With a $1.3 billion gas tax increase proposed by some in the Legislature, it’s more important than ever to understand New Jersey’s transportation spending.
More than a year ago, I called for the state to create a “State Transportation Cost Analysis Task Force” to conduct a methodical analysis of the factors that contribute to New Jersey’s road costs, compare our costs to those of other states, and provide recommendations to complete projects more cost-effectively.
While many would consider this legislation to be a matter of common sense, it has failed to advance in the Democrat-controlled Legislature.
According to that report, New Jersey’s state-administered highways cost taxpayers $2 million per mile, which the Reason Foundation claims to be 12 times the national average, three times the cost in the next highest state and four times the cost in New York.
In an email to his Republican colleagues in the NJ Senate on Monday, Senator Michael Doherty said that the Assembly Republican leadership’s support of increasing the gas tax is what led to the loss of four seats in the lower chamber in last week’s election.
Rutgers-Eagleton conducted a poll in October on the gas tax. See attachment and an extract of the results below.
Why did Republican Assembly leadership come out in support of a gas tax increase?
R Assembly candidates should have all come out 100% against a gas tax increase.
66% of voters oppose a gas tax increase.
We had 69% of Independent voters and 73% of Republican voters on our side.
Even 57% of Democrat voters oppose the gas tax increase.
We wouldn’t have lost any seats if R’s campaigned on being 100% against a gas tax increase.
“We didn’t have to lose any seats and could have picked up a few,” Doherty said told MoreMonmouthMusings, “We had no message.”
Doherty said that he has not heard back from any of his Senate colleagues.
Why do roads, bridges and transit projects cost so much to build in New Jersey? State Senator Michael Doherty, R-Warren, has proposed a bill to try and answer that question and recommend ways to cut those costs. His bill to form a State Transportation Analysis Task Force will attempt to answer findings in a recent Reason… Read the rest of this entry »
In his OpEd published this morning, former Kean and Whitman Administration spokesman Carl Golden makes the case why it is safe for New Jersey’s Republican legislators to defy Governor Chris Christie and join the Democratic majority in overriding Christie’s of the Port Authority reform legislation.
The two identical bills that Governors Christie and Cuomo vetoed on the Saturday between Christmas and New Years Day had passed overwhelmingly with bi-partisan support in both houses of the New Jersey and New York legislatures. The bills would have required increased transparency and accountability on the part of Port Authority of NY/NJ.
In vetoing the bills, Christie and Cuomo endorsed reforms proposed by a panel they had appointed and urged both legislatures to adopt them instead. But as Golden noted in his OpEd, the vetoes have been widely viewed as maintaining the status quo of disfunctionality, wasteful spending and gubernatorial abuse at Port Authority.
In his five years in office, none of Christie’s vetoes have been overridden, even if the original bills passed the legislature with bi-partisan support and by veto proof majorities. Republican legislators have frequently “flip-flopped” and changed their votes to uphold the Governor’s will. As Golden explains,
New Jersey property taxes will likely resume the double digit annual growth that occurred under the McGreevey, Codey and Corzine Administrations if Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto’s version of the of the Interest Arbitration extension becomes law. Either that, or municipal governments as we know them will cease to exist, succumbing to a long and painful death of higher crime and reduced services and capital improvements.
A 2% cap on interest arbitration awards in labor disputes was a key component of the 2% property tax cap negotiated between Governor Chris Christie, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Prieto’s predecessor, Sheila Oliver in 2010. It worked. Arbitrators made awards of less that 2% to police and fire fighters unions and property taxes rose less than 2% per year over the last four years.
The problem is Oliver insisted that the arbitration cap expire on April 1, 2014. Now, we’re a week before the arbitration cap expires and Prietro is gutting the cap by passing an extension of the law that exempts contracts that were awarded less than 2% during the last three years from any future caps and raises the cap to 3% on contracts that have not been negotiated since 2010.
The math will never work. If property taxes stay capped at 2% but the primary cost of property taxes, salaries, are not capped or are capped at 3%, municipal services will disappear. Police will be laid off, with the junior, lower paid officers being let go first, leaving the older and more highly paid officers to run drown the inevitable increase in crime. Towns will go bust. The state will take over municipal governments and force consolidations.
Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty Photo Credit Mark Bonamo, NJ.com
Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty and his colleagues on the Borough Council are acting on their pledge to rebuild the town’s boardwalk by Memorial Day 2013.
NJ.com reports that the governing body introduced a $20 million bond ordinance last week to provide the initial funding of the reconstruction.
Doherty said that Belmar’s property taxpayers will not be on the hook for the cost of the new boardwalk, with FEMA and the borough’s beach utility, which is funded by beach badge fees, paying off the bonds.
“It’s our understanding is that FEMA will pick up 75 percent of the expense, based on the language coming from the White House,” said Doherty, 39. “The remaining amount will come from the beach utility itself. So if you don’t use the beach, you’re not paying for anything. And zero dollars are coming from residential property-tax payers, with no property-tax hike anticipated.”
Beach badge prices are expected to rise from $7 to $8 for daily passes and for $50 to $55 for seasonal passes.
The mayor, a Democrat, had kind words for Governor Christie, but not so kind words for another Doherty, State Senator Michael Doherty. The senator has proposed legislation that would eliminate a beach town’s ability to sell beach badges if state or federal funds are used to rebuild from Hurricane Sandy.
“I think Gov. Christie has done an outstanding job in his leadership, and one of the things he’s been very effective at is keeping politics out of anything related to the Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts,” Doherty, a Democrat, said. “I wish that Sen. Doherty would follow Gov. Christie’s lead as well. It’s nothing more than trying to score cheap political points after arguably the worst natural disaster that our state has ever experienced.”
The bond ordinance is expected to be passed at the December 3 meeting of Belmar’s council.
On November 6th, New Jersey voters should vote NO on Public Question #1, which seeks authorization for the state government to borrow $750 million “to build, equip and expand higher education facilities.” The New Jersey Constitution does not allow our state government to borrow money unless the voters approve. As a result, the state legislature was forced to put the $750 million borrowing plan on the November 6th ballot in the form of a public question.
The United States federal government is drowning in debt. Earlier this year, our national debt surpassed $16 trillion. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this debt problem will only grow worse in the future.
Like the federal government, New Jersey state government is also drowning in debt. According to its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, New Jersey state government has over $40.5 billion in outstanding debt. According to www.StateBudgetSolutions.org, when other obligations such as future pension and health benefit payments for public employees are included, New Jersey state government has a total debt of $258 billion. New Jersey’s total debt is now the fifth highest in the nation after California, New York, Texas and Illinois. That debt burden comes to about $30,000 per resident, or about $120,000 for a family of four. County and municipal debts add even more to the total government debt burden facing New Jersey residents.