Gov. Christie says transportation trust fund OK through 2016 and 'not a crisis at the moment'

IndustriesAssociated Press

New Jersey drivers bracing for an increase in the state's gas tax might have gotten a reprieve until 2016.

That's because Gov. Chris Christie says the state's transportation trust fund has enough cash to run through June 2016, not June 2015 as many lawmakers and outside interest groups have been saying.

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On his monthly "Ask the Governor" radio call-in show, Christie on Wednesday addressed his failure to mention the fund during his annual budget address a day earlier.

State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff explained the date discrepancy on Tuesday, saying the governor plans to use authorized but unissued bonds to pay for road, bridge and tunnel work and repair in fiscal year 2016.

The Republican governor surprised Democratic lawmakers and outside interest groups by not mentioning the fund in his speech. Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman John Wisniewski called the governor's plan a "mistake," and the leader of a business-labor group advocating for replenishing the fund said he was disappointed Christie failed to mention the fund.

Christie dialed back the urgency of the fund's pending insolvency.

"This is not something to rush on or rush through. It's important decisions that need to made. I've continued to allow everything to be on the table in terms of discussions. And we'll continue to have those conversations," he said, adding he was hopeful they'd be able to come to a resolution "sooner rather than later."

Christie was asked during the radio program whether taking on more debt through bonds furthers the problem. He downplayed the concern.

"You always bond for long-term construction projects, you always do," he said. "And so no, I don't think that's an enormous problem."

Despite the decision, Christie says he is continuing talks with legislative leaders.

"We need to fix the problem longer term on the TTF to get us beyond June of 2016 and I've said right from the beginning I'm more than prepared to do that. I'm having those conversations," he said. "When we get to an agreement, we'll do it."