From the Home News Tribune:
In one of New Jersey’s most elaborate fiscal gimmicks since Gov. Jim Florio had the state sell itself a portion of a New Jersey highway in 1991, Gov. Jon S. Corzine and Democrats in the Legislature are preparing to sell the rights to future toll revenue generated by the New Jersey Turnpike to private investors. Put simply, this is highway robbery.
Not only will this result in toll increases every year for decades to come, but much like the $37 billion mountain of state debt, it will deprive the state of much needed revenue for operations in the future that will likely result in higher taxes.
This would be just the latest in a long line of fiscal gimmicks that have undermined state finances, ensuring a bleak future for New Jersey’s budget and the state’s taxpayers.
Disturbingly, administration sources have indicated to the media that the governor was unlikely to push for the proposal until after Election Day, and Corzine has refused to provide any details about his plan.
This delay in providing the public with answers about the plan gives Democratic legislators the ability to tell voters now that they have “grave concerns” about the asset sale, but then after Election Day they can approve it and say they “have no choice.”
Meanwhile, the state budget approved by the Legislature in a largely party-line vote on June 21 gave the governor a blank check to negotiate this asset sale deal. The budget provided for an unlimited amount of money to be spent on “legal and engineering fees, financial advisers and other consultants and services associated with, as well as any other costs determined necessary in preparation for, the monetization, sale or lease of public assets.”
Later realizing the unpopularity of the plan to sell the toll road, Corzine vetoed out his own use of the word “sale.”
The governor and other Democrats are jittery about calling it a sale — preferring to use terms like “asset monetization” or “asset extraction.” But the Wall Street jargon can’t conceal the truth. Whether it’s selling the Turnpike to a corporation or selling the tolls collected on the Turnpike, the state will be exchanging something of value for money, which is the common-sense definition of a sale.