The New Jersey state legislature passed a budget and sent it to Governor Chris Christie’s desk where he signed it last night, but the budget did not appropriate money for the state transportation trust fund which is going bankrupt.
Governor Christie asked for too much in return. Christie said he would sign an increase of the state’s gas tax to pay for transportation if it was accompanied by a package of tax cuts. The state Assembly voted for Christie’s tax cuts after midnight on Monday of this week, but the Assembly bill, which includes over $1.6 billion in tax cuts, went much further than the Senate bill.
Because the state Senate and Assembly did not agree with each other and hand Christie everything he wants, Christie has ordered transportation officials to start shutting down construction projects by tomorrow night.
[Christie] issued an executive order calling for state transportation officials to develop a plan to start shutting down projects by 11:59 p.m. Saturday. It is unclear how many projects will be affected, but Christie said transportation trust fund money shouldn’t be spent on any projects that aren’t “absolutely essential.” Spokesman Brian Murray said that any list of projects to be shutdown will be released when the plan is released.
This is a hissy fit. The state’s transportation fund won’t actually run out of money until August and the legislature will reconvene on July 11th. Shutting down state road projects now is a political strong-arming tactic which Christie is using to push a package of tax cuts that will empty the state’s coffers.
Raising the gas tax to pay for transportation won’t matter if they also pass a package of over $1.6 billion in tax cuts that would be phased in over just two years.
Democrats in the state Senate are offering to phase out the state’s estate tax in exchange for raising the gas tax, which I think is a bad idea, but it’s still better than what the Assembly voted for. Christie, for his part, prefers the latter. Christie would rather sign the deficit-exploding tax cuts than the slightly less fiscally irresponsible estate tax cut.