Weinberg renews call for constitutional amendment for dedicated funding for NJT, urges reduction in capital-to-operating transfers
Trenton – Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg today praised the Governor for recommending a $132 million increase in NJ Transit’s budget, but renewed her endorsement of a constitutionally dedicated source of operating funding and called for a reduction in capital-to-operating transfers as part of this year’s budget.
“As our Senate Select Committee on New Jersey Transit hearings and the daily tweets of commuters show, NJ Transit still faces major challenges before it can provide the safe, reliable, on-time service our commuters have a right to expect,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen), the committee’s vice-chair. “Part of the problem is years of insufficient funding for both operating and capital needs.
“Last year’s proposed $25 million increase in operating funding for NJ Transit was woefully inadequate, which is why we fought so hard to add $50 million to the budget,” she said. “Even with that $50 million added, NJ Transit acknowledged it would be facing at least a $86 million deficit for the upcoming year. That is why we are pleased that the Governor provided a $132 million increase in his budget proposal that the Legislature will surely support.”
Senator Weinberg noted that the $589.5 million direct state subsidy for NJ Transit is supplemented by the continuation of a $129 million subsidy from the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and $82 million from the Clean Energy Fund.
Dedicating $125 million from the Turnpike and $75 million from the Clean Energy Fund is a critical part of the plans for a $500 million dedicated source of operating funding for NJ Transit that Senate President Steve Sweeney unveiled along with Senator Weinberg following Friday’s hearing of the Senate Select Committee.
“The biggest and most successful mass transit agencies in the country get 50% or more of their non-farebox revenue provided through dedicated funding, and our proposed constitutional amendment – which also includes $300 million in Corporation Business Tax revenues – will help us get to that percentage,” Senate Weinberg said. “It is critical that we put dedicated funding on the November ballot.”
Senator Weinberg said she was disappointed that the budget did not reduce the $465 million in capital-to-operating transfers from federal and state funds that cannibalizes NJ Transit’s capital program just to keep the trains and buses running.
“Given the size of the surplus for the current budget year and the upcoming budget year, I would have hoped we could have put a significant dent in those capital-to-operating transfers so that we could move forward with needed investments, including speeding up purchases of electrified buses,” Senator Weinberg said.
“Our constitutional amendment will ban capital-to-operating transfers from state sources in the Transportation Trust Fund and accompanying legislation will sharply limit raids of capital funds,” she said. “But I will push for immediate reductions in capital-to-operating transfers as part of this year’s budget process.”