Guadagno — ‘A Vote for Question 2 is a Vote For the Gas Tax’
TRENTON — Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno surprised two of the biggest supporter of New Jersey's gas tax increase — Gov. Chris Christie and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto — when she told a Townsquare Media talk show host Thursday she's against a ballot question to guarantee it's used for transportation.
Speaking on Bill Spadea's morning show on New Jersey 101.5, she said defeating that ballot question is the only way to force the Legislature to rethink the gas tax. The gas tax law would authorize bonding to help fund transportation projects but the ballot question does not ask voters to approve borrowing money.
Spadea has been a fervent opponent of the gas tax, and Guadagno told him last month she is as well.
"A vote for question No. 2 is a vote for the gas tax. If you like the gas tax you'll like No. 2," Guadagno said.
Spadea has also been urging listeners to oppose the ballot measure, promoting use of the hashtag #VoteNoOnTwo on social media.
Like her opposition to the gas tax, the declaration marks a significant split from Christie, who brokered the gas tax deal with the state legislature and supports question No. 2.
"The governor finds it hard to believe that the lieutenant governor supports giving an unguarded pot of money to the Democrat-controlled legislature, rather than on needed infrastructure projects. It must be a misunderstanding," read a statement from Christie spokesman Brian Murray, sent to New Jersey 101.5 minutes after Guadagno made her statement on air.
Prieto, in another statement sent to New Jersey 101.5, questioned whether Guadagno had even read the ballot question, which he said was "troubling" since she is also the Secretary of State.
“This is basic stuff: the ballot question that I sponsored with fellow Democrats focused on fiscal responsibility and spending restraint has nothing to do with a gas tax increase," the speaker said in a statement, adding that he is in support of the question.
Guadagno said she told the League of Municipalities she was in favor of a "lockbox" concept of dedicating funds for a specific purpose. "The lockbox in 30 states is a fabulous idea. Sounds like a great idea," she recalled telling the League, which she said approved of the question.
But after taking a second look at the question and the gas tax legislation, Guadagno said, she realized that approval of the question would also mean the state could borrow $12 billion for transportation projects.
"What we're really saying in this question is that you have my permission, you meaning the legislators, have my permission to borrow $12 billion and pay for it with that 23 cents, the diesel fuel tax and the 'baby oil' tax," Guadagno said. The latter is a reference to the gas tax legislation's increase on all petroleum products.
The text of the question itself, however, makes no mention of any borrowing.
Guadagno said she has already started adding 23 cents per gallon in her head when she passes a gas station.
"You go back and read the question and the explanation, and no where in that constitutional question does it say that (amount would be raised). What we need to do is ask every single legislator who voted rightfully for the lockbox to go back and review it in light of the gas tax tax legislation, which I am completely opposed to at every level. And if you do that, you have to vote no," Guadagno said.
Guadagno said it is "scary" that it took transportation officials to determine what projects were so "vital" that work should continue.
"That means no one really knows where the money is going. And that means they don't have an objective measure of the seriousness of the problem. Nobody has put the whole thing together," Guadagno said.
Governor Christie's statement
“The Governor supports ballot question 2 because it will ensure that all gas tax revenues can only be spent on roads, bridges and mass transit. This protects taxpayers from future wasteful spending by Democrat legislators. The Governor finds it hard to believe that the Lieutenant Governor supports giving an unguarded pot of money to the Democrat-controlled legislature, rather than on needed infrastructure projects. It must be a misunderstanding."
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto's statement
“The lieutenant governor seems to have a complete and total misunderstanding of the ballot question, which is very troublesome. The lieutenant governor doubles as the Secretary of State, who is in charge of our elections. Has our elections chief even read the ballot question?
“This is basic stuff: the ballot question that I sponsored with fellow Democrats focused on fiscal responsibility and spending restraint has nothing to do with a gas tax increase.
“The ballot question, rather, ensures all fuel tax revenue goes toward roads, bridges and mass transit, as it should, and not other budget needs. The ballot question has nothing whatsoever to do with the level of fuel taxation.
“Those who support fiscal responsibility should support the ballot question.
“Those OK with gas tax money being used on other budget needs are free to oppose it, but that’s the type of reckless policy that has caused so many problems in New Jersey.”