New Jersey Governor Christie halts road,
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[July 02, 2016]
By Hilary Russ
(Reuters) - New Jersey Governor Chris
Christie ordered a halt to non-essential road, bridge and mass transit
projects late Thursday after lawmakers failed to reauthorize the state
fund that pays for them.
Christie's executive order calls for the state Department of
Transportation and New Jersey Transit to devise a plan before
midnight Saturday for the "orderly" shutdown of projects funded by
the Transportation Trust Fund.
Federally funded projects will continue, Christie said in his
The state expects to receive an estimated $906 million of federal
transportation aid, according to the state treasurer's annual
New Jersey's ability to borrow for new transportation projects ran
out on Friday, the start of the new fiscal year. The trust fund
already has about $16 billion of outstanding debt for existing road
The fund has roughly $80 million left, said Assembly Transportation
Committee Chairman John Wisniewski, who called Christie's executive
order "pure theater."
Without new appropriations or bond proceeds, the authority cannot
pay vendors for construction. Projects at any stage - procurement,
design and construction - are affected by Christie's order, the
Department of Transportation said.
About a month ago, lawmakers discussed issuing grant anticipation
revenue bonds, or so-called GARVEEs, as a stop-gap measure, but the
idea was never acted upon, Wisniewski told Reuters.
The flow of federal money backing those bonds is often uncertain
from year to year.
"You can't do an annual capital program on GARVEE bonds," he said.
Christie ordered the remaining money in the fund to be held only for the
most essential projects "in order to protect the health, safety and
welfare" of New Jerseyans, he said.
[to top of second column]
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks in a press conference at
the State House in Trenton, New Jersey, March 3, 2016.
Christie had hatched a late-night deal earlier this week with the
Assembly to raise the state gasoline tax by 23 cents to 37.5 cents
per gallon to replenish the fund.
In exchange, the sales tax rate would shrink 1 percentage point to 6
percent, which could lead to an annual $1.7 billion shortfall in
But the Senate ended its session on Thursday without replenishing
the program, which is expected to run out of money in August.
Senators were pushing their own bill, which would have phased out
the estate tax on wealthy residents instead of reducing sales taxes.
Christie also stripped several items out of the legislature's budget
on Thursday, signing a reduced $34.5 billion budget for fiscal 2017
that is just 2.1 percent higher than that for fiscal 2016.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum and Leslie Adler)
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