Opinion: Taxman Murphy Looks at New Tolls for Pensions
Let's do a complete blood count on New Jersey. In mid-2017, NJ's bonded debt rose to $46 million and NJ's pension system had a $115 billion chasm between assets and what it owes retirees, according to a recent report. Then there's another $36 billion shortfall for retiree benefits like health insurance.
If New Jersey were a patient, she would be on life support.
It was politicians who got us into this mess. Now more politicians are looking for a way out. Will democrats look at the hard, real choices of moving public workers to 401K style programs? Will they swallow the difficult pill of making them contribute more for their health care? Of course not. That would take guts.
Instead the powers that be are looking at how to further monetize state assets to shore up an inevitable-to-fail pension system. One idea?
There's an idea being talked about in Trenton hallways to move the New Jersey Turnpike system into the pension system and grow revenues by adding more tolls. Specifically high-occupancy toll lanes. These lanes provide an option for commuters to avoid traffic but charge fluctuating tolls based on congestion.
No idea how this would work. If they tried building new lanes it is self-defeating unless done with private money. Even then, we all know how long it takes to build roads in New Jersey. The pension system will have long collapsed before they'd be halfway done. It's laughable. If they try to do this by borrowing from existing lanes, it's already been a proven failure. Anyone remember in the '90s when HOV (High-Occupancy Vehicle) lanes, otherwise known as carpool lanes, were put in on 80 and 287? Then Gov. Whitman terminated the failed project in 1998. They found solo commuters would be sitting in overcrowded lanes of bumper to bumper traffic while the empty, unused HOV lane sat nearby. That happened without even charging a toll.
Let's try to also remember the original deal with toll roads here. The promise made with the public was the tolls were only to pay off the debt for having built the road to begin with. Once paid, the tolls were supposed to come down. Of course it turned into a game of self-perpetuation by always coming up with new roadwork projects, thus always remaining in debt, thus never getting rid of tolls. At this point they're not even playing the game anymore. They want to blatantly take the money for another purpose entirely. The pols don't even respect us enough to lie to us.
Once again, we have gutless Democrats in charge and a progressive governor to lead the way right to the cliff. Is there any saving this state? Stay tuned.