Corzine signs budget, warns of future money problems

Posted: June 28, 2007

TRENTON - Responding to a pileup of political criticism, Gov. Corzine pledged this afternoon that state roadways would not be sold, nor would they be leased to a for-profit or foreign corporation.

Corzine made the remarks during a ceremony to sign a $33.47 billion state budget. He warned that state costs would increase by billions over the next several years and said that "we need new resources and we need renewed political courage to make those investments."

"And it isn't political courage when somebody says politicians in Trenton are planning to sell the turnpike to foreign corporations," he said angrily. "It's political demagoguery."

Corzine also pledged that the public would retain "ownership and the benefits from both the initial proceeds and the ongoing operations," that upkeep of the roads would be maintained or improved, and that any proposal would include a capital plan "with sufficient funding to improve our roadways and reduce congestion. I want to widen the toll ways, but you've got to have money to do that."

He also said toll schedules would be open and predictable and promised that there would be room for public comment.

He said that he did not have a plan ready, but that "when we get the recipe right everyone will hear about what the ingredients are."

Yesterday, responding to Republican criticism, Democrats running for legislative seats from Mount Laurel to Atlantic City said they opposed selling toll roads to private entities.

Before signing the budget, Corzine cut about $10 million worth of legislative requests, hitting some projects in South Jersey. He axed $50,000 for the Gloucester and Camden County veteran's affairs offices, slashed the Battleship New Jersey's funding from $3 million to $2.8 million, and cut an allocation for a park-ranger program in Washington Township from $400,000 to $200,000.

The budget's highlight is a 20 percent property tax rebate check for most state homeowners. It also includes increases in aid for hospitals and schools. Republicans criticized it because it was almost 9 percent bigger than last year's budget and contains language that allows the Corzine administration to spend "whatever may be necessary" to study the raising of cash by selling or leasing assets to the private sector.


Contact staff writer Elisa Ung at 609-989-9016 or eung@phillynews.com.

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