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Christie costs thousands their jobs

Due to a budget impass in New Jersey, thousands of Laborers are facing a job shutdown.

Brian Young's picture
Jul 08, 2016

Tradesmen and women in New Jersey are preparing for a work stoppage this week after Governor Chris Christie called for all public works projects to shut down for the next week.  The shutdown comes after the Governor could not reach a deal with the legislature to fund the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) and will impact hundreds of jobs during the busiest time of year for construction workers.

Christie decided that work will stop on the projects at 11:59 on Friday, July 8th after saying that the TTF will run out of money if a deal is not reached.  He plans to have the jobs shut down for one week so that they can be prioritized.   The ones that are deemed to be the best use of the remaining funds will reopen, with the rest staying closed until a deal is reached. In March, the Associated Press reported that the $1 Billion fund was running out money and would not be able to fund these projects without an infusion of funds.  The Governor and Assembly Speaker have proposed increasing the gas tax to set up a dedicated funding source, while cutting the state sales tax from 7%-6%.  The Senate President and a bi-partisan group of legislators agreed to increase the gas tax, but want to phase out the estate tax. 

Thanks to the gridlock, neither side can reach an agreement and the workers and contractors will now have to suffer.  Unions like the Laborers International Union of America (LiUNA) have been mobilizing their members to pressure Trenton to come to an agreement before layoffs occur.  “Dozens of LIUNA members have converged on the district offices of State Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr,” said Raymond M. Pocino, Vice President and Eastern Regional Manager for LIUNA.  “LIUNA’s goal is to implore the two leaders to work together to fix New Jersey’s transportation crisis, one that now threatens the livelihood of several thousand construction craft laborers and close to ten thousand workers statewide.” Pocino also said in the statement that LiUNA members will be taking part in informational picketing to pressure the legislators to come to a quick agreement. 

According to NJ.com, a total of $246.57 Million in public works projects will be shut down.  Contractors say that the shutdown will also increase costs on the projects by about 10% dues to having to move their equipment and materials, all cost they say the state will have to pay. So not only will New Jersey residents have to deal with time overruns, but they will now have to also deal with cost overruns. 

This shutdown is part of a larger problem that many states and the federal government are facing.  For years they have been failing to properly fund infrastructure funds roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects.  Governments have been kept the funding going with patchwork fixes and have year to year funding.  Federally, the Highway Trust Fund has been funded this way since 2008.  In New Jersey, past Governors have routinely diverted money intended for the fund to plug other holes and then borrowed money to fund the projects.  This has led to the current gas tax money, which is supposed to fund the TTF, to be spent on paying off the borrowing instead of funding important projects. Now the state is no longer able to borrow and they don’t have any money in the fund. 

Thanks to the mismanagement of previous Governors, thousands of construction craft laborers will face at least a week of no work.  With no meetings scheduled between the two sides until July 11, an uncertain future lays ahead for these workers and contractors.

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