New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Rick Hammer appeared before the Assembly Budget Committee Tuesday to present the agency’s plans and priorities for the upcoming 2017 fiscal year. There’s just one problem: there’s no mechanism to actually fund the $1.6 billion plan. In fact, there’s only enough money in the state’s Transportation Trust Fund to get the agency through July 1.
“This is as close to D-Day as one could possibly get... This is an extraordinary event and it’s not being approached with that kind of gravity.”
Governor Christie responded by telling the legislature to get 41 votes for a gas tax, and “then they’ll give me something to think about.”
But the governor didn’t stop there.
“It must represent tax fairness. Let’s see if [Speaker Vincent Prieto] can get 41 votes. What they don’t understand – [Budget Chairman Gary] Schaer and [Assemblyman Troy] Singleton is it’s not incumbent on the executive branch. What’s your solution? Show some leadership.”
But the legislature has shown some leadership. Here are two transportation funding bills which have been proposed during the current session:
- S887/A424 (Greenstein/Eustace) Dedicates portion of sales tax derived from electricity, natural gas, and hydrogen used to fuel motor vehicles to Transportation Trust Fund. This bill has been around since 2014.
- A1916 (Wisniewski) Increases petroleum products gross receipts tax rate; dedicates revenue generated from tax to Transportation Trust Fund; provides gross income tax deduction for certain taxes paid on motor fuel. This bill has been around since 2014.
And two more from the previous legislative session:
- A4757 (Garcia) Imposes transportation infrastructure development fee and dedicates portion to municipality, county, and Transportation Trust Fund.
- S1865 (Lesniak) Increases motor fuels tax five cents per year for three years.
Unfortunately none of these bills ever made it very far. It’s true that Speaker Prieto and Senate President Stephen Sweeney have focused on trying to broker a deal before presenting their solution, but it’s not as if a lack of cooperation from the governor has stopped the legislature from pushing ahead with other initiatives they believe to be in the best interest of the state.
The Transportation Trust Fund runs dry in less than 11 weeks.