New Jersey Runs Out of Transportation Money, Christie Halts All Projects

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ordered all transportation construction in the state to be halted today after the state’s Transportation Trust Fund went bankrupt last night. Despite Christie’s attempts to point fingers, he really has no one to blame but himself.

Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr
Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

After the State Senate shot down a belated effort to raise New Jersey’s gas tax last night, Christie blamed Democrats pandering to “unions.” But this crisis has been brewing for years. In 2010, Christie killed the ARC Tunnel, denying desperately needed transit capacity between Jersey and New York City, in large part to avoid raising the gas tax.

Recently Christie came around on the gas tax, reports Janna Chernetz at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Mobilizing the Region blog, but only under conditions that might undermine transit:

In October, Christie announced that he would consider a gas tax increase if only it were coupled with so-called “tax fairness.” (Fast-forward to this morning, when the governor appeared on NJ101.5 to defend — yes, defend — raising the gas tax.)

How did we get here? After an Olympic-caliber game of political hot potato, bi-partisan legislation to replenish the bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund was introduced last week and passed by the Assembly and Senate Budget committees. The bills (A10, A11, S2411, S2412) were poised for vote by both houses this past Monday so that a bill could be presented to the governor before Friday. But by Monday evening, the vote was off.

Enter Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, who engineered a deal late Monday with Governor Christie to raise the gas tax while reducing the sales tax from 7 percent to 6.5 percent on January 1, 2017 and then again to 6 percent a year later. The plan would replenish the TTF, but it would present trouble for NJ Transit, whose operating subsidy has historically come from the general fund (although over the last decade the agency has relied more heavily on Clean Energy Fund raids, toll revenue and and capital-to-operating transfers). It seems likely that another hit to NJ Transit’s budget will eventually lead to more fare hikes and service cuts.

Ultimately, however, the Senate didn’t back Christie’s last minute plan.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington considers how the D.C. region would be different today if it had stopped building Metro in the late 1980s. Green City Blue Lake reviews Cleveland’s newly opened, pedestrianized Public Square. And The Urbanist gives a history of car-share innovation in Seattle.

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