MIDDLETOWN - Several New Jersey lawmakers are criticizing New Jersey Transit’s proposed 9 percent fare hike and service cuts. 

The agency announced the proposal as a way to bridge a nearly $60 million budget gap.

Contracts with private companies, pension payments and health benefits are being blamed for the hikes, something that is not sitting well with New Jersey leaders.

"If a business were to raise its rates in that fashion, that business would be out of business very, very quickly,” says Monmouth County Assemblywoman Amy Handlin.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski says that the Christie administration's use of NJ Transit like a piggy bank is to blame.

"If the governor had fully funded the transportation trust fund, we wouldn't be squeezing $200 million out of NJ Transit, creating the shortfall that we have right now,” he says.

Mass transit advocates say straphangers are being forced to pay for things they aren't using.

A statement by the Tri-State Transportation group states, "This proposed 9 percent fare hike would be the eighth time fares were raised for New Jersey Transit riders since 1988, the year the state's gas tax, the second lowest in the nation, was last increased."

NJ Transit will hold a series of public meetings beginning May 16 to discuss the changes. A full list of the public meetings can be found on the NJ Transit website.