A Serious Approach to Our Infrastructure

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John Wisniewski has a proven record on Transportation and Infrastructure issues.  He will be New Jersey’s first Transportation Governor.

“… Transportation guru… As chairman of the Assembly’s Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee, Wisniewski has devoted much of his time as a lawmaker to sponsoring transportation legislation. He had a hand in reshaping the state’s then-Division of Motor Vehicles under the Motor Vehicle Security and Customer Service Act, opposed the recent gas tax hike because he said it set the state up for a long-term shortfall and pressed Christie on toll increases…” – NJ.com, November 16, 2016

Infrastructure is New Jersey’s central nervous system, moving people and goods around the state. Investing in New Jersey’s infrastructure creates good paying jobs, enhances the regional economy and creates greater efficiency for our businesses and commuters. Transportation related businesses create jobs in every region of the state. For example, New Jersey’s airports and water borne ports with their passenger and cargo components, employ 358,600 people, and contributes $44.16 billion to the region’s economy.

We can’t ignore the underlying value that our infrastructure system holds for our economy… For too long, we have neglected this foundation of our economy while our competitors in the global marketplace have invested in state-of-the-art water, energy and transportation systems. New Jersey’s economic recovery will be inherently linked to whether or not we create a more reliable and sustainable infrastructure system with better roads, bridges, tunnels and rail systems.” – John Wisniewski, July 1, 2014

John knows that they key to world class transportation infrastructure is having a serious long term plan for funding and management. As Governor, John is committed to revising the recently enacted flawed plan for increasing the gas tax that created a billion dollar annual hole in the budget because of transactional politics favoring the wealthy elite through a repeal of the estate tax. Despite favoring the gas tax, John voted against this measure because the transactional party bosses pushed for the $1.2 billion annual estate tax repeal to benefit only 3,500 wealthy families. Since this fiscally irresponsible bill passed, New Jersey’s credit rating was further downgraded for an incredible tenth time.

“… As chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee, Wisniewski opposed the recent deal to increase the gas tax because he doesn’t believe it goes far enough; he says the eight-year agreement will lead to another hike beyond that, and he doesn’t support the tax-cut tradeoffs that made the deal palatable to Gov. Chris Christie and Republicans. Critics say that’s just more tax-and-spend talk. But he’s probably right…” – EDITORIAL: Wisniewski a worthy option as governor, MyCentralJersey.com, November 16, 2016

The “gas-tax hike only finances an eight-year, $16 billion transportation program under the deal struck last year. That’s among the reasons Assemblyman John Wisniewski, chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee and a Democratic candidate for governor, ended up opposing the deal despite being a long-time proponent of increasing the gas tax. He and other critics believe the plan was too short-sighted and that we’ll be revisiting the same transportation-funding concerns — and talking about another increase — when those eight years are up.” MyCentralJersey.com, April 10, 2017

Since uncovering the infamous e-mail that read “time for traffic problems in Fort Lee,” John knows that the Port Authority needs to be restored to its original mission of serving the bi-state regions transportation needs. Through his work co-chairing the Bridgegate Investigation, John knows that the Port Authority needs to be made more accountable by reducing the number of gubernatorial appointments and adding citizen representatives to the Board of Commissioners and downsizing the agency to be responsible only for bridges, tunnels, trains, buses and ferry’s.

Strategic transportation investments in New Jersey should focus on providing easy access from affordable housing to employment hubs with family-supporting jobs. New Jersey’s current transportation infrastructure under-serves working people, particularly people of color, who disproportionately rely on public transportation.

John is committed to remaking NJ Transit into the world class transportation provider it once was.   He will root out and terminate all patronage hires who consume resources but provide little value to NJ Transit operations. He will insist on a thorough audit of NJ Transit and all independent authorities. And he will make sure that NJ Transit once again has the type of subsidy from the general fund of the state budget to make sure that the trains and buses are well staffed, operated and maintained.

John Wisniewski remains fully committed to building the Gateway Tunnel project, which will replace the current train tunnel used by New Jersey Transit and Amtrak to go into New York City. The current tunnel is failing and in badly need of replacement. As governor, John Wisniewski will work with the federal government, New York State, the Port Authority and Amtrak to secure funding.

If that type of funding isn’t available, public-private partnerships are effective tools that can be used to fill in the gaps on this and other important projects. When used appropriately, they can be efficient ways to provide resources for critical needs. Public private partnerships would be done in a manner that keeps the state firmly in control, does not cede authority to private firms, nor becomes a boondoggle for Wall Street banks.

The current Governor raided the ARC Tunnel funds to use for other projects. This left critical infrastructure underfunded because of his unwillingness to address critical needs before running for President.

Beyond setting the priorities, there needs to be a change in how problems are approached and addressed in Trenton. Transactional politics must end.

“Our government has become unmanageable, so transactional in getting deals done it’s not about delivering the public benefit. You have to have an understanding of how it happened and what should be done to restrain it. The best example was the gas tax debate, when we were forced to give away $1.2 billion a year (in offsets) to fix the transportation system. This was completely irrational: We had county political leaders weighing in with their legislative delegation, insisting that votes be cast for this bill – not because they suddenly got mushy about tax breaks for the super wealthy, but because they wanted a funded Transportation Trust Fund and they didn’t care about the consequences. And in the deliberations, I had more than one colleague say, ‘We can worry about the budget later.’ That mentality got us into the fiscal mess we’re in. We can no longer engage in the same financial gimmickry just to get by.” – John Wisniewski, NJ.com, December 4, 2016

Finally, we need to learn the lesson that was Bridgegate. We must implement better management of the state’s resources and make sure our transportation agencies are utilizing the public dollars for the benefit of the commuters and not the insiders.

If New Jersey is to have a world class infrastructure, then it must remove political calculations from the process. There are high priority areas that have significant needs right now.

John will draw upon his 21 years of experience in the legislature to make these priorities a reality. As Governor, John Wisniewski will;

  • Revise the current Transportation Trust Fund Plan to make it a long term plan instead of the current eight year plan;
  • Reprioritize transportation spending priorities to focus on mass transportation by increasing operational and capital support for NJ Transit to fund state of good repair ad positive train control;
  • Restructure NJ Transit, appoint transportation professionals to run the agency and remove wasteful patronage hires;
  • Create a NJTransit Development Corporation to utilize existing assets to maximize revenue for the Agency,
  • Complete a new Port Authority Bus Terminal for commuters traveling to and from New York;
  • Downsize the Port Authority to the bi-state transportation agency it was intended to be, and provide greater transparency and accountability with citizen/user representation.