New Jersey bill would bolster transportation funding

| 12/10/2009

A New Jersey Senate panel has endorsed legislation that would provide a bit of aid to the state’s struggling Transportation Trust Fund.

The Senate Budget Committee voted 9-3 to advance a bill that would route more than $2 million in annual repair costs from the state’s general account to the nearly bankrupt trust fund.

Sponsored by Sen. Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, the bill would expand the “permitted maintenance” of public highways on which trust fund revenue can be spent to include fixing potholes and similar damage. The work must be able to extend the useful life of the project for at least three years.

Supporters say the action is necessary because there is concern the Transportation Trust Fund, which finances large-scale, long-term road projects, could run out of money within two years.

Opponents are concerned the state could start borrowing money to pay for general maintenance while looking to replenish the trust fund.

The bill – S2755 – awaits consideration on the Senate floor. If approved there, it would move to the Assembly. However, time is running out. All legislation must advance to the governor’s desk by Jan. 11.

Once the Legislature convenes the 2010 session in mid-January transportation, funding is expected to continue to draw plenty of attention. Some lawmakers have expressed interest in pursuing a fuel tax increase to fund transportation projects.

Gov.-elect Chris Christie has said he is opposed to increasing the fuel tax rates. But proponents of higher taxes say Christie will have to change his mind in order to help support the state’s transportation needs.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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