Did you hear that New Jersey halted every transportation project it funds? The plug has been pulled from all current projects.
Transportation Commissioner James Simpson ordered an immediate stop Friday to all state-funded road construction
This is a political move that is sure to be an ugly matter.
The Transportation Trust Fund is underfunded. This is not surprising. I have been writing about this for years . The very first thing that then-Governor Jon Corzine did when he took office was to borrow money to fund TTF. The money he borrowed was to last five years. It didn’t. The debt on the borrowed money is for 30 years. Lovely.
The Transportation Trust Fund is the poster child of what is wrong with government. It is a government agency charged with maintaining the roads and bridges of the state. That is important stuff. We need our roads and bridges in good order to do business. The problem, however, is that it costs a lot of money to do so. With such a large pot of money in one place, politicians see the Promised Land. And they raid the pot of cash.
The raiding of the TTF left it with structural deficits. That is why Corzine borrowed money to fund it. Now it is broke again. Governor Christie proposed doing more of the same. Christie wanted to re-structure $1.25 billion of debt to loosen up up $500 million for projects through next year.
Yes, $1.25 billion of debt. Unbelievable isn’t it?
The hold up is that Paul Sarlo has to agree to the deal. He doesn’t. He wants the governor to present a long-range plan of how TTF will be fixed. I wholeheartedly support that move.
More Band-Aids, a la what Governor Corzine did, isn’t going to help us. Governor Christie has promised to bring fiscal sanity back to politics. Here’s his chance.
So why has all construction stopped? Without knowing there are funds available to complete the projects, Transportation Commissioner James Simpson has halted all work. Apparently New Jersey has a huge payment due on the debt in December. That’s a $50 million payment. That’s all TTF has left. Simpson is acting reasonably.
All of this is going to force Christie’s hand. There will be a plan, no doubt. Sarlo will permit New Jersey to re-structure its debt to pay for the next year. We hope that Christie puts together a sound plan. That’s his job. We’ll be watching.
Not be forgotten, however, is the little thing in the article that represents what is wrong with all this.
the Legislature’s nonpartisan Budget and Finance Officer, David Rosen, said that the state can issue up to $300 million in new bonds for transportation projects without any legislative approval.
Without any oversight from elected officials, every taxpayer in the Garden State can have his debt load increased. This has to stop. Agencies, authorities, and other pseudo-government entities need to have its bonding ability curtailed immediately. Circumventing the public, even if it is for a good project, is wrong.
Governor Christie, take a break from targeting teachers and put your fiscal talents to correcting this ongoing failure of government.