Unable to garner enough votes to ensure the measure would be veto-proof, New Jersey Senate Democrats on Aug. 1 failed to bring to vote a plan that would increase transportation funding by $20 billion over 10 years.
According to Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen), Senate Democrats “need to send a strong message that we’re serious on a 27-vote override”, referring to the 27 votes needed to override the anticipated gubernatorial veto. Currently, Senate Democrats have a 24-16 majority. Gov. Chris Christie (R) recently called the Senate’s most recent plan to increase funding for the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) through a 23 cents-per-gallon gas tax increase “dead on arrival”, with insufficient tax cuts to offset the increase in motor fuel taxes.
On July 8, all non-essential, state-funded transportation projects were halted by Christie and remain halted until new revenue is approved. Due to several factors, including the rising cost of construction due to inflation and the state’s history of bonding in order to fund transportation projects, on July 1 the TTF was depleted to the point that it lost its borrowing power. The TTF is projected to be bankrupt by mid-August if a plan is not passed by the legislature and the governor.
As the transportation funding crisis stretches into August, the work stoppage has severely impacted local businesses whose employees depend on the availability of road work. Bob Bryant, CEO of the Utility and Transportation Contractors Association said recently the project shutdown has contributed to a “tremendous amount of layoffs”. Joe Fiordasalio, who serves as the President of the American Council of Engineering Companies of New Jersey also said an extended shutdown could result in over 2,100 employees losing their jobs. The statements reflect ARTBA’s analysis, which projected that 1,300 to 1,700 workers would be displaced during the shutdown.
The Senate is scheduled to reconvene Aug. 8.