Tri-State Transportation Campaign
Testimony at New Jersey State Assembly Budget Hearing
April 2, 2009

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Zoe Baldwin, and I am the New Jersey Advocate for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a non-profit policy watchdog working toward a more sustainable, transit friendly and equitable transportation network in NJ, NY and CT.

There is no way to sugar coat the current economic crisis. Revenue collection is down and residents are reeling from widespread economic downturn, but we must do everything in our power to ensure the current financial crisis does not penalize transit dependent residents.

The proposed cut of $62 million from the NJ Transit operating budget represents 17% of the agency’s already insufficient allotment, and will impair the agency’s ability to properly fund operations, and increase the likelihood of a fare increase or service cutbacks.

To make up for operating shortfalls, NJ Transit has been forced to poach hundreds of millions of dollars from its capital budget — which is supported by the gas tax-funded Transportation Trust Fund and federal aid — in order to keep buses and trains running. Essentially, the agency is forced to rob Peter to pay Paul, straining service and causing neglect of infrastructure.

Although NJ Transit has not announced a plan to increase fares, the cut in state aid puts significant pressure on the agency budget. In 2007, a $60 million deficit in NJ Transit’s operating budget led to a 10% fare increase. An NJ Transit fare increase would be the fourth since 2002, yet we tax our drivers at a rate third lowest in the country for their gasoline - only 10.5 cents per gallon. That hardly seems to make sense for a state that claims to be doing its best to reduce congestion through smart growth measures.

Tri-State urges the legislature to carefully consider the impacts of transit cuts before ratifying this budget.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.