Gov. Murphy on raising NJ Transit funding in the budget: ‘We’re open to that’

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks to a joint meeting of the Democratic-led Assembly and Senate in Trenton, N.J., Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Murphy unveiled his second budget Tuesday, calling for about $1 billion in increased spending that would be financed by higher income tax rates on wealthy residents and savings in public worker benefits. (Seth Wenig/AP Photo)

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks to a joint meeting of the Democratic-led Assembly and Senate in Trenton, N.J., Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Murphy unveiled his second budget Tuesday, calling for about $1 billion in increased spending that would be financed by higher income tax rates on wealthy residents and savings in public worker benefits. (Seth Wenig/AP Photo)

A possible fight over transportation funding in New Jersey’s next state budget could end before it really started.

In his second state budget proposal Tuesday, Gov. Phil Murphy suggested increasing New Jersey Transit’s funding by $25 million.

The proposal prompted immediate pushback from Democrats in the Legislature, with whom Murphy will have to negotiate in order to pass his budget plan.

State Sen. President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said he wanted to see even more money funneled into the ailing transit agency.

“I want to make that clear. That’s not sufficient in the budget,” Sweeney said.

At a press conference Wednesday touting the added dollars Murphy hoped to send NJ Transit’s way, the first-term Democrat said he would be happy to spend more money on the state’s public transit system if the state could raise the revenue necessary to afford it.

“We’re open to that,” Murphy said at an appearance in Wood-Ridge. “We have to make sure, though, that we have revenues that are sustainable that support that kind of investment.”

Although Murphy’s budget would increase the general fund appropriation to NJ Transit by $100 million, it would also cut $75 million in diversions from the Turnpike Authority and the capital reserves budget.

That means the agency would see an overall increase of $25 million in funding.

If the Legislature approved the spending plan he proposed, Murphy said, the state could increase funding to NJ Transit without hiking fares on riders.

NJ Transit has been plagued by underfunding as well as equipment and staffing issues, trends Murphy has vowed to reverse.

Even though it raced to complete work on positive train control by the end of 2018, to do so it shut down the Atlantic City Line in the fall and will not revive it until the end of May. NJ Transit has cited a shortage of trains and engineers.

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