- After pushback from state Senate Democrats against his plans to fund transportation projects with an increased gas tax, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie initiated a shutdown of most state highway projects last week, according to The New York Times.
- Democrats said Christie's plan to raise the gas tax — the country's second-lowest by approximately 23 cents — in exchange for lowering sales tax 1% by 2018 would hurt the state budget.
- The shutdown, which is widely viewed as Christie's way of putting pressure on legislators to come up with a solution to recharge the transportation fund, will not affect federally funded projects.
The soonest possible chance to work the budget issues out and get roadwork up and running again is July 11, the next scheduled Senate session. In the meantime, Christie ordered transportation officials to create a plan to stop all but the most essential projects.
In March, the Associated Press reported that the state's $1 billion transportation fund was almost empty and that Democrats were pushing for an increase in the gas tax in exchange for a cut to retirement or estate taxes, but, at the time, Christie insisted on a corresponding decrease to one or more budget items. At one point, Christie proposed a reduction in pension health benefits, but the idea was rejected by state Democrats.
New Jersey, like many other states, is struggling to find ways to fund critical infrastructure projects. Illinois is in a similar position to New Jersey, as state officials announced last month that all state construction projects, including highway work, would stop July 1 if state lawmakers could not agree on a budget. Lawmakers have yet to reach a consensus, but Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a six-month "stopgap measure" on June 30 so that state services, including construction, would not be interrupted.