Sweeney Says State Debt Crisis Needs Bipartisan Solution

TRENTON – Senate Majority Leader Stephen M. Sweeney today urged his legislative colleagues to study the Corzine Administration’s toll road-debt reduction plan , accept it as it is, offer changes or come forth with a workable alternative.

“It’s not acceptable to condemn the proposal and then just walk away from the problem” said Senator Sweeney. “Criticism’s easy, but finding a solution is the hard work that has to get done.”

Senator Sweeney urged Corzine Administration officials at a hearing by the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee to produce a draft bill for the plan soon if they want it considered prior to this year’s State budget plan.

“I’m not on board yet and I don’t know anybody who really is until we can review an actual bill,” Senator Sweeney said. “But I will make it my business to go over a draft bill and then decide.”

“The bottom line is that we have to fix this debt problem,” Senator Sweeney said. “So far, I haven’t heard any realistic solution from the Republicans. “It’s easy to say, ‘We don’t like toll increases,’ because nobody does.”

Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Salem and Cumberland, said he is especially interested in the detailed workings of the proposed Public Benefits Corporation that would take over the toll roads in New Jersey under the Corzine proposal.

“I need to understand how it would function ,” he said. “If we turn over our assets to a PBC, we, as a Legislature, are responsible for what happens to them.”

Senator Sweeney said both political parties from the past created the State’s debt problem through irresponsible borrowing schemes.

“Since Democrats and Republicans created the mess, both parties should help clean it up,” he said.

The Corzine Administration plan calls for toll increases of 50 percent in four year increments beginning in 2010 and ending in 2022 to cut the state’s projected $32 billion debt problem in half and free up funds for highway improvements and other projects for schools and other projects that would otherwise drive up local property taxes.