Treasurer defends repurposing of transportation trust fund money

TRENTON – The question of whether the administration’s attempt to take money from the transportation trust fund in order to balance the budget violates a court ruling emerged at today’s Senate Budget Committee hearing.

Committee Chair Sen. Paul Sarlo questioned Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff about the governor’s statement Wednesday that they plan to use $260 million from the fund for the general fund and whether that violates a previous court order forbidding such actions.

Sidamon-Eristoff said the administration is not borrowing.  Rather, he said, they are scaling back a proposed commitment under the pay-as-you-go approach for capital transportation projects.

Sarlo asked where the money would come from then to pay for the projects that the $260 million would have funded, and the treasurer said the state would authorize increased bonding.

The treasurer also said the money being taken from the trust fund would still go toward transportation purposes.

Asked about this borrowing tactic by Sarlo and Sen. Loretta Weinberg, Sidamon-Eristoff made a distinction between capital budgets and the operating budget, and said it’s apples and oranges.

Weinberg’s response was that “it sounds like we’re taking an orange and calling it an apple.”

Treasurer defends repurposing of transportation trust fund money