New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund was created under the administration of Governor Thomas Kean in 1984. The fund was created to finance the, “cost of planning, acquisition, engineering, construction, reconstructions, repair, resurfacing and rehabilitations of the state’s transportation system. When Kean first created the organization, his approach was to combine dedicated tax and fee receipts with bond issues, thus ensuring a stable and predictable funding source. As years pass, the state has moved away from a pay-as-you-go design to more borrowing and bonding to fund transportation projects.
Currently, the state has 15.6 billion in outstanding loans and 29 billion in contracted debt obligations. During Christie’s administration, New Jersey has borrowed 97.4% of all transportation capital costs, a higher percentage and higher dollar amount than any other previous year. The increasing reliance on borrowing has caused NJ to incur massive debt, which is the direct opposite of the Transportation Trust Funds original motives. As of 2014, New Jersey’s tax-supported debt continues to grow faster than any other state.
In the end of 2010, Christie pulled out on New Jersey’s commitment to build an ‘Access to the Region’s Core’ bridge. Canceling this project free $3.1 billion dollars for the state. Christie then used this money to buy more bonds, to use for building and rehabilitating transportation infrastructure. Unfortunately, now Jersey faces the same problem except with more debt, Transportation infrastructure is deteriorating and needs to be replaced. The TTF that was created for the sole purpose of financing these projects does not have the adequate funds. The third most pressing issue, none of the decision makers in the state can decide on a cohesive policy that will help alleviate some of the trust fund burdens.
One possible policy change that will create more money for the TTF is to increase the gas tax. However, Christie has taken a “no new taxes” pledge. Given his highly speculated run for presidency in 2016, he is not shifting his stance. New Jersey’s gas tax, at 14.5 cents per gallon, is the second lowest in the country, only after Alaska. A bill introduced in November 2014 by Assemblymen John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) to deal with lack of transportation funds suggested increasing the gas tax by 25 cents per gallon. This in turn would generate $1.25 billion for the state per year. Christie isn’t the only person who doesn’t want an increased gas tax. A poll done by The Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University concluded that 41% of people support the increase; meanwhile 56% say they do not.
The increase Wisniewski proposed would mean an additional 80-cents per day for the average motorists in New Jersey. The question needs to be asked again, in ‘America’s commuter state’ wouldn’t paying 80-cents per day be worth not having to drive over 80 potholes per day?