One of the stumbling blocks to continue vital transportation work appears to be Gov. Christie’s insistence on ending one or maybe even two death taxes in exchange for a deal to increase user fees on gasoline. So its effect would be to add needed money to the Transportation Fund while reducing income to the General Fund. It’s like a family whose budget lacks the money to pay an essential bill (Transportation Trust Fund) but it also insists that another party (death tax payers) pay less than it owes to the family rather than find some others means to meet its over-all obligations.
This procedure is like robbing Peter to pay Paul except in this case Christie wants to reward Peter (wealthier individuals who inherit larger estates by decreasing their tax payments.) Such only increases income inequality which has been Christie’s modus operandi. So much for his multiple references to strengthening the Middle class in his last State of the State Address.
It’s also robbing Peter to pay Paul because while it generates new income for transportation projects (a higher user fee) it reduces revenue for the well-being of King Kong (General Fund) which is already under severe stress and will be under significantly more stress if the court requires a higher contribution to the pension fund.
With no new funding for transportation the state will have to shut down all major DOT projects. With no estate taxes flowing to King Kong who can be nasty or nice he will wreak havoc on the poor, working poor, and middle class depriving them of key services.
Let’s also remember that our Transportation Trust Fund is like a scrawny pig which on June 30 will be starved to death. The proposals for adding revenue to the fund will keep the pig alive and add lipstick but not provide the full nutrition needed for our dilapidated roads, bridges, tunnels, and rails.
Republicans have also espoused getting more transportation aid from the federal government or changing its school funding formula to free up more dollars. Our stingy Republican Congress has still not re-funded the Federal Transportation Fund which provides grants to states and does not want to increase its budget, so more money to us is not going happen. Reducing dollars to schools would be detrimental to education. Cutting back on Abbott districts’ funding while likely unconstitutional would only hurt those most vulnerable.
These issues have been well understood for years, but it appears that there still will be no resolution between the legislature and the governor by the time of Christie’s Budget Address on Tuesday. These matters are a critical component of the budget involving billions of dollars. It might have helped had Christie spent more time in Trenton doing the job for which he is being paid. Instead the budget picture, which in the best of times is opaque, will remain more so for some time to come and even continue unclear until Pen/Ben issues are resolved.