Vote YES on NJ Ballot Q#2 to protect gas tax funds from being raided like clean energy and health funds were

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Source: Engineer’s Labor-Employer Cooperative via nj.com

New Jersey Assemblyman Dr. Tim Eustace wants New Jersey voters to know that voting YES on Ballot Question #2 will enable extremely important protections of taxpayer dollars. Election Day this year falls on Tuesday, November 8.

Here are short and long versions of the reasons it’s important to vote YES to Q2. You already know how important it is that you go vote in the first place – right?

The short version of why YES on Q2

On the gas tax issue, Assm. Eustace comments:

The New Jersey gas tax increase of 23¢ is law – and it’s a mistake to think it will go away if people vote NO on Ballot Question #2 at the polls next Tuesday. Gov. Christie’s second-in-command discussed the ballot question in a 101.5 Radio interview, revealing that either she does not understand this law, or maybe Ms. Guadagno is hoping to draw out Republican voters who believe that the gas tax will go away if they vote no. But, this is not true.

It’s essential that gas tax money be used only for transportation and that this money not become accessible to the governor for use in the general budget. Gov. Christie used over $1.2 billion from the State’s Clean Energy Fund to plug general budget holes. In order to ensure that gas tax money can only be used for transportation expenditures, vote YES to Ballot Question #2 on Election Day.”

Dr. Eustace is the NJ Assembly Environment Committee Chair.

An NJ.com editorial echoes the assemblyman’s message:

…experts attest that if all that if annual gas tax revenue were dedicated exclusively to transportation projects, we could have filled a few more potholes by now … if (taxpayers) are tired of seeing large sums ($35 million last year, higher in previous years) scraped from the gas tax for purposes other than transportation, they can do something about it on Election Day.

Now that the gas tax increase is something we’ve all got to live with, we support Ballot Question 2, a constitutional amendment that dedicates every penny of that revenue to the Transportation Trust Fund.

That means the government can no longer raid the TTF to plug other budget holes – a lockbox provision that 30 other states already have.

Road to Repair offers a short but complete statement on why a YES vote to Q2 is so important:

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Source: roadtorepair.com

The long version of why YES on Q2

On Facebook, Aaron Hyndman addressed this issue with a thorough analysis of the New Jersey gas tax ballot issue, “TO ANYONE STILL ON THE FENCE ABOUT NJ BALLOT QUESTION #2.” Hyndman is Communications Coordinator at the NJ Bike & Walk Coalition and the following is his statement:
I finally have a spare moment to contribute some thoughts regarding Ballot Question 2, so here are some things that I hope everyone will take into consideration:

First of all, there is a great deal of misinformation being spread by the Lt. Gov. and other interests that are opposed to the ballot question for reasons that are more self-serving and not purely altruistic. Too much is being said ABOUT the ballot question instead of discussing what is ACTUALLY in the ballot question, which reads as follows:

Do you approve amending the Constitution to dedicate all revenue from the State motor fuels tax and petroleum products gross receipts tax to the Transportation Trust Fund?

This amendment would provide that an additional three cents of the current motor fuels tax on diesel fuel, which is not dedicated for transportation purposes, be dedicated to the Transportation Trust Fund. In doing so, the entire State tax on diesel fuel would be used for transportation purposes. The entire State tax on gasoline is currently dedicated to the Transportation Trust Fund and used for transportation purposes.

The amendment would also provide that all of the revenue from the current State tax on petroleum products gross receipts be dedicated to the Transportation Trust Fund. In doing so, the entire State tax on petroleum products gross receipts would be used for transportation purposes.

This amendment does not change the current tax on motor fuels or petroleum products gross receipts.”

Note that there is NOTHING in this ballot question about bonding (more on this later). Ballot Question 2 is a proposal to amend the state constitution; that is ALL it is. Specifically, it would amend Paragraph 4 of Section II of Article VIII of the New Jersey Constitution, which is the part of the constitution that created the Transportation Trust Fund. Here is the actual operative text that would be added:

“… for each State fiscal year thereafter, an amount equivalent to all revenue derived from the collection of the tax imposed on the sale of motor fuels pursuant to chapter 39 of Title 54 of the Revised Statutes or any other subsequent law of similar effect…”

Basically, all the amendment does is guarantee that the entire gas tax must be dedicated to the Transportation Trust Fund, for which the constitution has already mandated (at the end of that very same section) that “These amounts shall be appropriated from time to time by the Legislature, only for the purposes of paying or financing the cost of planning, acquisition, engineering, construction, reconstruction, repair and rehabilitation of the transportation system in this State and it shall not be competent for the Legislature to borrow, appropriate or use these amounts or any part thereof for any other purpose, under any pretense whatever.”

For public officials to imply any other implications for the passing of Ballot Question 2 is blatantly dishonest and/or ignorant. The more controversial aspects of the gas tax hike (offsetting Estate Tax, Sales Tax, EITC provisions, etc.) are part of the ALREADY PASSED bill A12/S2411. If you vote “No” on Ballot Question 2, you are NOT voting to repeal ANY PART of A12/S2411. On the contrary, you are giving the politicians in Trenton the ability to spend the revenue raised via the fuel tax hike in A12/S2411 on whatever they want to spend it on. Since A12/S2411 has already been passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, the ONLY way to rescind any of its provisions will be for the legislature to pass a new bill that rescinds those stipulations and have it signed by the governor. VOTING “NO” ON BALLOT QUESTION 2 WILL NOT DO ANY OF THAT; it will only give Trenton a blank check to spend all that extra money we’re paying at the pump starting today.

Now, to the bonding issue

There is NOTHING in the Ballot Question OR in A12/S2411 about bonding. The state already has the authority to borrow money for the purposes of financing projects, and nothing about that changes in either of the aforementioned initiatives. Infrastructure projects are not solely funded by bonding; the state also requires up-front money attained either from tax revenue or federal funds. This is a good thing. The state also can’t borrow money for no reason; it must be tied to a particular project. This is also a good thing. As you probably know, our transportation infrastructure (including not only roads, bridges, and tunnels, BUT ALSO, railways, bike paths, and greenways, which also fall under the designation of transportation infrastructure) are sorely deficient and in a state of disrepair. That is why there are billions of dollars worth of projects proposed by the DOT to remedy that. It is these projects that the bonding is proposed for, in order to supplement the TTF funds that will be created by the fuel tax. If Ballot Question #2 is voted down, then there is no guarantee that TTF funds will be available, meaning that all these infrastructure projects could be a no-go. So obviously, if all the infrastructure projects die, the accompanying financing would be cancelled. So yes, the $12 Billion in bonding would be cancelled, not because of a statutory mandate against borrowing money, but simply because the corresponding (sorely-needed, I might add) infrastructure projects would be killed.

Saying a YES vote on Q#2 will authorize more debt is the reverse of true. It will lower the borrowing cap

The Lt. Governor and the talking heads at NJ101.5 have brought up the issue of the transportation bonding provision outlined in a different bill, A10/S2412 as rationale for voting down Ballot Question #2, with Lt. Gov. Guadagno stating that “it actually authorizes $12 billion in bonding.” This is true. It authorizes $12 billion in bonding, amending the previous statutory cap of $15 billion in bonding that currently exists. So basically, by approving Ballot Question #2 and triggering the amendment to A10/S2412, the voters are ACTUALLY INCREASING THE RESTRICTIONS on Trenton’s ability to borrow. Here is the exact language of A10/S2412:

Commencing on the day that Assembly Concurrent Resolution No.1 of 2015, a constitutional amendment to Article VIII, section II, paragraph 4 of the New Jersey Constitution, takes effect, and ending June 30, [striking out “2026” from the original] 2024, the authority shall not issue transportation program bonds in excess of [striking out $15,000,000,000 from the original] $12,000,000,000. Any increase in this limitation shall only occur if so provided for by law. In computing the foregoing limitation as to the amount of bonds the authority may issue, the authority may exclude any bonds, notes or other obligations, including subordinated obligations of the authority, issued for refunding purposes; except that, any premiums received in connection with the issuance of transportation program bonds shall count against any limitation as to the amount of transportation program bonds the authority may issue. The payment of debt service on transportation program bonds and any agreements issued in connection with such transportation program bonds shall be paid solely from revenues dedicated pursuant to the New Jersey Constitution, including Article VIII, Section II, paragraph 4, and deposited into the “Transportation Trust Fund Account – Subaccount for Debt Service for Transportation Program Bonds.”

So not only does the state ALREADY have the authority to bond for transportation projects, the new provision actually makes it HARDER to borrow money, not easier. This is plainly obvious to anyone who reads the actual text. Unfortunately, the Lt. Governor would rather spread blatant lies in an effort to boost her profile for next year’s election. Thus, it would seem that Assembly Speaker Prieto was correct in his recent assertion that the Lt. Gov. has no idea what she’s talking about.

I apologize for the length of this post, but unfortunately, that’s what it takes to accurately break down the complicated mess that is our public policy and debunk the misinformation being spread in the media. If you’ve made it this far though, thank you for taking the time to read all of this.

With that being said, I intend to vote YES on Ballot Question #2 (end of Aaron Hyndman’s statement).

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