in one of the most fiercely competitive races in the state .
"No wonder the Governor doesn't want to release his plan to monetize our toll roads – and no wonder Jeff Van Drew is doing everything he can to deny his June 21 vote in support of this plan," said Asselta. "The Governor and his Democratic allies who already voted togive him a blank check to prepare to sell the toll roads – including Jeff Van Drew and Nelson Albano – should just scrap this outrageous plan and go back to thedrawing board."
Van Drew and Albano have, however, come out against monetization, even holding rallies against it. The two Assemblymen were the only Democrats to vote against tabling an amendment by Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck to strike preparatory monetization language from the budget, although they ultimately voted to approve the budget with the language intact.
Van Drew responded by pointing out what he said was Asselta’s hypocrisy by voting in favor of a now moot 1999 bill that authorized the lease of state assets to serve as tax shelters for businesses that could claim the depreciation value. Republicans have responded that the bill did not authorize the lease of revenue producing assets.
“It says it should be construed liberally and gives the treasurer very broad authorization to mortgage, finance and refinance,” said Van Drew. “So they say that it isn’t the intent, and they say it’s for assets without value. Well they should also say which highways they think are without value.”