New Jersey road funding bill heads to governor

| 3/24/2006

The New Jersey Senate approved a bill Monday, March 20, that would keep the state's nearly bankrupt trust fund, which pays for transportation, up and running for another five years. It doesn't allow for any increases in the state's fuel taxes.

Senators voted 25-13 to send the measure to Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, who initiated the proposal. Assembly lawmakers approved it on a 48-28 vote March 16.

Once signed into law, the bill – A2813 – would restructure some of the fund's debt and clear the way for additional borrowing to finance up to $1.6 billion annually for transportation projects. Currently, the fund gets $650 million.

Supporters said the measure would allow New Jersey to continue to receive matching federal funds, which amount to $1.5 billion a year, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

“By issuing bonds to replenish the trust, we are spreading out the costs for projects that will benefit New Jersey drivers for years to come,” Sen. Joseph Doria, D-Hudson, said in a written statement. “We are also giving taxpayers this year a reprieve, while we decide how best to dedicate funding without adding to the already-high cost of living in New Jersey.”

Opponents, many of them Republicans, said it would add to the state's debt.

The short-term fix, they say, would cause the state to pay an estimated $11 billion in interest on the new bonds during the next 30 years.

“It seems there could have been an alternative that was more fiscally conservative,” Sen. Leonard Lance, R-Hunterdon, told The Inquirer .

The Corzine administration and mostly Democratic supporters have dubbed the proposal the most politically realistic solution.