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Senate Panel Advances Wisniewski Bill Strengthening Legislative Oversight, Transparency of TTF Spending in Response to Increased Christie Borrowing

Bill Nearly Identical to Measure Vetoed Last Year by Gov. Christie; Reintroduced Following Governor’s Call for Increased Transportation Borrowing to Pay for Proposed Income Tax Cut

(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Deputy Speaker John S. Wisniewski sponsored to increase the reporting requirements of the state’s Financial Policy Review Board, as it concerns the state Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) was released Monday by a Senate panel.

Wisniewski reintroduced the legislation (A-3059), which now contains even more stringent reporting requirements, in the wake of Gov. Christie’s conditional veto of identical legislation and an announcement that the governor now plans to borrow an additional $260 million from the TTF to finance the governor’s proposed income tax cut, which would disproportionately benefit millionaires.

“The governor’s explanation of how he was going to fund his tax cut plan was always a little light in the reality department, but funding that plan by borrowing against the Transportation Trust Fund proves that the governor has become completely unmoored from reality in his dogged pursuit to maintain his national, right-wing credentials,” said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities chair.

Wisniewski’s legislation would grant the state Financial Policy Review Board additional oversight powers. Specifically, it would require the board to report to the Legislature:

  • On an annual basis:
    • Future debt service schedules of the TTF Authority and the revenue allocated to pay for said debt; and
    • The amount of anticipated TTF pay-as-you-go funding set aside and the actual amount allocated that year.

    On a quarterly basis, detailed information concerning:

    • The TTF Authority’s capital spending;The NJ Transit Corporation’s capital lease financing program;
    • The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s capital spending on projects included in the state Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Annual Transportation Capital Program;
    • The NJ Turnpike Authority’s capital spending and any contractual payments made by the Turnpike Authority to the state or the authority;
    • South Jersey Transportation Authority’s capital spending and any contractual payments made to the state or the authority by the South Jersey Transportation Authority
    • The receipt and expenditure of federal funds included in DOT’s Annual Transportation Capital Program;
    • The use of monies from the state’s General Fund as projected in the DOT’s Annual Transportation Capital Program; and
    • Any other information that the Financial Policy Review Board deems relevant in providing a financial overview and evaluation of the DOT’s Annual Transportation Capital Program.

    These annual and quarterly reports would provide the Legislature with the Financial Policy Review Board’s assessment of:

    • Current and anticipated ability of the TTF Authority to fund the DOT’s Annual Transportation Capital Program;
    • The use of federal capital funds spent on preventative maintenance;
    • The ability of the state to make current and future debt service payments and other expenditures; and
    • Whether there is a need to limit bonded indebtedness.

    Finally, the measure would require the Financial Policy Review Board, with assistance from the DOT, to create a public website on which the reports would be posted.

    Wisniewski’s bill is nearly identical to legislation (A-2288) that the governor conditionally vetoed on May 10, 2012 essentially saying there is no need for the additional layers of reporting and oversight. Less than two weeks later, the Christie administration proposed borrowing an additional $260 million against the TTF so that the governor can still afford his income tax plan that would give approximately $80 to a family of four making $50,000 a year and more than $7,000 to a family making over $1 million a year.

    “The administration’s recent actions regarding the TTF have made it stunningly apparent that we are in desperate need of the oversight that this legislation would provide,” said Wisniewski. “The TTF is not the governor’s personal piggy bank to do with as he pleases, and this oversight legislation would ensure it stays that way.”

    The bill – which was approved 50-29 by the General Assembly on June 25, 2012 – was released Monday by a vote of 4-0 by the Senate Transportation Committee and now awaits further consideration by the full Senate.