New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has once again denied that a transportation funding crisis exists, but this time, it was in his annual budget address. By relegating the Transportation Trust Fund’s insolvency to a “politically driven” crisis, the governor has demonstrated that he is willing to ignore simple math.
Although Governor Christie did mention his previous five-year capital program, he did not include the fact that FY2016 is the last year funded. In FY2017, all the dedicated revenue in the TTF will go toward debt service.
Furthermore, the leftover ARC funds the Port Authority has been contributing since 2012 stop this year. The one-shot revenues from the Turnpike Authority ($295 million annually since 2012) are no longer promised. And this is just the capital side. New Jersey Transit faces a $425 million hole in its operating budget come 2017, which will be partially plugged by a diversion of monies from the Clean Energy Fund.
The governor didn’t just leave out how he plans to fund the state’s transportation needs; Christie didn’t mention how much the state will be investing next year. New Jersey has a historic trend of stagnant funding for the last decade, which means the state’s buying power shrinks as the cost of materials and labor grows.
New Jersey’s transportation network cannot afford to live year by year, especially with major projects — Hudson Bergen Light Rail expansion, the Glassboro-Camden Line, and the Gateway rail tunnel — which require long-term planning (and funding).
And then there’s the state’s everyday needs, which won’t fare much better until there’s a TTF reauthorization bill that identifies a sustainable funding source. The Garden State has a seemingly never-ending backlog of deficient bridges and lots of roadways in poor condition which cost drivers an extra $600 each year. Raising the gas tax, which hasn’t seen an increase since 1988, might be a good start, especially now that gas prices have reached a seven-year low.