- With New Jersey's transportation fund almost dry amid a legislative stalemate over a proposed gas tax increase, Gov. Chris Christie issued an executive order Wednesday that authorized the general fund to subsidize "essential" transportation projects, according to The New York Times.
- Only those projects necessary to ensure residents' safety or those funded with matching federal dollars would receive funding, despite there being a $3 billion pool of stalled projects.
- Christie issued a stop-work order for nearly all state transportation projects in June when his administration and state Assembly Democrats reached an impasse over the budget details of a 23-cent increase to the state gas tax, a way to recharge the Transportation Trust Fund.
The main point of contention between New Jersey lawmakers is how the budget will be adjusted to provide residents with commensurate tax relief to balance out a rise in the gas tax. Christie wants a 1% decrease in the state sales tax, while the other side offered up a grouping of measures, worth $900 million, that included a phase-out of the estate tax. Christie rejected that offering and said it did not cut taxes enough.
While the state's politicians fight it out, the state's construction industry is warning that a continued shutdown could raise the price tag of in-progress existing state work ($247 million) by at least $24 million. Industry players said that remobilization costs, plus increased material and equipment prices, could add to the state's budget woes, but the New Jersey Department of Transportation all but dismissed the claims.
Piling on to a less-than-ideal situation, New Jersey contractors said that if the stalled projects are not restarted soon, winter could prevent them from getting underway again until next spring. The Northeastern infrastructure season usually has an end-of-summer ramp-down process in preparation for cold and severe winter weather. Construction workers typically count on making enough money during the spring and summer to last them through the off-season, but an extended fight at the state capitol could result in a nine-month span of no work for those crews.