POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Murphy blasts Christie for ‘years of systemic fiscal starvation’ of NJ Transit

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

The governor’s plan for New Jersey Transit includes: $19 million to hire 114 new employees, $21 million for bus and rail improvements, $4 million to expand bus service to New York City and the Meadowlands, $4 million to better communicate schedule information and $148 million to correct fiscal imbalances.

Murphy blamed the system’s problems on the Christie administration.

“The mindset needed to ensure NJ Transit could meet the daily needs of riders was lacking. And years of systemic fiscal starvation from Trenton wracked its finances. And I say Trenton, from the prior administration in particular,” Murphy said.

A few minutes later he returned to that theme saying, “This notion of smaller government, tax gimmicks to say you didn’t raise taxes even when they made sense to deliver value to the middle class. One-shots, ripping the soul of this state, particularly its progressive soul away from us, we have paid an enormous price, and nowhere has that price been paid more than at NJ Transit, and the hundreds of thousands of residents of this state that use it everyday. Those days are over.”

Murphy says the Christie administration neglected NJ Transit and cut its funding by 90 percent. It’s hard to fact check that because of the different income streams Christie relied on over the years.

Under Christie, NJ Transit used capitol money for operating expenses, tapped the Turnpike Authority for money and diverted much of the Clean Energy Fund. But Murphy stood by his 90 percent cut number.

“They took money from the capital budget and plugged up operating holes. They diverted enormous amounts of money out of the Turnpike Authority. This was a house of cards, and there’s no more of that,” said Murphy.

Assemblyman John McKeon, who co-chaired a two year legislative investigation of NJ Transit, defended Murphy’s accounting.

“The fact is after 60 days, Christie cut the NJ Transit budget by $62 million, fares went up by 25 percent and cut a whole number of routes out. And that was the start of it. And that kind of underfunding continued for the entire eight years,” said McKeon.

Murphy says he’s putting $242 million into NJ Transit. An NJ Spotlight analysis calls it $167 million. McKeon says it’s less than that.

“It’s $100 million of additional funding. $242 million is an honest number, but instead of taking money from clean energy, taking money from the Turnpike, other federal funds that were available, at a minimum we’re replacing those, those resources no longer there, and adding $100 million to that. So the $242 million is the right number. Net, it’s really $100 million more,” McKeon said.

Murphy took one more swipe at Christie.

“It’s one thing to be really mad about how NJ Transit has been overseen by the last administration, just an awful stewardship,” Murphy said.

Perhaps the number that counts the most is that Murphy says there will be no fare hike over the next 15 months.