Forward N.J. released a report September 16 analyzing the economic impact of various transportation investment levels in the state. Tom Bracken, chair of Forward N.J. and CEO of the N.J. Chamber of Commerce, and the study’s author, Dr. Alison Premo Black, ARTBA chief economist, discussed the report at a press conference.
The state’s Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) is facing a $620 million shortfall for FY 2016. For FY 2015, $1.26 billion will be spent on planned state transportation projects, with an additional $1.19 billion spent on the TTF’s debt service.
“We are not advocating for any specific funding source,” Bracken stated. “We have let everybody know that there are many options that we’re saying could be used as funding sources.” Bracken noted there had been discussion before about a menu of funding options, including: an increase in the state gas tax; a sales tax on fuel; increasing car rental fees; using revenue collected by camera traffic-enforcement programs; dedicating online gaming revenues; or utilizing surplus funds from the Motor Vehicle Commission.
Dr. Black outlined some of the main conclusions of the report. Additional highway and bridge investment could save New Jersey drivers as much as $4.1 billion annually, according to the study. A sustained increase would support increased productivity, mobility and access to markets for businesses across the state in all sectors of the economy. (View the report).
Forward N.J. advocates for transportation funding solutions within the state and is encouraging lawmakers to replenish the depleted TTF. The partnership is comprised of 25 tri-state organizations, including several chambers of commerce, former New Jersey Department of Transportation officials, transportation and construction companies, and labor advocates.
Bracken stated, “We must replenish the fund to protect the safety of our families and the health of our economy. There is no greater priority for the business community right now than replenishing the trust fund in a smart, robust, sustainable way. In addition, we believe the revenue should be constitutionally dedicated to prevent any potential diversion of funds down the road from these critically important transportation projects.”
After the press conference, several lawmakers released statements regarding the creation of Forward NJ and the coalition’s mission.
Assembly Republican Whip Scott Rumana (R-Passaic), ranking member on the Assembly Transportation Committee, stated, “Republicans welcome the opportunity to discuss practical solutions that fix the state’s Transportation Trust Fund. We look forward to working on the best approach that offers long-term, sustainable solutions. We must have a constructive dialogue that recognizes the extent of the problem and realistic suggestions to repair critical parts of our infrastructure while keeping taxpayers’ interests as a top priority.”
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Seacaucus) said, “When I first began talking about this problem earlier this year, I was hoping for a thoughtful and academic discussion focused only on facts, with the key fact being the impending insolvency of New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund. I also welcomed input from everyone. With those goals in mind, we’ll review this report thoroughly and consider its findings. As we move toward our upcoming hearings on the state’s transportation crisis, I expect it will certainly play a role in our discussion.”
A full list of ForwardNJ members:
- AAA NJ
- American Council of Engineering Companies of NJ
- Associated Construction Contractors of NJ
- Dr. Martin Robins, Director Emeritus, Rutgers University Voorhees Transportation Center
- Former NJDOT Commissioner Steve Dilts
- Former NJDOT Commissioner Jamie Fox
- Former NJDOT Commissioner Hazel Gluck
- Former NJDOT Commissioner Jack Lettiere
- Laborers International Union of North America
- Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce
- NAIOP NJ
- Newark Regional Business Partnership
- New Jersey Concrete & Aggregate Association
- NJ Asphalt Pavement Association
- NJ Association of Counties
- NJ Builders Association
- NJ Future
- NJ SEED
- NJ State Building & Construction Trades Council
- NJ State Chamber of Commerce
- NJ State League of Municipalities
- NY Shipping Association, Inc.
- Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce
- Southern New Jersey Development Council
- Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of NJ PlanSmart NJ
- Tri-State Transportation Campaign
- Utility and Transportation Contractors Association of NJ