Assembly Panel Hearing Today Exposed Numerous Holes in Long-Term Plans
Following extensive testimony today on the Christie administration’s transportation proposals, Assembly Transportation Committee Chair John S. Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) said that the administration’s plans solve nothing and only “kick the can down the road.”
During the hearing, witnesses, including Transportation Commissioner James Simpson, provided testimony on the administration’s statewide transportation capital plan and funding of the Transportation Trust Fund for fiscal year 2012.
“Commissioner Simpson admitted that for the first time in a generation, New Jersey will stop using the Transportation Trust Fund to finance most of its transportation infrastructure. The Transportation Trust Fund was, and is, important to New Jersey because it took transportation planning and funding outside the uncertainties of the annual appropriation process. Now, because of the Governor’s failed leadership on this issue, a valued transportation funding program started by Governor Kean is all but defunct.
“This is a transportation capital plan that piles debt upon debt. The plan includes the Port Authority borrowing approximately $1.8 billion over five years and turning that money over to New Jersey. The Commissioner considered that borrowed money “cash” and said that it wasn’t of concern because New Jersey wouldn’t be responsible for paying it back. Beyond that, the Commissioner admitted there is uncertainty as to whether we will get all of that money because New Jersey will need to obtain approval from New York State each year and there is no guarantee of that. For the first time ever, New Jersey’s transportation funding is dependent on the actions of another state.”
“Despite all these uncertainties, the administration claims this is a responsible plan because 37 percent of the funding is pay-as-you-go over the five year life of the plan. However, the Commissioner’s own CFO admitted that when you take into account the money borrowed by the Port Authority, the real pay-as-you-go number drops dramatically to 22 percent. Equally importantly, the pay-as-you-go number for the first year is only 4.7 percent. Considering year one is the only guarantee in the plan, this is really the only number that matters.
“To top it all off, the administration has no plans to seek voter approval for all of this borrowing, despite the fact that the Governor campaigned heavily on the notion that borrowing should be subject to voter approval.
“The Transportation Plan outlined by the Commissioner today will require nearly $1 billion in general fund revenue by year 5 of the plan, revenue the Commissioner said he “hoped” would be available, What we got today was a lot of empty rhetoric on a haphazard plan to address our transportation infrastructure needs over the next five years,” said Wisniewski.