Toll hikes, sale of toll roads to Wall Street cost NJ Governor re-election

Link to article here.

This ought to send shudders down Rick Perry’s spine. The people have spoken in New Jersey and they rejected their pro-toll Governor’s scheme to sell the New Jersey turnpike to Wall Street in an asset monetization and privatization scheme that could have increased tolls 800%. Even after he dropped the plan in 2008, Corzine presided over a 40% increase in tolls and another 40% increase planned for 2012. Governor Perry has permanently hitched his wagon to the policy of privatizing and tolling Texas highways which translates into toll taxes of 75 cents per MILE and $3,000/yr on average in NEW taxes on driving.

Folks, this is the BEST news we’ve had a long while…tolls are NOT a winning political issue at the ballot box. Dump Rick Perry….March can’t come fast enough.
N.J. Gov. Corzine hurt most by struggle to deliver on financial promises
By Mark Mueller/The Star-Ledger
November 03, 2009

Gov. Jon Corzine never quite fit the profile of a white knight — not with the beard and the bald spot and the predilection for sweater vests — but when he rolled into office four years ago, he seemed a better bet than most to tame New Jersey’s runaway spending and property taxes.

Voters liked his pedigree as one of Wall Street’s brightest lights, a trader who had risen to CEO at Goldman Sachs, a top investment house. Five years in the U.S. Senate added a touch of gravitas and political experience to the package.

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New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine at a campaign event on Oct. 14 in Kearny.

One tumultuous term later, as property taxes continue to climb and as residents feel the lingering pinch of the longest national recession since World War II, those same voters have shown Corzine the door.

With his loss tonight to former U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie, Corzine becomes just the third New Jersey governor in the past 60 years to go down after a single term in office.

Veteran legislators who have worked with Corzine — both in public and behind closed doors — point to a number of reasons for his defeat, but they say none looms larger than the Democratic governor’s struggles to deliver on his signature issues: reining in taxes and firming up the state’s shaky finances.

“The governor promised four years ago there would be a reduction in property taxes. Clearly that hasn’t happened,” said Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7th Dist.), a former state senator who has long had a cordial relationship with Corzine. “The income tax has been raised. The sales tax has been raised. We have systemic budgetary problems in New Jersey, and while some headway has been made, a great deal more needs to be done.”

Lance, a Christie supporter, was almost sympathetic in his analysis, saying Corzine ran into an economic buzzsaw. New Jersey’s coffers are heavily dependent on high-income taxpayers, who suffered big investment losses and lost their jobs in droves when the recession hit, Lance said. That translates into few tax dollars with which to work.

Corzine did push through property tax reform, capping annual increases at 4 percent, but the average tax bill climbed to more than $7,000 for the first time last year, giving the administration little to crow about.

Others said Corzine badly misread the mood in New Jersey when he floated a plan to pay down state debt by dramatically raising highway tolls. He dropped the initiative after hearing invective — and a few boos and catcalls — at town hall meetings across the state.

“Jon Corzine was never able to connect with New Jerseyans and convince them that his vision of New Jersey should be theirs,” said state Sen. Bill Baroni (R-Mercer).

“The toll hike increase, the tax increases and the fact that he was a Wall Street guy at a time when Wall Street was the devil all combined to make him a one-term governor,” Baroni said. “I think people saw him as an ethical guy who was trying, but he never connected with them.”

In some cases, he had trouble connecting with members of his own party, with whom he went to war early in his tenure over his insistence on a one-cent increase in the sales tax. The result: the first government shutdown in state history. After the fray, some legislators complained Corzine acted as if he were still a chief executive ordering around “junior traders.”

The governor ultimately made peace with his party, but with his popularity sinking as the election neared, he faced a near insurrection: Some Democratic leaders wanted to replace him on the ticket, a move that ended when an internal poll showed Newark Mayor Cory Booker wouldn’t fare any better, top Democrats said. Some party leaders even considered abandoning Corzine for Christie after a major corruption bust this summer.

“He was in danger of losing party support,” state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Union) said. “People were looking to jump ship and line up with Christie. That could’ve been a disaster.”

Backers say Corzine made important and lasting changes in Trenton, pushing through ethics reforms and killing so-called “Christmas-tree spending,” or pork doled out by lawmakers.

But he also had a political blind spot that left him vulnerable to criticism, said Senate President Richard Codey, who served as governor for 14 months. Corzine’s romantic entanglement with former union chief Carla Katz, his decision to bail out of jail a lobbyist accused of stalking the state Democratic chairman, and his huge donations to an influential minister who later endorsed the governor all raised suspicion with voters.

Corzine never understood that, even if his motives were pure, others would view such incidents differently, Codey said.

“The thing is, okay, how does it read?” Codey said. “He didn’t understand the incredibly wide disparity between being a U.S. senator and a governor and the scrutiny that comes every day. You have a life of your own as a U.S. senator, and as a governor you’re in a total fishbowl. You’re the man. Who you have a drink with at night, that’s the story.”

Statehouse Bureau reporters Josh Margolin and Claire Heininger contributed to this report.

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Link to article here.

New Jersey governor says will freeze tolls after saying he’d revive ‘monetization’ on smaller scale
Posted on Sat, 2009-10-31
Toll Road News

A close political race for state governor in New Jersey, and accusations that incumbent Gov Jon Corzine was reviving his 2006 plan for monetization of the Turnpike produced a commitment to freeze tolls during his next term. “No toll increases, no leasing of the turnpike…Off the table. Not happening, period.” That’s how Gov Corzine spoke today after tolls became a furore that he judged threatened his re-election.

Gov Corzine, Democrat, is in a close political race with Republican Chris Christie. He was quoted in the New York Times Thursday as saying his previous plan for ‘monetizing’ the Turnpike based on increases of as much as 800% in toll rates by 2022 was  “too big, too fast, at the wrong time.”

The size of toll increases was unacceptable, Corzine said, because of the developing recession.

“Maybe we just need to scale it back…”

But, as reported yesterday by the NY Times, he said “the idea worked” and he added: “So maybe we just need to scale it back.”

In 2008 Corzine said he was abandoning the monetization plan. He couldn’t get legislative support. However toll rates were increased by 40% with a commitment then to another 40% increase in 2012.

Corzine had floated mini-monetization before

Gannett’s state reporter Michael Symons writes that in a debate at William Paterson University Oct 16 Corzine said:

“There’s no question that the plan that I laid down (for monetization of the Turnpike) was too much, too fast for the circumstances, particularly within the context of a recession that we took on.

“But the problems that underlie what we were attempting to accomplish — pay down debt by a half, make sure that we had the resources to be able to fund quality transportation system and to make sure that we provided for open space — was what we had the conversation with the public about.”

“We still have to fix those problems. Unattractive alternatives are fundamental to how you will be able to do that. But we need to make sure that we’re moving forward and address that.”

“New York Times got it wrong”

Today Corzine said the New York Times “got it wrong.”

He said he was talking about how “we may raise money out of our reststops on properties that surround the turnpike.”
COMMENT: There is no serious extra money in rest stops or land along the New Jersey Turnpike.

Rest stops are already contracted as concessions having been auctioned to the highest bidder.The Turnpike needs more land for widening, and any land it has to sell is low value because of utility easements, traffic noise and difficulties of access.

Most toll authorities periodically look at what land they can sell, and what extra income they can get from non-toll activities in order to avoid unpopular toll increases. There’s usually not much there.

Accusing the New York Times of misreporting him is a classic case of shooting the messenger. They appear to have reported him quite accurately. However what he had said suddenly became a political liability, so he needed to “unsay” it by denouncing their quite accurate reporting.

TOLLROADSnews 2009-10-30

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