|Babble Brewing. Corzine says he will push for higher funding. (Photo courtesy of A.J. Sundstrom Photography)|
When New Jerseys Democratic contingent in Congress, plus 1,000 construction industry movers and shakers, got together last week in Trenton, they had not yet learned that President Bush raised the administrations surface transportation funding proposal to nearly $284 billion, up from $256 billion. But that didnt stop local officials from pushing for a near-doubling of the states 15�-per-gallon gasoline tax or massive construction delays in the heavily traveled state.
Congressional speakers at the Feb. 7 annual transportation conference of the New Jersey Alliance for Action, a Trenton-based lobby group of contractors, engineers, real estate and local government groups, hinted that even the higher proposal would shortchange the state, and were prepared for battle.
"Reauthorization is one of the most important issues in the 109th Congress," said Democratic Sen. Jon Corzine. "What was intended as a dedicated funding source hasnt been in the last few years, and I want to be part of the fix." Corzine may not get that chance, since he is expected to run in New Jerseys gubernatorial race this November.
The states Democratic House contingent will likely continue the fight, with members at the conference citing New Jerseys status as a "donor" state and revving up the political rhetoric. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D) a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said that a $299-billion House bill could be introduced soon, passed in March, and "well still have to borrow money."
With New Jersey at the epicenter of a recent spat with the federal government over ethics rules for federally funded transportation contractors, there was surprisingly little discussion of the issue at the meeting. But Corzine said the states congressional contingent "will push legislation to give states the right to set their own contracting rules."