Legislature Reverses Course; Construction Freeze to End

On Monday, October 4, as Gov. Christie’s transportation project freeze went into effect, the NJ legislature’s Joint Budget Operating Committee held an emergency meeting on the crisis, and reversed course, voting reportedly 4–1 to authorize the bond issue.  Democrats had held that such a bond issue requires voters’ approval; the Christie administration said it was following an agreement reached with the outgoing Corzine administration last year to keep the projects going.  A reported 40,000 construction jobs were set to be terminated by the standoff.  Democrats also said they feared that the Governor’s 30-day hold on the ARC trans-Hudson rail tunnel was a prelude to the state’s diverting New Jersey’s portion of the tunnel funding to bail out the Transportation Trust Fund, which is nearly exhausted.  Commentators noted that the Democrats’ standing on principle might not be worth the loss of jobs.  Meanwhile, the administration promised to come up with a plan for the Trust Fund, but reiterated that a gas-tax increase was not in the cards; many see a gas-tax increase as the logical way to continue road and rail construction projects.  New Jersey has one of the lowest gasoline taxes in the nation. (Star-Ledger; Daily Record; WNYC)

The Lackawanna Coalition has become increasingly concerned that New Jersey cannot afford its share of the cost of the proposed ARC Project, as demonstrated by the current difficulties with the Transportation Trust Fund.  Coalition Chair David Peter Alan said, “If New Jersey can’t afford to continue construction on hundreds of highway projects and a few comparatively small transit projects, I don’t see how the state could afford billions of dollars for a deep-cavern tunnel to nowhere.”