Paying for the nearly empty Transportation Trust Fund to repair roads and bridges was at issue today. Lawmakers were calling for giving local governments a bigger share of the diminishing pie. The Assembly Transportation Committee field-tested ideas on how to save it. And where to spend it. NJTV News Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron was there and discussed the hearing with Anchor Mary Alice Williams.
He said Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman John Wisniewski suggested a 25 cent per gallon hike in the gas tax. “That would get us nearly to the $1.6 billion we need. There’s not a lot of enthusiasm for it and there’s so many other ideas. Ray Lesniak says let’s raise the gas tax 15 cents phased in over three years. A business group today, the Food Council, let’s raise it 9 cents over three years. Let’s tax refineries and pass it on to motorists that way. Let’s impose the sales tax on gas purchases. Let’s put tolls on certain bridges and partner with private industry,” Aron said. “There are a lot of proposals around there. Wisniewski’s is the most aggressive.”
Aron explained that the fund runs out of money next June or July, but it’s a soft deadline. “The legislators that we saw down in Atlantic City this week would like to get it done by February when the governor delivers the budget message, but nothing’s really gonna happen until the governor and Transportation Commissioner Jamie Fox put their own plan on the table because why pass the plan in the legislature if the governor won’t sign it?”
According to Aron, Wisniewski is the only leader promoting a 25 cent per gallon gas tax increase. “The legislative leaders [Steve] Sweeney and [Vincent] Prieto want to sit down with the governor’s chief of staff or the governor or Jamie Fox or all of the above, work out something they can all agree on and enforce and get it done soon,” he said. “But there’s no sign that the administration has a plan yet. So whether that comes next month, next spring, we just don’t know.”