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Opinion: Taking the Local Road to Restoring the TTF

The bipartisan plan to restore the TTF isn’t a gift, it’s a return to funding levels that have been cut year after year

Michael J. Darcy and John G. Donnadio
Michael J. Darcy and John G. Donnadio

New Jersey families and visitors depend on municipal and county roads to get to where they need to be. Local roads and bridges are absolutely essential to the success of New Jersey commerce and industry. Yet keeping transportation systems in passable shape has become a heavy burden for those who maintain them -- and those who travel them -- as the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) is dwindling, leaving taxpayers stranded in more ways than one.

The New Jersey State League of Municipalities (NJLM) and the New Jersey Association of Counties (NJAC) welcome the proposed transportation funding plans announced by Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Sens. Paul Sarlo, Steven Oroho, Joseph Kyrillos, Loretta Weinberg, and Assemblyman Louis Greenwald -- as well as similar Assembly legislation announced by Speaker Vincent Prieto. Their efforts illustrate legislative leadership on both sides of the aisle and in both houses to renew the Transportation Trust Fund and provide critical property-tax relief.

This new plan for a 10-year, $20 billion Transportation Trust Fund represents a commitment to strong, steady investment in local infrastructure -- thousands of miles of roads and bridges. Without a renewed and reinvigorated TTF, local property taxpayers will need to cover all costs associated with these assets. The proposed legislation is critically important to stop the creep of rising local property taxes by doubling the resources provided to municipalities and counties through the local aid component of the TTF. Rather than a generous gift to municipalities and counties, the new plan represents a return to funding levels that have been cut year after year, creating a crushing annual demand on local property taxes for ongoing efforts to maintain local roads and bridges.

In the first year of the Transportation Trust Fund (1985), local aid funding represented almost 22 percent of the total Transportation Capital funding. The need for investment in local roads and bridges has not decreased since 1985 and no one has suggested it will decrease in the future. Currently, local aid funding is about 12 percent of the TTF capital funding.

You know how important it is to keep your car in good working order. It’s an investment that needs to be made to ensure your ability to get to work and earn a living. It’s an investment in your family’s safety and happiness. It’s an investment that saves you money in the long run. Likewise, investment in our infrastructure -- whether it’s for our roads, for repair of our bridges, or for mass transit -- saves us time and money. Increasing the local aid allocations under the TTF will mitigate reliance on your property tax and provide real tax relief, promote economic growth and job development, and ensure a safe and reliable transportation network.

Michael J. Darcy is executive director of the NJ League of Municipalities. John G. Donnadio is executive director of the NJ Association of Counties.

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