Tax plan for restocking N.J. transportation fund sets Senate, Assembly at odds

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg describes the Assembly's approach to replenishing the Transportation Trust Fund as asinine. She says the Senate will not condone the plan for a gas tax hike coupled with a reduction of the state sales tax. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg describes the Assembly's approach to replenishing the Transportation Trust Fund as asinine. She says the Senate will not condone the plan for a gas tax hike coupled with a reduction of the state sales tax. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Gov. Chris Christie called on the New Jersey Senate to approve the plan he worked out with the Assembly for cutting the sales tax and raising the gas tax when it meets Thursday.

But it appears a political battle is brewing.

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said Wednesday the Senate will not pass the bill the Assembly approved for replenishing the Transportation Trust Fund because the 1-percent sales tax cut would reduce state revenues by about $1.6 billion.

“We all know we need the 23 cents in the gas tax, we need to refund the TTF, but we can’t do it by destroying the state budget,” said Weinberg, D-Bergen.

Sen. Ray Lesniak also objected to the Assembly plan.

“Right now, we just have to start all over again and figure out what we need to do,” said Lesniak, D-Union. “There are many options out there, but one of the options is not what the Assembly passed.”

New Jersey Policy Perspective president Gordon MacInnes urged lawmakers not to rush to approve some sort of last-minute compromise.

“Let’s take a breath. Let’s come back in July when we can give this the kind of serious public attention it deserves,” he said.

Assembly Transportation Committee chairman John Wisniewski said the state could borrow the money to start restocking the fund that pays for road and bridge repairs and maintenance as well as transportation projects.

“Worst-case scenario, we should look at creating an 18-month program that will get the trust fund funded until this governor leaves, and a rational occupant of the front office can deal with this issue,” said Wisnieski, D-Middlesex.

Christie said delaying enactment of legislation to replenish the trust fund would be irresponsible.

“For months now they’ve been saying this crisis is occurring on June 30. The governor must act by June 30,” he said. “Now I’ve acted and gotten half of the Legislature to do it, and, because they don’t like it and they feel momentum going toward this plan now, they’re saying delay. No delay.”

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