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Christie’s Borrowing Binge Makes Transportation Trust Fund Run Dry

Christie signaled how he planned to get through FY2015 during his regular monthly radio call-in show on 101.5-FM on February 26, the night after his budget speech: He does not feel obligated to allocate the full $1.6 billion. Asked by a caller how much the Transportation Trust Fund would borrow, Christie replied, “That’s really a floating number depending upon which projects get done in the current fiscal year and which projects hit in the next fiscal year, but we’ll certainly be giving that information as we get more exact on it as we get into the spring season for doing construction.”

That same day, OLS reported to Schaer in a memo he cited during the hearing that “on a cash-accounting basis, the Transportation Trust Fund plans to utilize a large amount of its revolving cash balance, $520 million out of its $670 million, in order to cover TTF expenses without exceeding its statutory bond limit” for FY 2015. That decision, however, wiped out TTF’s cash cushion for FY2016.

NJ Spotlight submitted detailed questions to the Treasury Department and other state agencies more than a month ago asking whether the state was in danger of exceeding its debt limit for the Transportation Trust Fund in FY2015 or FY2016, and asking specifically for comment on Chernetz’s analysis.

“We fully intend to spend the funding we committed in each fiscal year of the plan,” Treasury spokesman Christopher Santarelli wrote in response. “As you may know, not all of the commitments for a particular fiscal year are spent in that fiscal year.”

Treasury press officers asked several times for additional time to get answers to detailed questions. Yesterday, Joseph Perone, the new Treasury communications director, said Santarelli’s response would be it. “You’re just asking the same questions in different ways,” Perone said.

Sidamon-Eristoff shook his head at an attempted followup question Tuesday and dismissed an attempted question at a distance of ten paces yesterday with a brusque “No comment.”

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