POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Status of congestion pricing deal: It’s complicated

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

At a Trenton news conference, reporters pressed Gov. Phil Murphy to clarify: did he really cut a deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to get Jersey drivers bridge and tunnel toll credits? Basically, discounts against New York’s planned congestion pricing fees below 60th Street? Murphy stuck to his story from Wednesday.

“My comments were based explicitly on principle, the principle discussion with Gov. Cuomo. As I said, it’s a conceptual understanding is the way I put it,” Murphy said.

But MTA Chair Pat Foye apparently didn’t get the conceptual memo. He’s issued a flat-out denial.

“With all due respect to Governor Murphy, we have no idea what he is talking about. No agreement has been reached with New Jersey or anyone else on credits, exemptions or carveouts because the MTA will determine the Central Business District tolls and other terms …”

Cuomo’s office agreed, “The MTA will determine congestion pricing and will be doing a traffic study over the next two years‎. They will consider all crossings as well as New Jersey crossings. No conclusions will be reached by the MTA until all studies are completed.”

Murphy explained that it’s very complicated.

“New Jersey will have a seat at the table as this evolves and the entire process evolves over the next several years. I want to reiterate that I appreciate the spirit with which Gov. Cuomo has approached this,” Murphy said. “We will stand strong and make sure that New Jersey commuters are protected, period, full stop.”

NJTV News also asked the governor if he requested the resignation of embattled Schools Development Authority former boss Lizette Delgado-Polanco, who left while under investigation for allegedly creating a patronage pit at the agency.

RELATED: SDA head faces committee over controversial hiring practices

“Please don’t take this the wrong way, I have literally nothing else to add,” Murphy said.

Delgado-Polanco resigned April 23, but several Economic Development Authority, or EDA, board members — all appointed by former Gov. Chris Christie — refused to leave after Murphy asked them to resign. The EDA is also under scrutiny by Murphy’s special task force for allegedly breaking the rules and awarding millions in bogus corporate tax breaks.

“They’re the government appointees. We approached them, we laid out our case, they made their decision. We have to respect that decision. We don’t agree with them,” said Murphy.

At Thursday’s news conference, Murphy also signed two laws to help New Jerseyans financially crushed by student loans they can’t pay back. Two new programs set up by New Jersey’s Higher Education Student Assistance Authority now offer affordable, income-based repayment plans, even if the students have already defaulted.

“The most important thing that this legislation codifies is New Jersey’s belief that we encourage our children, we don’t tear them down before they have an opportunity to fly,” said Sen. Sandra Cunningham, chair of the Higher Education Committee.

One big caveat: the repayment reforms only apply to NJCLASS loans, not private and not federal student loans.