Bill Would Boost Economy While Leveraging State, Federal & Private Investments for Long-Term Overhaul of NJ's Transportation Network & Clean Energy Systems
(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John Wisniewski, Troy Singleton, Linda Stender and Marlene Caride that would establish a State Transportation Infrastructure Bank to leverage public and private investments for the long-term overhaul of New Jersey's transportation network received final legislative approval from the full Assembly on Monday.
"We can't ignore the underlying value that our infrastructure system holds for our economy," said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). "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 recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy 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."
"Economists have often said that the creation of a robust and dependable infrastructure system is an essential building block for a great economy," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "Absent our roadways, water systems, energy supply grids, bridges, and rail system, companies could not supply their goods to market, individuals would not have electricity or drinkable water, families could not help their children bolster their educational opportunities, and our state would cease to be an incubator for enhanced productivity and innovation. This is not just a physical reality but an economic imperative as well."
The bill (A-3177) would establish a special non-lapsing, revolving fund within the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust to be known as the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank (STIB) program in order to couple private investments with state and federal funds to infuse capital into much-needed infrastructure projects.
The bill would also create a separate fund known as the Clean Energy and Infrastructure Modernization Fund, which would provide loans and grants to public or private entities for projects that relocate power lines underground, or acquire, repair, or reconstruct renewable energy producing structures, facilities or equipment.
"With New Jersey's unemployment rate still hovering near 10 percent, we need to put people to work," said Stender (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). "Investing in our infrastructure not only helps create jobs today but will build our economy for tomorrow. This was proven post-World War II when the New Deal and the Works Project Administration helped rebuild our country."
The Transportation Infrastructure Bank program would:
- Extend targeted loans and other financial assistance to public or private entities for the planning, acquisition, engineering, construction, reconstruction, repair and rehabilitation of a transportation project or for any other purpose permitted under the enabling federal program;
- Issue bonds in maturities of up to 30 years for all types of projects and create an interim financing program for transportation projects;
- Collaborate with the Department of Transportation DOT on the evaluation of potential transportation projects, fulfilling federal regulations regarding capital projects, coordinating with metropolitan planning organizations, ensuring that any projects obtaining assistance are consistent with the statewide capital investment strategy, and advancing local, regional, and statewide transportation objectives; and
- Be administered by the trust with assistance from the DOT, which would be responsible for establishing the list of projects that the trust would finance and the priority in which they would be funded. The Legislature would have until June 15th of every year to approve the transportation financial plan through a concurrent resolution.
"New Jersey cannot afford to wait any longer to confront these priorities," said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic). "If we take the action needed now to better facilitate these crucial investments in our infrastructure, we can help get New Jerseyans back to work while ensuring long-term prosperity for generations to come."
Establishment of the STIB is required by federal law as a depository for federal transportation infrastructure bank monies. The bill would also establish an account within the fund that only receives state funds, so that grants can be issued without violating the terms of the federal program.
The measure was approved 63-14-0.