Category: Clips

Webber: Gas tax scheme no ‘deal’ for NJ taxpayers

Source: PolitickerNJ -

Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-26) was among the 22 nay votes on the gas tax hike for sales tax reduction swap vote Monday night. Today, he offered his full explanation for why he believes the assembly and Governor Chris Christie erred.

Jay Webber

“Trenton’s backrooms are pushing another Wimpy ‘deal,’ gladly giving us tax relief on a proverbial Tuesday in the future for a huge gas tax hike today,” Webber said. “The gas tax hike passed Tuesday would impose a front-loaded, immediate, and permanent 160 percent gas tax increase on New Jersey’s overtaxed residents in exchange for a phased-in one penny sales tax reduction that stands on shaky ground.

“There’s a net $850 million tax increase for this year and a guaranteed $4.8 billion more in tax hikes following close behind,” the assemblyman added. “The so-called ‘deal’ doesn’t offer taxpayers their money back on this tax increase until five years from now, if it ever comes back at all. We know from experience the history of Wimpy tax ‘deals’ in New Jersey with tax increases today for promises of later relief that never arrives.”

Webber noted that for years New Jersey has allowed the increase of the income tax and sales tax multiple times on the promise of providing property tax relief that never comes.

“Just weeks ago, Democrats in the Legislature signaled that they had no intention of following through with the tax cuts they were dangling as part of their gas tax bait-and-switch,” he said. “What makes us think they’ll change their tune after the Christie administration is over, and the Democrats have their tax increase safely in hand?

“The Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) challenge in New Jersey is real and needs to be addressed,” the assemblyman added. “But no ‘fix’ for the TTF should exacerbate our state’s biggest problem: New Jersey’s nation-leading tax burden. There is time to craft an alternative proposal that protects our taxpayers, finds cost-savings and efficiencies for the nation’s most expensive roads, and allows adequate funding for the TTF. I urge Governor Christie and my fellow legislators to scrap this raw deal for taxpayers and get to work on solutions New Jerseyans deserve and can afford.”

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Dancer, Bramnick support wagering on unique Far Hills steeplechase event

Source: Courier News -

The state Assembly has unanimously passed a bill to allow pari-mutuel wagering at the annual Far Hills Race Meeting, but the Senate version of the bill is still in committee.

The Assembly bill (A1697) would allow the New Jersey Racing Commission to grant one special two-day permit each year to allow wagering on steeplechase races.

The 96th running of the Far Hills races at Moorland Farm in Far Hills is scheduled for Oct. 15. The seven-race program is highlighted by the Grand National, America’s richest steeplechase race with a $350,000 purse.

Each year, the one-day event attracts more than 35,000 spectators, with proceeds benefiting Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset and healthcare in the region.

The Steeplechase Cancer Center at the Somerville medical center is named in honor of the Far Hills races, which have raised more than $17 million for the medical center.

Jon Bramnick

“Adding wagering to this prestigious event will help provide more money for the fight against cancer,” said Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-District 21), who represents Far Hills. “The Far Hills Race Meeting has a long tradition of supporting the highest quality of healthcare for people in Central New Jersey.”

Ron Dancer

“We are taking this great New Jersey tradition and making it even better,” said said Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-District 12), a former horseman and the son of the late Harness Racing Hall of Fame driver Stanley Dancer. “This legislation will increase the profile of New Jersey’s diverse horse racing industry and steeplechase racing to a broader national audience.”

The Senate version of the bill was introduced June 20 by state Sens. Kip Bateman (R-District 16) and Tom Kean Jr. (R-District 21). The bill was referred to the Senate’s State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee.

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Handlin disappointed by JCP&L’s absence at public meeting on proposed power line

Source: Asbury Park Press -

Amy Handlin

Assemblywoman Amy Handlin sent several invitations to Jersey Central Power & Light to attend Tuesday night’s public forum on the utility’s proposal to build a 10-mile high voltage transmission line, but in the end four chairs remained empty.

“I had hoped that they would understand if they would attend a public meeting that both sides would benefit,” said Handlin, R-Monmouth.

But JCP&L declined the invitation. “JCP&L is committed to transparent and open communication,” spokesman Ron Morano said in a statement. “Our outreach has included the three open house meetings that allowed us to provide information and answer questions from the public in a face to face setting resulting in a productive exchange of dialogue.”

Opponents of JCP&L’s proposed Monmouth County Reliability Project, a 230,000-volt line that would run between Aberdeen and Red Bank along the NJ Transit tracks, have criticized the utility’s open houses. The meetings were an attempt to divide and conquer by forcing residents to ask questions in small groups rather than giving an opportunity to share their collective concerns and questions in a larger forum, Handlin said.

JCP&L said it continues to communicate through social media, the project’s website and an information line. The public also will have an opportunity to air their views at a future public hearing hosted by the state Board of Public Utilities, Morano said.

“Obviously, we are all disappointed,” Handlin said. “We’re going to replace what would have been our opponents with our supporters.”

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Ciattarelli, Webber: Gas tax will hurt over-burden New Jersey taxpayers

Source: Excerpt from Tap Into Somerville -

A showdown is expected Thursday when the state Senate opens debate on a contentious plan to increase the state’s gasoline tax by 23 cents a gallon.

The estimated $2 billion raised annually by the gas tax would be used to replenish the state’s battered Transportation Trust Fund over the next 10 years.

The state Assembly voted 53-22 to approve the gasoline tax plan early Tuesday morning following intense give-and-take negotiations between Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) and Gov. Chris Christie. The governor agreed to support the increase in return for a decrease in the state sales tax from 7 to 6 percent, phased in over three years.

Somerset County Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, (R-16th) voted against both bills.

Jack Ciattarelli

“We’re decreasing a tax that affects all New Jerseyans to justify increasing a tax that affects all New Jerseyans,” Ciattarelli said. “The trade-off seems like a shell game. Factor in our structural budget deficits, I voted ‘no.’ Fiscally speaking, I fear we’re only digging a deeper and deeper hole, the sides of which could soon cave in,” he added.

“Tonight, all the Trenton insiders did was pave New Jersey’s road to higher taxes,” said Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris). “This State Street ‘deal’ is an instant $850 million tax hike on overtaxed Main Street New Jerseyans, with as much as $4.8 billion more in tax hikes coming in the next few years. And it doesn’t offer taxpayers their money back until five years from now, if it ever comes back at all.

Jay Webber

“We have a serious problem and have to fix the Transportation Trust Fund. But New Jersey’s biggest problem is our crushing tax burden, and any ‘deal’ like this one, that makes the tax burden worse, is just a raw deal for New Jersey,” Webber added.

New Jersey’s gasoline tax is 14.5 cents per gallon, second only to Alaska as the lowest in the country. The 23-cent increase, if it were to be approved, would mean a 63 percent increase in the state’s gasoline tax to 37.5 cents per gallon, pushing New Jersey to number seven on the list of states with the most expensive gasoline tax. The last gasoline tax increase in New Jersey came in 1989.

The state’s beleaguered Transportation Trust Fund, burdened by debt payment from years of borrowing, will run out of money this summer without an infusion of billions. The TTF pays for bridge, tunnel and road repair projects throughout the state.

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Schepisi: Implications of TTF plan uncertain

Source: Bloomberg – New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s hastily proposed 1 percentage point sales-tax cut, his condition for unlocking billions of dollars for transportation projects, would blow a $1.6 billion hole in the general fund.

Christie, a two-term Republican, and newfound allies among Assembly Democrats are hailing the reduction as a fair trade-off for a higher levy on gasoline to fund road and rail work. Neither the governor nor legislative leaders, though, are saying how New Jersey, the nation’s third most-indebted state, could afford such largess or how they would make up for the shortfall…

Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

New Jerseyans pay heavily to their government. Property taxes are highest among U.S. states, averaging $8,353. But after promising widespread relief, Christie has been hampered by a Democratic-led legislature and disappointing revenue since a 2010 bipartisan deal that made cuts to pensions and benefits for state workers. Elected leaders have resisted a second round of reductions. Almost all growth in this year’s budget was for pensions, benefits and debt service rather than education, health or new initiatives.

Now Christie, in a vote expected to take place Thursday, wants the Senate to pass his sales-tax plan. He would increase the gasoline tax by 23 cents per gallon, to 37.5 cents, to support an eight-year, $16 billion commitment to highways, bridges and rail improvements…

The Assembly approved the proposal early Tuesday after a day of hastily called meetings between the administration and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, a Democrat from Secaucus…

“It came out of left field,” Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, a Republican from Westwood and appropriations committee member who voted against the changes, said in an interview Tuesday. “I just fundamentally felt uncomfortable voting yes on something that I still don’t know, as I sit here this morning, what the implications will be.”

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O’Scanlon, Bucco warn against Democrats’ pension referendum

Source: Excerpt from The Star-Ledger -

The state Assembly took its final step Monday toward placing a referendum on the fall ballot asking voters to commit to spending billions of dollars to repair the public worker pension system.

With the governor cut out of the ballot question process, it is now up to the Democratic-controlled Senate to see the referendum onto this fall’s general election ballot.

The Assembly approved the measure 50-25 with two absentions. Both houses approved the referendum last year, and need to do it again this year to get it on the November ballot.

On the Assembly floor, Republicans offered stern warnings that Democrats were making a historic mistake that would hurt future generations of New Jerseyans.

Declan O'Scanlon

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth), who has offered an alternative constitutional amendment, called the Democratic-backed plan one of the “single-most ill-advised and destructive actions” the Legislature could take.

O’Scanlon’s plan would trade a constitutional amendment for cuts to employee health care that would save state and local government employers billions of dollars a year.

Anthony M. Bucco

Assemblyman Anthony Bucco (R-Morris) warned a yes vote was a vote to “lean closer to disaster.”

“No matter how deep the (budget) cuts have to go … those pension payment have to come first. Everything else is secondary. Is this really how we want the budget to be managed?”

The proposed constitutional amendment (ACR109) would put an end to two decades or erratic funding and replace the governor and Legislature’s broken promise to fully fund the system with a constitutional one.

The amendment would put the deeply underfunded government worker pension system on a path toward more solid footing, but it would also fence off a big pot of money Gov. Chris Christie has used to hedge against hard times.

Christie cut $2.24 billion from planned pension payments over two years after New Jersey’s economy post-Recession failed to live up to expectations.

While the amendment, if approved by the voters in November, would be a major victory for public workers, some lawmakers have warned that restricting access to that cash would greatly limit the state’s ability to respond to future budget shortfalls.

 

If approved, the state would have to gradually increase payments into the system until hitting the full payment recommended by actuaries, more than $5 billion. In the budget up for consideration in the Legislature Monday and in the governor’s own proposed budget, the state would contribute $1.86 billion in the fiscal year that begins on Friday.

The annual required contribution, and the hefty unfunded liability, will continue to rise without larger annual contributions.

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Webber says gas tax hike, TTF plan a “raw deal” for NJ

Source: NJSpotlight – Lawmakers had no problem sending a budget bill to Gov. Chris Christie yesterday, but finding consensus on a way to renew the state’s going-broke Transportation Trust Fund was a different story.

Without any debate or disagreement, a $34.8 billion spending plan proposed by Democratic legislative leaders for the fiscal year that begins on Friday passed both the Assembly and the Senate. Their action sends the budget bill on to the Republican governor, who is expected to make only modest changes in the next few days using the line-item veto.

Jay Webber

But how lawmakers plan to renew funding for the Transportation Trust Fund in the remaining days before the current finance plan expires still remains an open question. It was also the subject of intense drama that lasted throughout the day yesterday and into the early hours of this morning.

Much of that drama resulted from Christie getting directly involved in negotiations with lawmakers, after spending months above the fray saying it was up to the Legislature to present him with a solution. The Christie-brokered plan, which centers on swapping a gas-tax hike for a sales-tax cut, passed the Assembly just after 12:30 a.m., and only after several breaks and long delays.

It bears little resemblance to a now competing plan backed by Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) and Steve Oroho (R-Sussex), beyond a 23-cent hike in the gas tax and a gradual loosening of restrictions on retirement income from pensions and 401(k)s.

Everything else in the bipartisan Senate bill has been cast aside: increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-wage workers, creating a new income-tax credit for contributions made to social-service charities, and phasing out New Jersey’s estate tax…

The new trust-fund proposal features a 23-cent gas-tax increase to raise revenue to extend the Transportation Trust Fund for another eight years at $2 billion in annual spending. And it emerged after it became clear that there were likely not enough votes in the Assembly to support the renewal plan that originated in the Senate earlier this month.

The new plan retains the proposed tax cut for retirees, but adds in a reversal of a 1 percent sales-tax increase that was implemented by then-Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in 2006 after a six-day state government shutdown…

The new plan was also criticized from the right, with Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris) predicting the gas-tax hike would equal roughly $850 million a year on New Jersey motorists.

“New Jersey’s biggest problem is our crushing tax burden, and any ‘deal’, like this one, that makes the tax burden worse, is just a raw deal for New Jersey,” Webber said.

Still, the measure cleared the Assembly by a comfortable 53-23 margin. That followed a similar, 50-27 vote on the Democrats’ budget bill. In the Senate, the budget bill was approved in a 28-11 vote nearly 12 hours earlier.

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Handlin voices opposition to JCP&L power line

Source: APP.com – The large standing-room-only crowd packed into a room at Middletown Library on Wednesday night seemed ready for a long fight ahead, a battle against a proposed 10-mile Jersey Central Power & Light transmission line that will run along the NJ Transit tracks and behind their houses, yards and pools.

“What matters in this fight?” said Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, R-Monmouth, who fought a similar proposal in the 1990s. “Money matters, media matters, getting important people on our side matters, but what matters most is you, numbers, the people who have come here tonight.”

Amy Handlin

An estimated 300 residents attended an organizational meeting for RAGE, Residents Against Giant Electric. The group reformed recently after successfully fending off the project decades ago. “You have the power to literally stop the functioning of government and offices that refuse to help, that aren’t on our side,” Handlin said. “You have the ability to make it clear to elected officials who aren’t on our side that they will not only lose your votes, they will lose their good names in their communities.”

Jersey Central Power & Light’s $75 million proposal for a 230,000-volt transmission line, called the Monmouth County Reliability Project, would run along the New Jersey Transit’s North Jersey Coast Line railroad tracks and right of way, connecting a substation in Aberdeen with one in Red Bank and going through Hazlet, Holmdel and Middletown…

The power line would feed electricity into Monmouth County’s distribution system, encompassing 63 substations from Union Beach to Freehold Township and along the coast to Sea Girt. JCP&L considered 17 potential routes for the proposed project, considering factors such as environmental concerns, vegetation removal and the proximity to homes, The utility has not yet filed a proposal with the state Board of Public Utilities, which must approve the project.

A growing number of residents have raised an alarm, concerned about the health impact of electromagnetic fields from the lines, the effect on their houses’ property values and the aesthetics of the line’s wires and monopole towers, which will be from about 140 feet to more than 200 feet tall, depending on their location. (JCP&L has disputed that the project will significantly increase electromagnetic fields, given the presence of NJ Transit’s electric wires along the route.)

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Bucco votes “no” on TTF bill; says it doesn’t help middle class

Source: PolitickerNJ – The Assembly Budget Committee on Thursday released A10, a bill aimed at replenishing New Jersey’s near-bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) and A11, a bill that amends certain NJ taxes in conjunction with the TTF changes. The move is part of a last-minute push by legislators to pass TTF funding legislation before the fund runs out on June 30…

Anthony M. Bucco

On Monday June 20, the legislation was introduced in both the state senate and the assembly. If eventually signed into law by the governor, the legislation stands to impose a $0.23 increase per gallon to the gas tax while cutting a number of other taxes including phasing out the estate tax. In the assembly chambers, there was a two-hour recess while legislators hammered out the final language of the bills and how they will amend already-existing statutory law.

If enacted, the bills stand to generate about $2 billion per year for the next ten years to be spent on New Jersey’s roads and infrastructure. While Governor Chris Christie has been resistant to any tax increases, the bipartisan nature of the gas tax legislation—the senate version of A10, S2412, is co-sponsored by Republican Steven Oroho (R-24)—has many supporters hopeful that the state can avoid a work stoppage caused by a lack of TTF funding. While Christie has been opposed to tax raises, there is hope that the across-the-board tax cuts that will accompany the increased gas tax may encourage the governor to sign the legislation…

According to Assemblyman Anthony Bucco (R-25), his ‘no’ votes stem from the fact that the bills don’t help the middle class.

“Part of this package should have included increasing our tax brackets to the rate of inflation,” Bucco said. “If I could have that, I would be all in today. We all recognize that we live in a state that is the most expensive in the nation… but I have been here long enough to know that if we have more money, we are not giving out tax breaks. We are finding projects to spend it on…”

While Governor Christie said that the legislation is on the right track, he said he will not sign it if he does not feel it provides tax fairness.

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DiMaio, Peterson voice opposition to gas tax hike

Source: MyCentralJersey.com – New Jersey should not be allowed to raise its gas tax until the state finds a way to eliminate corruption and reduce the cost of road construction.

That was the main message at a Wednesday afternoon rally sponsored by Americans for Prosperity on Route 22 outside a district office of state Sen. Mike Doherty (R-District 23)…

John DiMaio

Assemblyman John DiMaio (R-District 23) said he doubted the money raised by the possible tax hike would go for roads, but would instead fund “pet projects” of legislators.

“We have to tighten our belts,” he said.

DiMaio also targeted the state Motor Vehicle Commission, which collected more than $1 billion in license and registration fees last year but needed only $313 million for its operating costs.

Assemblyman Erik Peterson (R-District 23) also targeted construction costs.

“The DOT (Department of Transportation) has no idea of what it spends,” he said.

For example, he said, the worker who holds the stop-and-go sign at a road project gets paid $67 per hour.

Erik Peterson

“It’s a minimum wage job,” he said.

Peterson added that state Department of Environmental Protection regulations also drive up the cost of construction.

Legislators have proposed a 23-cent per gallon hike in the gas tax to 37.5 cents per gallon to fill up the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which is running on empty.

At 14.5 cents per gallon, New Jersey has the second-lowest gas tax in the country. If the gas tax is approved and survives an expected veto by Gov. Chris Christie, New Jersey would have the seventh-highest gas tax in the nation.

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