TRENTON - Transportation workers are pushing New Jersey’s lawmakers to make a decision on the state’s gas tax legislation so that they can return to their jobs.
Most of New Jersey’s road and bridge projects had to be stopped earlier this summer due to dwindling funds in the transportation trust fund. Road and construction crews have been without work ever since and are not getting paid.
“The five weeks that we’ve missed is going to be a 20 percent cut to these people’s paychecks that is never going to be made back,” says Utility and Transportation Contractors’ Union CEO Bob Briant.
Lawmakers are hoping to vote on a bill to raise the state gas tax by 23 cents. The revenue from the higher tax will be used to replenish the transportation fund. The bill also includes some tax breaks for state residents.
Gov. Chris Christie says that he is opposed to the latest version of the bill. Senate President Steve Sweeney says that he will not put the bill up for vote in the Senate until he has a “veto-proof” amount of support.
Public sector unions are also pushing Sen. Sweeney to pass a pension amendment, while also accusing him of betraying their employees. Sweeney says the state may not be able to handle both measures at once.
“No one's missing anything. The only people missing anything right now are the people that work on roads and bridges, they're the only people that are losing income right now. No one else,” says Sweeney.
Briant says trucking companies and pavement and asphalt businesses are also losing out due to the road work shutdown. He says that most of this work is seasonal and soon it will be too late to complete the work.
Sweeney says that he just needs one or two more votes for the gas tax plan. He says a vote could come as early as Monday.