PoliticoNew Jersey- Senate President Stephen Sweeney said after meeting with Gov. Chris Christie this week the two are not much closer to an agreement on the Transportation Trust Fund and the impasse could extend to November.
We had a very healthy meeting but look, we're looking at numbers. We're just trying to figure it out," Sweeney told reporters at an unrelated Statehouse press conference. "Do I think it can go into November? Yeah, because it depends on what we can come together and agree on."
The governor wants to pair a 23-cent increase in the gas tax with tax cuts worth some $1.7 billion per year in order to fund the depleted trust fund. Sweeney says that’s far too big a loss of revenue and won’t support much more than the $896 million in cuts he’s already proposed.
The two men met for more than an hour, Sweeney said, and while he described the meeting as "healthy," he declined to offer any details and indicated there was little movement.
The Tuesday meeting followed a day of public bickering in which Christie blamed Sweeney for the impasse and said the former iron worker should tell "his friends" in the building trades unions why they are out of work. Unable to reach a deal on the gas tax, Christie shut down all state road infrastructure projects in July.
"Well, I'm explaining that we're not mortgaging their future for a quick fix," Sweeney said Wednesday.
In the meantime, concerns and costs are mounting over the stalled projects. Asked what he would tell local governments that have had to stall road work, Sweeney said he hopes they go forward.
"Where they need to go forward they need to go forward, especially where there are safety issues," he said. "And you would hope that the state would recognize and not punish those local governments."
He also said the further delays would likely result in a battery of lawsuits, compounding additional costs tied to the shutdown.
"The problem is how are going to make up the difference because it costs money to shut projects down and it costs money to bring them back up," Sweeney said. "I can imagine there will be lots of lawsuits where contractors will be suing government and vice versa and that's an added cost to what we're dealing with."