Christie: Assembly ‘Got Serious’ on Gas Tax Deal; Sweeney Says Senate Plan More ‘Reasonable’
Gov. Chris Christie and state Sen. President Stephen Sweeney both offered their takes on Tuesday on the overnight deal reached between Christie and the Assembly to raise New Jersey's gas tax by 23 cents a gallon, while rolling out a gradual reduction in the state sales tax.
Both maneuvers are tied to the expiring Transportation Trust Fund, which is slated to run out of money on Friday. The fund pays for New Jersey's roads and bridges.
"I have been saying, like, 'I'm just sitting back and watching what you guys do, and when you get serious, come talk to me,'" Christie said of the Assembly during an event in Wall Township. "As I told you, it's the last week. So now they got serious. So yesterday, they came and talked to me."
But as NJ Advance Media reported, Sweeney, D-West Deptford, was surprised to be greeted Tuesday morning by news of the agreement between the governor and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, D-Secaucus. Sweeney maintains that a Senate plan is more "reasonable."
On Monday, when the Senate adjourned with the Assembly still in session, Sweeney said, "We have a bill already," according to the NJ Advance Media report.
"I went to sleep with one plan and woke up with a different one, and I haven't had a chance to talk to my Assembly colleagues," Sweeney said during an event of his own, adding that he would also speak with Christie. "They made some changes to the bill last night that no one ever talked about."
Christie was enthused about plans to eventually cut back the sales tax to 6 percent, which he called the first broad-based tax cut given to New Jersey residents in more than two decades. But he struck a regretful tone when talking about potentially signing off on the gas tax hike that has quickly become so unpopular.
"I've never signed a tax increase in seven years as governor. I didn't want to be for this one," he said. "But I also don't want our roads to fall apart, our bridges to fall down, or our trains not to be able to run."
The Senate is scheduled to vote on the gas tax proposal Thursday. On Wednesday morning, Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Red Bank, and Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, said they were skeptical the measure would pass.
David Matthau contributed to this report.