New NJ Gov Gets Bombshells to 'Improve' the State

New reports he asked for call for more tolls, higher gas tax

By Brian Thompson
|  Saturday, Jan 23, 2010  |  Updated 9:20 AM EDT
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Gov. Christie Plans State Revamp

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Chris Christie took over as governor Tuesday.

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Gov. Christie Plans State Revamp

Days after being sworn into offices... Several bombshells for New Jersey governor Chris Christie today. But it didn't come from the opposition... It came from his allies. New Jersey reporter Brian Thompson explains
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Less than a week after he became New Jersey's new governor, Chris Christie is getting proposals to raise a key tax and impose new tolls.

And these are coming from his friends, or at least his allies.

"Explore limited tolling of select interstate highways to pay for improvements to those highways," says one proposal to Governor Christie.

"They got enough tolls already, they can't get their money someplace else instead of tolls?" asked trucker Vanco Vasilev of Woodland Park.

Pennsylvania is already studying tolling its section of Rt. 80 across the northern part of that state. This proposal could add tolls to New Jersey's section of the roadway that starts just west of the George Washington Bridge, as well as to heavily used Rt. 78 from Newark out to the Pennsylvania state line.

The Transition report also suggests the possibility of letting the voters decide if there should be an increase in New Jersey's lowest-in-the-nation gasoline tax. It's an idea that's been kicking around for years as the state has been sliding down a road toward running out of funds to rebuild or maintain existing roads and bridges(such as the outdated Pulaski Skyway).

In fact, Christie ran on a platform opposing an increase in the gas tax, and spokesman Mike Drewniak confirmed that the Governor's position has not changed on that issue.

That's fine with motorists such as Fred November of Paramus. "I drive too much," he said in explaining why he opposes any increase in the gas tax. And yet, he applauded the report's recommendation to put it up to a public vote.

"I think it's a privilege for us to get that vote, to be able to have the chance to make our own decision on what we should do," November said.

The report also suggested a crackdown on the roughly 20 thousand motorists a day who try to cheat the tolls on the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway.

One insider speculated that could mean suspension of drivers licenses or even car registrations.

"That to me is kind of extreme," said Dr. John Mitchell of South Bound Brook.

Yet another transition report took aim at the state's ailing horse racing industry. Specifically, it suggested the time may have come for the money-losing Meadowlands race track to close its doors and be replaced with a NASCAR car racing track.

NASCAR has long wanted to locate within sight of the Manhattan skyline, and just a few years ago had an option on a piece of land on Staten Island.

But for horse racing fan Otis Bunting of Passaic it's not a good idea. "This is like a past time for me, have something to do," explained Bunting of his 30 year long tradition of coming to watch the horses run.

There were several other transition reports, all posted on line at the state's website, dealing with just about every facet of state government that will give Christie plenty to think about as he takes on the challenge over the next four years of trying to put the state's fiscal house in order.

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