News Department

At Assembly Transportation Trust Fund hearing, Republicans demand safer roads, lower commuter costs

NEW JERSEY – When voting against a bill Thursday to raise the gas tax, establish a fee on electric vehicles and reauthorize a fund that pays for transportation infrastructure projects, Republicans on the Assembly Transportation Committee cited concerns for current road safety, rising costs due to inflation, financial troubles at NJ Transit and the return on investment for commuters.

“We all support transportation infrastructure on this dais. We all support robust funding for transportation projects. But, our residents want and deserve to see return on investment,” Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips (R-Bergen) said. “Many in this state and in our districts feel that we have not received proper return on investment since the 2016 reauthorization and the gas tax increase then. We have innumerable roads, highways and bridges in our districts that are simply not up to appropriate safety standards. I cannot get to yes on this bill until these safety issues have been addressed head on and we do have time to do that before TTF expires.”

The bill (A4011) reauthorizes the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) for the next five years by raising gas tax collections and creating a new annual registration tax on zero-emission vehicles. The fund is set to expire on July 1.

“It is understood that we need to reauthorize, but an increase in the gas tax is not necessary for that reauthorization to occur. An increase in the gas tax is unnecessary and unwise and thus for me a nonstarter,” Assemblyman Michael Inganamort (R-Sussex, Morris, Warren) said.

Under the bill, the trust fund could spend $2 billion on transportation projects each year, up from $1.6 billion under current law, and the limit would increase every year starting in 2027; however, the increases would need to be equally split between local, county, NJ Transit, and state Department of Transportation projects.

“When considering the bill before us today, I am left to wonder whether the financial issues at New Jersey Transit are worse than contemplated,” Inganamort said. “For this and other reasons we should conduct a full forensic audit of New Jersey Transit. We need to know what is happening at this agency that requires higher fares for riders, higher taxes for New Jersey businesses and now a higher gas tax for drivers.”

Gov. Phil Murphy is proposing a new 2.5% corporate surcharge that would apply to businesses earning over $10 million to address NJ Transit’s budget deficit. The tax is on top of the 15% fare hike that NJ Transit announced would take effect in July.

“We are in the middle of the highest level of inflation since I was a kid, which was the 70s. And now we’re going to tell everybody, ‘Oh by the way, you’re going to pay more for your gas, too?’ We can do this without going back to the till,” Assemblyman Christian Barranco (R-Morris) said.

Assemblyman Rob Clifton questioned how Democrat members of the committee could introduce legislation to lower the gas tax when the Democrat-sponsored bill they were approving raises the tax.

He also disapproved of how quickly the bill was moving through the legislature.

“I am voting no today, not because we don’t need to reauthorize the TFF, we need to and we need to do it fast. We need a first-class infrastructure built by all the folks out here today. One of the reasons for my no today is that this bill was introduced three days ago. Before I can even consider voting yes, I need to know how this bill will benefit my district, the counties I represent and the state in general. I want to see what value we got from the last reauthorization,” Clifton (R-Monmouth) said.

Although the bill passed along party lines, DePhillips posted a video after the hearing to stress that it is not a political issue.

“There is a long history of bipartisanship in the transportation committee, but the primary responsibility of lawmakers is to protect the safety of residents,” DePhillips said. “Despite a well-funded TTF, we have countless roads and bridges that are poorly maintained and pose a severe safety risk to our residents. Before we go forward, let’s conduct an honest top-to-bottom assessment of our state’s roads, bridges and highways and honestly evaluate their condition.”

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

Related Articles

Back to top button