By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor
The New Jersey Senate voted Thursday, Feb. 17, to approve a bill to roll back future toll increases. Tolls were intended to be a revenue source for a now-defunct tunnel plan.
On a 27-9 vote, the rollback now moves to the Assembly for further consideration.
The bill would cancel toll hikes on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway slated for next year. Senate Democrats are pushing the initiative in response to Gov. Chris Christie?s decision to put a stop to plans for the Access to the Region?s Core tunnel project.
Specifically, S2636 would direct the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to adopt a resolution to reduce tolls no longer required for payment of the tunnel project to link New York and New Jersey.
?When it comes to the canceled ARC project, there?s just one simple, overarching principle: ?No tunnel, no toll hike,?? Sen. Nicholas Sacco, D-Hudson, said in a statement.
Christie cited cost overruns for his decision. Instead, the Republican governor wants to use the money from increased tolls to pay for part of his $8 billion, five-year transportation spending plan.
Truckers and other drivers have been paying more since 2008 to access the roadways. Tolls for heavy commercial vehicles to travel the full length of the turnpike were increased from $26.55 to $37.15 to help pay for a commuter rail tunnel under the Hudson River.
A nearly identical increase is expected in 2012.
?If we dedicate funds for a specific project, we should either follow through, or return those funds through decreased tolls,? said Sacco, one of the bill?s sponsors.
The governor?s office has said that partisan politics are at play. The result could affect the Turnpike Authority?s borrowing ability.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney said there is really only one thing to be done.
?If Gov. Christie wants to use a toll hike to pay for his transportation infrastructure plan, he needs to take his case directly to the public, and give them a chance to voice their concerns,? Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said in a statement.
To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey, click here.
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