By Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski
The Obama administration deserves a lot of credit for the Federal Stimulus Program. This program not only gave a boost to the economy overall, but helped put many New Jerseyans to work making much needed improvements to our transportation infrastructure. Unfortunately though, the bulk of that money has been designated for projects that do not satisfy local county and municipal needs.
Recently the Assembly Budget Committee considered the year’s proposed spending for the Department of Transportation and NJ Transit. The good news is that the budget will now contain an additional $50 million to help counties and municipalities in the state pay for transportation improvements.
This much-needed infusion is a result of an effort I spearheaded with Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts Jr. and state Transportation Commissioner Stephen Dilts – talks spurred by my discussions with mayors and freeholders afraid that federal stimulus money was not going to filter down to key infrastructure projects in local communities.
The $50 million is part of the $3.6 billion transportation improvement program for next fiscal year recently unveiled by Gov. Jon S. Corzine.
Under the plan, counties and municipalities will each receive an additional $25 million more that was originally planned. Thanks to this new funding, we’ve been able to raise the amount of transportation funding from $78 million each to $103 million each.
The additional money was allocated by adjusting estimated spending on some projects and finding efficiencies in others. Bids are expected to come in lower than expected on some work. In other cases, funding for some projects will be split over a two-year period.
This additional money will equate to a New Jersey stimulus package for counties and municipalities by putting residents and businesses to work and easing property taxes during this challenging local economic recession. It will fund necessary improvements, provide new jobs, spark economic development and increase safety, while easing the ever growing financial pressure on local and county governments and property tax payers to fund projects such as these.
Now more than ever, it is imperative that New Jersey take advantage of each and every financial opportunity available. Our future will be shaped by how effectively we spend this money now. We must move forward together with full transparency and accountability to ensure that New Jersey takes advantage of every opportunity to put people back to work and reshape the state for the better for generations to come.
Our state’s economy is dependent on maintaining a modernized and effective transportation infrastructure, and these additional funds will repair and help maintain roads and bridges–which will create and protect thousands of good, local jobs.
Without this money, the cost of these crucial improvements to local streets, bridges and our transportation network would be covered at least in part, by local property taxes, so this funding will not only create jobs, but will help provide direct property tax relief at this very crucial time.
I look forward to seeing not only the immediate benefits this money will bring, but the improvements that will benefit this state, its businesses and residents for decades to come.
For more information on transportation funding or any other legislative matter or state program, please contact my legislative office at (732) 316-1885 or visit my web site: www.assemblymanwisniewski.com.