State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff is expected to receive an earful from Democratic legislators on plans to use unused bonding authority to pay for transportation funding at a Joint Budget Oversight Committee this afternoon in Trenton.
The $1.3 billion in funds are expected to be approved due to a deadline to cover immediate transportation costs, according to Robert Briant Jr., CEO of the Utility & Transportation Contractors Association.
“They have to be approved, because that is funding the cash-flow payments for all of the expenditures for the state Transportation Trust Fund,” Briant said. Briant is a member of the Transportation Trust Fund Authority board, which is requesting the money.
Democratic legislators’ questions are expected to focus on how Gov. Chris Christie plans to use borrowed funds without voter approval for transportation.
The state plans to seek the long-term bonds in November and does not want to issue the bonds later in the year, when it will issue more than $2 billion in tax revenue anticipation notes, according to Treasury officials.
The TTF has been a sensitive topic, with some infrastructure advocates backing increased taxes on gasoline, a position Christie has ruled out. While the bonds will cover most of the $1.6 billion in TTF costs this year, the governor plans to shift to annual state tax revenue to cover more of the costs over the next five years; Christie plans $1.6 billion per year over the five years.
“We definitely have this bond issue out in November in order to make sure that we don’t run out of money,” Treasury spokesman Andrew Pratt said.
If the committee doesn’t approve the bonds, the state would turn to short-term bonds to cover costs — which would be more expensive and may be impossible, Pratt said.
The six-member oversight committee includes the party leaders from each legislative house’s budget committees.