No Tax Hikes Needed For Transportation, Christie Says

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Peter Fricke Contributor
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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is facing criticism for denying the state faces a transportation funding crisis, but new budget projections seem to vindicate his claim.

New Jersey Spotlight claimed in an article released Monday that, “Christie’s record on transportation is the one policy that unites many Democrats and Republicans in their criticism of him,” citing outrage among transportation advocates over Christie’s claim during his annual budget address in February that transportation funding was “not a crisis at the moment.”

“Christie is so inattentive to transportation,” Martin Robins, a former executive at the state Department of Transportation and the Port Authority, told NJ Spotlight. “Just look at what he just said, that there’s no crisis. He is so manipulative and inattentive.” (RELATED: Prankster Sabotages NJ Traffic Sign, ‘A**ville, Next Left’)

However, New Jersey Treasurer Andrew P. Sidamon-Eristoff said at a hearing held Monday by the Assembly Budget Committee that the governor’s statement was justified, and denied that New Jersey faces an imminent funding shortfall.

“There is no proverbial Sword of Damocles hanging over the State’s transportation capital program as of July 1, 2015,” he asserted, pointing out that the Transportation Trust Fund Authority will have “cash resources sufficient to support an estimated total of $1.127 billion in State transportation project costs in Fiscal Year 2016, per the existing TTFA authorization.”

Forward NJ, a coalition of business groups, advocates and elected officials, claims that the state’s Transportation Trust Fund is close to running out of money for bridge and road repairs, train line expansions and other new projects, and argues that a tax increase is necessary to ensure the fund’s long-term viability. (RELATED: Light Rail is the Wrong Choice for Cities)

“It’s not that that there were not difficult budget years,” Cathleen Lewis, director of public affairs for AAA New Jersey and a member of the coalition, told NJ Spotlight, “but there is a reluctance to discuss things that start with T (for tax) … and I think we’re getting to the point where there are not many more alternatives.”

Christie spokesman Brian Murray, on the other hand, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that, “Our plan for transportation project funding in Fiscal Year 16 closely follows the multi-year authorization that does not expire until the start of FY 17,” even without tax hikes. (RELATED: Gov. Chris Christie Decides Major Fight over Banned Tesla Sales in New Jersey)

“As outlined in the TTFA Fiscal Year 2016 Financial plan,” Murray said, “an estimated $1.127 billion in expected FY 16 State Transportation Project Costs will be supported by $626.8 million of new Transportation Program Bonds, $241.5 million in NJ Transit repayment of FY 15 cash advance, $35.9 million Build America Bonds interest subsidy, and the estimated $280.8 million TTFA cash balance entering FY 16.”

Murray also noted that during testimony at the budget committee hearing, “David Rosen of the Office of Legislative Services confirmed Governor Christie’s timeline … [and] said that, for the first time in 21 years, his revenue projections for the coming budget cycle align with the Office of the Governor.”

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