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Enjoy your Fourth of July weekend New Jersey. The impending 23 cent gas tax hike, scheduled to go into effect at midnight, is (temporarily) dead.
It's not for lack of trying. And it's not because State Senate Democrats have suddenly seen the light in our already overtaxed state.
Nope. It's because Steve Sweeney wants the tax hit to be bigger. Christie's fake sales tax cut has gotta go! To be replaced with, well, the Democrats are still working that out.
New Jersey's elected leaders failed to reach a compromise Thursday to fix the state's transportation funding crisis, Democratic leaders of the state Senate said Thursday afternoon.
The announcement that there would be no Senate vote came as a surprise to legions of lawmakers and lobbyists in Trenton, most of whom have spent the last two months warning that construction projects on the state's roads, bridges and rail lines will close at midnight if no funding fix is found. But leaders in the Senate said Thursday that there is enough money to carry the fund through July.
Asked whether the Assembly and Senate are close to agreement on funding the Transportation Trust Fund, Sweeney said simply, "No."
So the fund that was running on fumes suddenly has an extra month of life. It's a miracle!
"We're going to go talk to the Assembly because we don't feel there's enough support in the Senate to do the Assembly bill. So we have to go to the Assembly with what we feel is a bill that could pass," Sweeney, D-Gloucester, told reporters. "It's a negotiation, and we're going to try to negotiate with the Assembly when we leave here. But we're not going to take any action on either bill today."
The only part the 2 sides agree on is the immediate 23 cent hike in the gas tax.
Christie and the Assembly say they'll offset that with a one percent sales tax cut sometime after 2018.
Senate Democrats had cobbled together a hodge-podge of estate tax phaseouts, retirement income tax exclusions, and charitable contribution deductions for some "middle class" tax filers to maybe appease enough fence-sitters into backing the gas tax increase. Christie called that plan "unfair," which is how he came to be siding with the Assembly's proposal.
Meanwhile the Transportation Trust Fund is $30 billion in debt and every dime currently dedicated toward it now goes to interest payments, leaving nothing to pay for actual transportaton projects. Hence the zeal to more than double the gas tax.
And of course all of this plays out against the backdrop of Sweeney's 2017 gubernatorial ambitions. Which of course might get detoured if he's seen as the mastermind of a whopping gas tax hike.
Happy, uh, Independence Day.
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