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Poll: Quick! Pick a Plan to Refuel the Transportation Trust Fund

Basically, it’s one minute to midnight. Is it still possible to stop the TTF from going bust?

The Transportation Trust Fund is set to expire today.

This is not news. For the past few years, New Jersey lawmakers, advocates, and the business community have been talking about the looming crisis. The TTF pays for maintaining the state’s roads, bridges, and many mass-transit projects. It also supplies aid to municipalities to fix local roads. The fund, which was originally created in 1984, was expected to be paid through “pay as you go” money from the general budget together with borrowing. But critics have been calling for a renewal to the fund for more than 10 years, complaining about an over-reliance on borrowing that was due to reach its limit.

Despite this, the Christie administration was able to avoid tax hikes for the fund by cancelling the ARC tunnel to Manhattan and using the state’s contribution to the project to extend the life of the existing fund. Meanwhile, the fund has been refinancing its obligations every year. At this point, most officials agree there does not seem to be any money available to refinance. Anything that could be obtained through another round of refinancing would have to be devoted to the fund’s debt.

For the past few months, lawmakers have been trying to come up with a solution. Gov. Chris Christie said he was waiting for the Legislature to make a proposal. Behind the scenes Democrats were working with Republicans on the project because they feared a Christie veto, so they needed a supermajority to ensure passage. The state Senate just recently revealed its plan, which called for a 23 cent hike in the gas tax, plus some tax cuts the Republicans wanted such as elimination of the estate tax, deductions for charity donations, and tax cuts for senior citizens.

On Monday afternoon, after the state Senate approved its plan, Christie approached the Assembly with his own idea: a reduction in the state’s sales tax from 7 percent to 6 percent, in return for the same 23-cent tax hike. The cost of the Christie plan would be more than double ($1.6 billion at minimum) the Senates proposal.

Which approach would you support?

  • I love the idea of an across-the-board tax cut, even if it is only the sales tax and it means a gas-tax hike. Basically, the state has borrowed too much to keep the roads in good shape so we do need to find ways to fix our infrastructure. If that comes with a broad-based tax cut, all the better.

  • The Senate plan seems to me the one that makes most sense. We need the gas-tax hike if we are to remain competitive. All the state business organizations are behind this, and that should tell you something. The Senate plan seemed to be worked out with representatives of the Republican party to get their agreement -- and the cuts chosen seem to be the same ones people ask for year in and year out, like the estate tax. How Prieto and Christie can come in with a new proposal that hasn’t even been properly vetted is really difficult to understand.

  • I still can’t wrap my head around the idea of a major tax hike and then a tax cut. If we can afford a tax cut to go along with a tax hike, why aren’t we just paying for the TTF from the general budget? No one seems to be able to explain that to me.

  • This is just Christie pulling a fast one again. Who is he trying to impress now? Trump? He is taking advantage of the split between Prieto and Sweeney, but I’m shocked that the rest of the Democrats are falling for it. An across-the-board tax cut is really regressive, particularly since we don’t tax clothing and groceries at all. This cut benefits the wealthy and will blow a huge hole in what has become a challenging budget as we try to meet our pension, education, and infrastructure obligations. Soon we will have the lowest bond rating in the country.

  • I don’t want to see tax hikes. Period. A sales-tax cut would be nice, but I think we should just spend what we have until we get our house in order. Then we can see some responsible cuts as well as hikes. Besides, the taxes that really need to be reduced are property taxes. What happened to talk of that?

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