As the standoff between Governor Chris Christie and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) over two competing bills to fund the Transportation Trust Fund continues, one Democratic source told PolitickerNJ that a deal is likely before the end of the week. That compromise on whether to offset a hike in the gas tax with cuts to the estate tax or sales tax would come as Donald Trump makes a final decision on who his running mate will be.
Trump told the Washington Post on Monday “I will make my mind up over the next three to four days. In my mind, I have someone that would be really good.”
The timing of Trump’s decision could help the TTF negotiations along by giving Christie a final answer on whether he will become the real estate magnate’s running mate. Whether Christie remains the the leader of Trump’s transition team or joins Trump on the ballot, he could be more comfortable compromising with Democrats to pass the first tax increase of his tenure as governor.
Sweeney has said that he is working to devise a compromise, but he and Christie have not met to talk about the details yet. Business groups, progressive groups and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have criticized Christie’s favored plan to reduce the sales tax for the hole it would blow in the state’s budget — up to $1.7 billion rather than $900 million.
The estate tax plan would also allow Christie to boast that he brokered the deal that killed the estate tax, a longtime target of otherwise centrist business groups and the moderate Republicans that have supported him through two terms in the governor’s mansion.
That criticism from his business allies continued this week as ForwardNJ, a coalition of regional chambers of commerce and contractors’ groups, called for Christie to keep some aspects of the original plan, which Democrats drafted in a bid to offer Christie what he termed “tax fairness” in exchange for the gas tax.
Chairman Tom Bracken of the state chamber of commerce decried Christie’s executive order effecting work stoppages at TTF-funded construction sites.
“Work shutdowns implemented last week are now costing New Jersey 4,200 jobs, $41 million in work stoppage costs, and $9 million in weekly lost sales and wages. We can’t allow this to continue.
“New Jersey can turn a devastating situation into an enormous victory for our state and its residents by incorporating the best aspects of all proposed TTF legislation into one plan. This kind of solution can stimulate the growth of our state’s economy, while also accelerating our momentum toward reestablishing the prosperity we all desire.”
Democrats are also continuing to pile on. Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-15) called the stoppages irresponsible Tuesday as he pointed to one historic bridge in his home district. The TTF has enough money to limp through August, when a compromise between the two gas tax bills is expected to go to a vote.
“When the Governor’s Office announced the list of projects that would be halted, they claimed that ‘the plan exempts projects deemed essential for the protection of the health, safety and welfare of all citizens,’” Gusciora said.
“Yet the Stony Brook Bridge on Route 206 is a perfect example of Governor Christie’s misguided priorities. As the oldest bridge in the state, it’s already started falling apart and is relying on temporary repairs, and yet it remains in constant use. Not allowing construction to continue immediately makes everyone who uses that bridge fundamentally unsafe.”