Only a few days after the release of the 2016 Report Card for New Jersey’s Infrastructure, the political debate over saving the State’s soon to be insolvent Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) looms over both the New Jersey Senate and General Assembly. Yesterday, legislators in both chambers introduced identical bills to replenish the Fund, from which the State pays for maintenance, repairs and construction for transportation infrastructure. If the legislature does not act, the state’s Transportation Trust Fund will become insolvent on July 1.
The bills, introduced by Sens. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) and Steve Oroho (R-Sussex), and by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson), are a welcome step towards recommitting public investment to the Transportation Trust Fund. The long-awaited legislative proposals call to fund the TTF with $20 billion over the next decade, and doubles municipal infrastructure aid to $400 million per year.
If the legislation is successful, revenue for these long-term programs will come from an update to New Jersey’s outdated gas tax, which has lost a third of its purchasing power since it was last increased in 1988. The bills introduced yesterday in Trenton would increase the gas tax by 23 cents per gallon, and impose an approximately 13 cents per gallon tax on jet fuel.
Offsetting the consumer costs of these new taxes would be the discontinuation of the New Jersey estate tax, greater tax exemptions for retirement income and low-income workers, and a new tax deduction for contributions to charities.
The 2016 Report Card gave New Jersey’s roads, bridges, and transit grades of D+, D+ and D-, respectively. Among the most alarming statistics about transportation infrastructure found in the report is that 42% of New Jersey’s roadways are deficient, which means over 16,000 miles of roads are rough, distressed or cracked. Equally glaring is the state of New Jersey’s bridges. 1 in 11 are categorized as “structurally deficient,” and over 40% of all New Jersey bridges are expected to soon require improvements or complete replacement.
As the most density populated state and a vital corridor between Philadelphia and New York City, New Jersey’s economic health and public welfare demand that the state prioritize investment in transportation infrastructure. Fixing the Transportation Trust Fund with a long-term solution is imperative to adequately addressing the infrastructure challenges highlighted by the 2016 Report Card for New Jersey’s Infrastructure.
New Jersey’s lawmakers need to pass the bills before them immediately to protect the Transportation Trust Fund. Use #FixNJTrustFund on Twitter to call for action, and check out the full 2016 Report Card for New Jersey’s Infrastructure.