Saying both Democratic and Republican administrations had ignored transportation infrastructure problems in the state for too long, Republican businessman and gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli has released his plans to overhaul NJ Transit.
Ciattarelli, a member of the state Assembly and resident of Hillsborough, said his priority would be to restore the faith of daily commuters and other passengers who are routinely seeing their lives turned upside down and their safety put at risk by failing infrastructure and mismanagement.
Prior to releasing his plan Wednesday, May 10, Ciattarelli boarded a train from Secaucus bound for Penn Station in New York City to listen to the complaints of commuters and pledge his commitment to confronting and solving the myriad of problems as Governor.
“Hundreds of thousands of New Jersey residents depend on NJ Transit every day to arrive at their job or appointment on time, and to return on schedule and safely home at night,” said Ciattarelli. “Right now, they have every right to be angry about paying for a service that is completely unreliable and potentially dangerous.
"This is a classic case of government becoming less responsive as it grows bigger and more out of touch with its core functions. We need to move in a new direction, and NJ Transit commuters and passengers and employees deserve a plan to get us there,” he added.
Ciattarelli outlined five-steps to his NJ Transit overhaul:
1. Dedicate every penny possible of NJ Transit’s Transportation Trust Fund renewal monies to address emergent track repairs, which later may require reimbursement from Amtrak. “While we need to ensure that deficient roads and bridges are repaired in every corner of the state, a significant portion of gas tax revenues must be immediately targeted to address the NJ Transit crisis,” said Ciattarelli. “If people are unable to get to their jobs – whether it be in the state or outside – our economy will suffer and even more of our residents will seek to leave New Jersey behind for good.”
2. Limit, with the goal of eliminating, NJ Transit capital budget to operating budget transfers. “For more than a decade, NJ Transit has transferred well over a billion dollar of capital funding to close its annual operating budget gap – that is terrible fiscal policy and completely unacceptable,” Ciattarelli said.
Ciattarelli is a Certified Public Accountant.
“Shifting around NJ Transit monies to plug holes in the state’s general fund is symptomatic of the fiscal shell games that happen in Trenton and have pushed our state to the brink. Under a Ciattarelli Administration, this practice will end immediately.”
3. Reorganizing state government to have NJ Transit, the state Department of Transportation and the state Motor Vehicle Commission all under one roof. The move would be aimed at increasing accountability and transparency, as well as creating a more fiscally sustainable model for improving infrastructure.
“The way state government is organized now on so many levels leads only to greater inefficiency and higher costs,” said Ciattarelli. “It’s time to restructure how we deal with transportation more closely in line with the ‘Maryland Model’, which would allow us to modernize and streamline operations to deliver enhanced services at a lower cost. We have one of the highest costs of living in the country, but our state’s residents get nowhere near their money’s worth.”
4. Working with the NJ Congressional delegation to get the Gateway project included in President Donald Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure budget. “New Jersey gets only 60-cents back for every dollar we send to Washington, D.C. Like nearly everything else, unfortunately, that ranks us last or darn close. It is unacceptable and it needs to change.
"Our federal delegation needs to cut through the toxic environment in Washington and work together to bring home our fair share,” said Ciattarelli. “As Governor, I will not be a spectator. Rather I will communicate directly and regularly with our two Senator and twelve Members of Congress, and bring them together to meet and strategize as a group, to ensure that we have people in both parties all pulling in the same direction when it comes to what is important for our home state.”
5. Negotiating with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on a new tax agreement with New York that mirrors our tax agreement with Pennsylvania (i.e. you pay income tax on wages where you live, not where you work) and using tax proceeds to improve infrastructure used by NJ residents who commute to New York.
“We want to have good relationships with our neighbors in New York and Pennsylvania, but under a Ciattarelli Administration we won’t ever be taken advantage of by either of them,” said Ciattarelli. “I will seek to make a common sense deal with Governor Cuomo that accomplishes two goals. First, improved infrastructure shared by our two states. Second, fair tax policy that provides long-term tax relief for our residents and New Jersey.”