In Brief

Governor Murphy rejects agency budget with Turnpike, Parkway toll hikes

By: - October 26, 2023 4:41 pm

Gov. Murphy announced the decision after the Legislature’s top Democrats asked him to intervene to halt the toll increases, which were set to take effect in January. (Photo by New Jersey Monitor)

Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday vetoed the New Jersey Turnpike Authority budget two days after the agency approved a spending plan that includes Turnpike and Parkway toll hikes.

Murphy, a Democrat, announced the decision after the Legislature’s top Democrats asked him to intervene to halt the toll increases, which were set to take effect in January. The move comes less than two weeks before Election Day, when all 120 seats in the Legislature are on the ballot. Democrats, who are stressing affordability issues on the campaign trail, are seeking to retain their majorities in both chambers.

“I am not satisfied with the justification provided for the toll increases reflected in the budget and need more information for why the board is taking this step,” Murphy said in a statement.

Murphy has the general power to override the decisions of state agencies by vetoing an agency’s meeting minutes. He vetoed the resolution adopting the budget but approved the rest of the minutes, a spokesman said.

Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex), who Tuesday night asked Murphy to take this action, called the move “another win for the pocketbooks of New Jersey families.”

“We want to thank Governor Murphy for heeding our call to prevent this toll increase from taking effect, and we commend him for working with us on making the lives of New Jersey families more affordable. From cutting property taxes to lowering the costs of prescription drugs, affordability is our number one priority,” they said in a joint statement.

Under the Turnpike Authority’s proposed budget, tolls would have increased by 3%.

“We respect the Governor’s decision to veto the budget and will be working to provide him with the additional information he wants,” said Turnpike Authority spokesman Tom Feeney.

It’s uncommon for Murphy to veto state agencies’ meeting minutes, though he’s done it in the past. In 2018, Murphy vetoed the minutes of the South Jersey Port Corporation after the board rejected Murphy’s request to do away with its general counsel. He also vetoed the minutes of the Delaware River and Bay Authority in 2019, stopping a $1 toll hike for the Delaware Memorial Bridge.

It remains unclear what more information the Turnpike Authority will need to provide to the governor. Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, Murphy’s chief of staff, is also the commissioner of the Department of Transportation and sits on several boards, including the Turnpike Authority. 

The planned toll hikes were not a surprise. The Turnpike Authority in 2020 approved a new toll indexing process to increase tolls automatically each year by up to 3% to pay for the agency’s capital projects. Since then, tolls have risen each year on Jan. 1.

Feeney said the agency’s current budget runs through the end of the year. The board’s next meeting is Nov. 21 at its office in Woodbridge.

GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for NJ.com, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.

MORE FROM AUTHOR