Tuesday, June 19, 2012

N.J. Dems chairman continues battle with Gov. Christie over transportation plan

[Trenton] A leading New Jersey Democrat continued to push back today on Gov. Chris Christie's plan to borrow more money for transportation projects.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), chairman of the state Democratic Party, has reintroduced a bill (A3059) that would toughen independent oversight of the state's Transportation Trust Fund, which pays for roads, bridges and maintenance work.

The bill cleared the Assembly transportation committee, which Wisniewski chairs, 7-1 today.
Christie vetoed a similar measure last month, saying the fund was already well monitored by state agencies. His administration two weeks later announced plans to take $260 million in cash set aside for the fund to plug a budget hole estimated between $705 million and $1.4 billion through the upcoming fiscal year.
The governor would keep transportation funding level by borrowing more money than planned, adding pressure to a fund that is already insolvent.
Wisniewski said in a statement today that Christie wants to borrow more transportation dollars to prop up a tax-cut plan, which he said "proves that the governor has become completely unmoored from reality in his dogged pursuit to maintain his national, right-wing credentials.”
"The administration's recent actions regarding the (fund) have made it stunningly apparent that we are in desperate need of the oversight that this legislation would provide," Wisniewski said in a statement. "The (fund) is not the governor's personal piggy bank to do with as he pleases, and this oversight legislation would ensure it stays that way."
State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff has said the tax cut is a separate issue, and that the administration still intends to fund $8 billion worth of transportation projects over five fiscal years beginning with the current one, using $1.5 billion in cash.
The Democratic-controlled Legislature must approve Christie's plan by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, but Wisniewski and others in the Assembly have roundly criticized his bill (A3000/S2020) because it weakens oversight in addition to raising the borrowing limit.
In contrast, Wisniewski's bill would grant the independent Financial Policy Review Board more watchdog powers and require it to issue yearly and quarterly updates on the transportation fund's finances.
"It’s expected to get a full Assembly vote soon," said Tom Hester Jr., a spokesman for Assembly Democrats.
Christie's five-year plan for road and bridge projects initially called for borrowing less and less money to try to gradually restore the health of the fund, but if the revisions are approved, the state will end up borrowing $1.25 billion in fiscal 2013, up from $1.18 billion in fiscal 2012.

Courtesy of http://www.nj.com/

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