With road funds running on empty, Dems want Christie out on politically risky limb with them

 Richard Hammer, acting commissioner of New Jersey's Department of Transportation, says he is optimistic a plan will be in place before the fund runs out of money at the end of June. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Richard Hammer, acting commissioner of New Jersey's Department of Transportation, says he is optimistic a plan will be in place before the fund runs out of money at the end of June. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

The lack of an agreement to replenish New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund was a major topic of discussion at the League Of Municipalities annual meeting of mayors and legislative leaders at the Statehouse.

 

Hope Township Mayor Tim McDonough said towns have 60 percent of the roads in the state and depend on money from the trust fund to maintain them.

“We need that kind of help from the state. We’ve got 14 miles, 15 miles of road in Hope. There’s no way we could continue operating without huge tax increases if we didn’t have the Transportation Trust Fund,” he said.

Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick suggested Democrats pass a plan providing revenue for the fund, and then let Gov. Chris Christie veto whatever he doesn’t like in the legislation.

“You can easily pass the bill and get the reaction of the governor,” he said. “Pass the bill, and let’s see how it goes.”

Well aware that most residents don’t want a gas tax increase as a way of replenishing the fund, Senate President Steve Sweeney said Christie will need to meet with legislative leaders to formulate a plan.

Saying that he and Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto are “pretty much there” on a plan, Sweeney said, “We really need to sit down with the governor and have that conversation because this isn’t, ‘Go ahead, Democrats, you jump off the cliff and we’ll watch you.’ We’re going to do it together.”

Richard Hammer, acting commissioner of the state’s Department of Transportation, said he anticipates a plan to be in place before the fund runs out of money at the end of June.

“I’m maintaining optimism, yes. I have to, because everybody knows just how important this is,” Hammer said. “It’s not a matter of Republican and Democrat. It’s not. It’s a matter of doing what’s right. Citizens of New Jersey depend upon it so we can keep their roads safe.”

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