The state was witness to a historic moment earlier this month. A bipartisan group of lawmakers came together and solved our state's transportation funding crisis.
New Jersey now has the long-term source of funding it needs to fix our infrastructure. But there is one more piece to this puzzle: On Nov. 8, voters must vote "Yes" on Ballot Question 2 to ensure every dollar of the state's gas tax goes toward infrastructure funding.
Over the last several years, I have been proud to serve as chairman of Forward New Jersey. We started as a small group of business and labor leaders focused on how we could create a real solution to the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF). The TTF is the mechanism by which the state pays to repair and improve our roads, bridges, and railways. Those discussions led to a broader and more diverse group of stakeholders, including former government officials, consumer advocates, and business and labor leaders coming together to create a coalition determined to see the implementation of a long-term, sustainable and reliable source of funding for the TTF.
The legislation, signed into law this month by Gov. Chris Christie, accomplished those goals. It creates a program that, with federal matching dollars, will provide $4 billion annually over an eight-year period in funding for transportation infrastructure.
This will allow the state to make much needed improvements and repairs. At the same time, it will create thousands of jobs and kick start the state's economy. This is the kind of solution New Jersey needed.
In addition to providing a long-term infrastructure solution, the legislation also provides a series of tax cuts that go a long way toward making New Jersey a better place to work, live and retire. All legislators who voted for this bill should be commended for doing what was right and what was needed to pave the way for a better future for our state.
Now that the legislation is law, there is one final issue that must be addressed. We have to make sure every dollar of the gas tax is spent on improving our infrastructure.
Through a current loophole in state law, there is no guarantee that most of the 23 cent increase would be used for infrastructure. In fact, of the $1.2 billion a year in new revenue the tax will raise, only $200 million is required to be spent on transportation funding. That leaves $1 billion that could be diverted away from transportation and spent elsewhere.
In short, there is currently no guarantee that most of the 23 cent increase you are about to see in the gas tax will go toward what it is supposed to go toward.
The voters of New Jersey have the ability to change this. There will be a constitutional amendment on the ballot — known as Question 2 — which will dedicate every single penny of the gas tax to transportation funding, now and forever. This Constitutional dedication means neither the Legislature nor the governor have the ability to divert the funding to other budgetary needs.
Forward New Jersey fully supports the constitutional dedication of TTF dollars and encourages all New Jerseyans to vote yes on Question 2. Voters have the power to ensure that their tax dollars are spent on improving the transportation infrastructure of New Jersey, and not for any other purpose. Please join me on Nov. in voting yes on Question 2.
Tom Bracken is the president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and chair of Forward New Jersey, a partnership of more than 75 New Jersey-based organizations advocating for a smart, robust, sustainable, and constitutionally dedicated source of funding for the Transportation Trust Fund.