TRENTON, NJ (CBS) — The 3 month impasse in New Jersey over replenishing the Transportation Trust Fund appears to be broken, with an agreement reached between Governor Chris Christie and leaders in the state legislature.
The accord hikes the gas tax 23 cents a gallon, the first hike in that levy in 28 years. Christie has fought every tax increase proposed during his term. But the Governor told reporters in Trenton, “I’m authorizing this one because of the importance of the Transportation Trust Fund, the tax fairness that we accomplished together in the compromise that we’ve reached and because we need to responsibly finance this type of activity.”
That tax fairness?
A series of cuts on a number of fronts, including a phased in three eights of one percent reduction in the sales tax and elimination of the estate tax in 15 months. Retirement income up to 100 grand for married couples would be shielded from state income taxes in 4 years and the earned income tax credit goes from 30 to 35%. There would also be a tax exemption for honorably discharged veterans.
The package must get through the legislature. No easy task given next year’s gubernatorial race in New Jersey. One Democrat expected to make that run, State Senate President Steve Sweeney, recognized the difficulty in getting this accord approved.
“I’m sorry it took so long,” Sweeney said, “but we all have strong personalities and sometimes it just takes time to get together.”
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto noted the fact that hundreds of local road projects have been idled since July because of the impasse. “We need to put people back to work,” Prieto said. “That’s why we have been working hard in this respect for today and over the last few weeks, trying to get somewhere in the middle.”
No word on how quickly legislators will get the package through to Christie. The governor did promise to push in favor of an amendment to the state constitution that will legally dedicate all monies from the gas tax to the TTF. Voters will decide on that question in November.