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Forward NJ urges lawmakers to come up with Transportation Trust Fund fix

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Forward NJ held a news conference Monday at the Statehouse in Trenton.
Forward NJ held a news conference Monday at the Statehouse in Trenton. - ()

Last week, New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Jamie Fox made news when he indicated that ongoing talks between legislators and the administration to find a solution to fixing the state's depleted Transportation Trust Fund were “on the 10-yard line.”

On Monday at a news conference held by Forward NJ, coalition Chairman and New Jersey Chamber of Commerce President Tom Bracken invoked a football metaphor of his own in urging lawmakers and the administration to move ahead with a plan to fix the trust fund.

“We do not want to be the Seattle Seahawks of state government,” Bracken said.

Seattle, of course, came within one yard of winning last week’s Super Bowl but fell short after turning the ball over with just seconds to go.

Bracken said that coming up with a way to fund the state’s ailing transportation infrastructure is “absolutely the most critical issue facing the state of New Jersey right now.”

If not addressed, the trust fund is set to reach insolvency by July.

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Bracken made a point of noting that no single administration, past or present, was specifically to blame for the current situation. That said, Bracken noted that the focus should instead be on finding solutions.

Heavily discussed as a possible strategy is an increase in the state’s gas tax, which at 14.5 cents per gallon is currently the second-lowest in the nation and unchanged since 1988.

Bracken said some recent polls on the gas tax that disregard the reasoning behind such a move have been misleading and misrepresentative of the issue. When presented in a nuanced way that describes the tax as a dedicated funding source for transportation infrastructure, Bracken said the results are different.

“If talked about right, I think it can be overcome,” he said.

Ray Pocino, coalition member and vice president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, said that there needs to be “no politicking” and “no grandstanding” on the issue from lawmakers.

“This needs to be a bipartisan effort,” Pocino said.

“We need a solution today,” added Cathleen Lewis, director of public affairs and government relations for the AAA New Jersey Automobile Club.

Daryn Iwicki, state director for Americans for Prosperity, said he doesn’t understand how so many members of the state’s business community could stand with the coalition in supporting a gas tax.

“As head of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, Tom Bracken should understand better than anyone just how hard it is for job creators and small businesses to make it in New Jersey, which makes his support of a gas tax hike all the more perplexing,” Iwicki said. “Gas prices are already going back up and a massive gas tax hike of the magnitude Forward NJ is pushing for will be crushing.”

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