Critics say Corzine rushing toll plan

| 1/24/2008

New Jersey Senate Republicans are criticizing the way Gov. Jon Corzine is conducting his public information campaign about his proposal to restructure state finances through a series of toll increases.

The New Jersey Senate Committee on Budget and Appropriations met Wednesday, Jan. 23, to discuss the governor’s proposal to increase tolls 50 percent every four years from 2010 through 2022 on the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and the Atlantic City Expressway, and to place tolls on Route 440 which is currently toll free.

Members of both parties issued statements critical of the proposal.

State Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-Morris, said Corzine’s town hall meetings to promote the toll hikes are nothing more than slide presentations and quotes from the governor’s “State of the State” speech.

“If the Trenton Democrats truly want to incur nearly $40 billion in new debt and pay for it through crushing toll hikes aimed at the middle class and small businesses, then they should put a bill before this committee,” Bucco stated in a press release.

Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean, R-Union, himself a former governor, called the Corzine plan “probably the biggest fiscal gimmick in New Jersey history.”

Not all of the opposition to the Corzine plan has come from the Republican side of the aisle.

Democrats including Sen. Brian Stack, D-Union City, said his constituents are deeply concerned about the proposed toll hikes.

“As it is now, these increases would impose prohibitive hits on regular working men and women,” Stack stated in a press release. “The administration also should reject the notion that imposing tolls on Route 440 is acceptable – that can’t happen.”

Stack congratulated Corzine on his bold move to restructure state debt, but said it should be fair to the people.

Corzine has stated that he is open to some compromises, which pleases Senate Committee Chairwoman Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex.

“I’m encouraged by the governor’s openness to accepting changes to his plan because there will be changes,” Buono said in a prepared statement.

– By David Tanner, staff writer