Gov. Jon S. Corzine wants the New Jersey legislature to pass his asset monetization plan by mid-March as he canvasses the state and makes stops in 21 counties to talk with local citizens about his plan, which uses toll hikes on the state’s superhighways to issue bonds to pay back half the state’s $32 billion debt.
And while he faces an uphill battle in getting a legislature divided over the plan to pass it into law, it seems he feels the measure is a fait accompli for state taxpayers, and not worthy of revisions based on taxpayer opinions.
Gov. Corzine is going around the state selling the plan at the same time as the legislature debates it, meaning there is no in-between time to add or subtract portions highlighted by the citizenry.
That fact certainly makes his town-hall meeting tour of the Garden State ring slightly hollow, as a more of a sales-pitch explanation than a true town hall, intake of resident-input type of operation.
But it does appear the plan is not yet set in stone, with Gov. Corzine making some concessions that frequent commuters and New Jersey residents using the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway, or Atlantic City Expressway would be able to get discounts in a kind of frequent-flyer type system.
Passing the legislation will certainly take some pushing, prodding, the twisting of arms, and the making of deals, with many Republican and even some Democratic legislators being skeptical of a plan that uses more debt to pay off old debt.
“Without question, it will be a hard sell,” said Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-Essex, in a recent Associated Press piece.
The plan would create a non-profit, public benefit corporation that would run the toll roads, and issue billions of dollars in bonds, which would pay for about half of the state’s current debt, and provide funding for the state Transportation Trust Fund, which is set to run out in 2011.
To pay off the bonds, tolls would jump by 50 percent, every four years starting 2010, with the current average toll paid of more than one dollar jumping to over five dollars by 2022.