The NJ gas debate

- As a rabbi performed the invocation at today’s New Jersey State Senate session, it seemed clear that there was plenty to pray over.

Like the out-of-work road laborers in the upstairs gallery who’d been praying since 10am for a gas tax vote that would put them back to work.

“We have about 1,200 members currently who are out of work, members that were working, due to the shutdown,” said Roger Ellis, of the Heavy Equipment Laborers Local 472.

It was July that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pulled the plug on most road construction projects statewide, in order to ration the remaining money in the state’s Transportation Trust Fund that pays for such projects.

An emergency vote to pass a 23 cent per gallon gas tax geared toward replenishing the Fund didn’t happen on Wednesday, due to opposition from both sides of the aisle.  “There’s no reforms,” said Senator Ray Lesniak, (D – Union).  “We have the highest cost of road construction in the country by far.  We need reforms to go along with any tax increase and no giveaways to the wealthy of New Jersey.”

Most Senate Republicans are opposed to the gas tax hike – it’s a tax hike.  Senator Jen Beck (R – Monmouth) compares the urgent push to pass the bill to a hustle.  “It’s sort of cloak-and-dagger, you know, announcing it on a Friday and then trying to move out quick before people know what’s going on.  So we’ll see.”

We certainly will.  All caucusing should be done by 10am on Friday, according to Senate President Steve Sweeney (D – Gloucester).  That’s when an a vote is expected in the Senate on an amended bill already passed by the NJ Assembly.  And since it won’t be an emergency vote, a simple majority will make the difference in whether the bill passes.

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