TRENTON – A report issued Wednesday by N.J. Policy Perspective says the state needs to invest more than $21 billion over the next five years to maintain its aging infrastructure and improve New Jersey’s chances of economic recovery.
The report states that fixing New Jersey’s roads and bridges “is vital to energizing the state’s lagging recovery from the Great Recession.”
In addition to investing $21.3 billion over the next half decade, New Jersey must also increase the gasoline tax, and counties and towns need to invest $514 million a year between 2014 and 2018, according to the report: “Invest in New Jersey: Improve Our Roads and Bridges.”
The NJPP report claims that the $21 billion state investment is $7.5 billion more than current financing can provide.
Regarding the gasoline tax, NJPP says that New Jersey’s is the third lowest in the nation at 14.5 cents and has not been increased since 1988. Gov. Chris Christie has steadfastly refused to entertain an increase in the tax.
“A nickel-a-gallon increase would, if combined with the revenues diverted from the tax cut, close the gap between our transportation needs and what’s available in TTF (Transportation Trust Fund) funding over the next five years,” the report argues.
NJPP, as it often has in the past, says in this report that tax cuts alone are not the way out of the economic downturn. Instead, NJPP says major investment is needed.
“Evidence abounds that years of neglect and under-investment in our roads, schools and other assets are major reasons for the state’s slow recovery,” NJPP says in a summary.
“While using funds from the state’s annual operating budget for long-term capital projects violates a widely accepted financial principle – that the costs of building things like roads should be spread among all those who will benefit from them over decades – the operating funds could fill an urgent need to jumpstart the modernization of New Jersey’s transportation system and supplement the long-term funding of existing transportation projects,” NJPP states in the report.
According to NJPP, New Jersey could generate approximately $5.3 billion of the $7.5 billion it needs between 2014 and 2018 by using the federal and state tax revenues already dedicated to the Transportation Trust Fund. Over eight years, the state could invest $10 billion to address its crumbling roads and bridges, NJPP states.
The Christie administration opted for a pay-as-you-go plan rather than pursuing longer-term bonding for transportation infrastructure work.
The report also criticized the decision to abandon the Access to the Region’s Core tunnel project into New York and said that exacerbated the infrastructure problems as well as saddled New Jersey with penalties.
But the administration halted the project because it said the way it was set up New Jersey would have been on the hook for cost overruns that it could not afford.