Assembly aiming to protect local govts from TTF freeze as county sues DOT

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The state Assembly is aiming to protect local governments from the contractual delays damages that may result from the shutdown of road work paid for via the Transportation Trust Fund, which halted 21 Hudson County projects in July and has spawned a county lawsuit against the state Department of Transportation (DOT).

Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise.
Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise.

The bill, (A-4114), was introduced by Assemblywoman Elizabeth Maher Muoio (D-15) on September 15 and approved by the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee yesterday.

On July 6, Gov. Chris Christie issued an Executive Order declaring a state of emergency putting a freeze on the TTF-funded efforts. It is unclear what the potential costs in delaying these projects will be.

“Local property tax payers should not be forced to pay for a failure of governance on the part of Trenton,” Assemblyman Nick Chiaravalloti (D-31), a member of the committee who voted in favor of the bill, said in a statement.

“Although we continue to work towards a sustainable solution and are hopeful that we will fix the TTF, this proposal goes to protecting our county and city taxpayers.”

In the same statement, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise praised the legislation, revealing that the county has filed a lawsuit against the DOT to recoup any potential financial damages.

“This bill is the right medicine–but we’re only sick because the governor’s terrible treatment of this issue,” DeGise said, noting that Hudson County’s lawsuit against the DOT was filed this week.

“Grown-ups compromise. Grown-ups govern. The shutdown of the TTF-funded projects is nothing more than an election year dodge of responsibility. It has to end.”

A solution to replenish the waning TTF appeared to be nearing in June, as Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) and Christie agreed on a $16 billion compromise.

However, the state Senate never voted on a related proposal. Prieto and state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) then appeared to be on the same page for a different $16 billion plan in July, but that plan also stalled.

Christie’s office has reiterated many times that the TTF freeze was essential, blaming the Senate for being unable to come up with, and vote on, a plausible solution.

A spokesman from Christie’s office did not immediately return an email seeking further comment.