Infrastructure, immigration on the mind of NJ’s senior senator

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

“The president’s plan is an insult to the traveling public. It’s a one-way ticket to more delays, more tolls, and more money out of the pockets of commuters,” Sen. Bob Menendez said at a news conference early Friday.

Menendez alerted New Jersey drivers who already reluctantly pony up on the Parkway and Turnpike, that they risk encountering added tolls on interstates, like Routes 80 and 78, under the Trump administration’s proposed budget and infrastructure plans. Menendez said the Trump plans slash billions in federal funding, and incentivize already cash-strapped states to raise money locally.

“It drives either increases in existing fares, whether they be on transit or on a toll for a bridge or road, or to actually toll a road that New Jerseyans have become quite used to using without a toll. That’s why this plan won’t work,” Menendez argued. “Shifting the federal responsibility for infrastructure to local communities doesn’t solve the problem.”

Menendez said Trump’s infrastructure plan offers $200 billion in funding for projects, and cuts the federal match from 80 percent to 20 percent, looking to leverage more than $1 trillion from local and private investment. And private investors are already nosing around the critical Portal North Bridge and Gateway Project that would build rail tunnels under the Hudson, according to Sen. Bob Gordon.

“I have been approached by private groups that are talking about building a Gateway Project, but of course they want a revenue stream. And where’s that revenue stream going to come from but commuters?” asked Gordon.

“So this plan is absolutely insane when it comes to actually dealing with the nation’s infrastructure,” said Menendez.

Senate Democrats will instead try to sell their own $1 trillion infrastructure plan paid for by diverting corporate taxes and subsidies. Menendez also talked about the Senate’s failure to pass any bill offering citizenship to so-called “Dreamers” in the DACA program. Menendez and Sen. Cory Booker did vote for a compromise bill.

“I don’t know what’s next because we have tried every single way, and I’m not giving any more. I’m not giving any more personally than what we gave. That’s it. So, the president, when March 5 comes and these kids don’t have status, I want to see if he’s going to deport them,” said Menendez.

But the president tweeted, “Cannot believe how BADLY DACA recipients have been treated by the Democrats … totally abandoned! Republicans are still working hard.”

For New Jersey’s 22,000 “Dreamers” like Rosa, who came here from Mexico as a teenager, the future feels very uncertain.

“And what is going to happen with that. What is going to happen to all the records are out there. Are they going to go and just grab it and deport everyone? What is really going to happen? It makes me feel angry,” Rosa expressed.

“As hard as it is right now that we don’t have a clear pathway to citizenship, as hard as it is for Dreamers, they know they don’t want to be used as a bargaining chip to pass Trump’s agenda and they don’t want their families to be separated,” said Sara Cullinane, the state director of the immigrant advocacy group Make the Road NJ.

With no Plan B in the Senate for DACA, debate now moves to the House. As for infrastructure, Democrats say they’re going to push their trillion dollar plan and hope for more success.