Speaking at a meeting in Newton Wednesday night, Assemblyperson Gail Phoebus executed an about-face on protecting gas tax revenue for transportation projects.
When asked how she would vote on Ballot Question 2, Phoebus gave the old "my issues are your issues" response and told those present that she would vote whatever way they wanted her to vote. Phoebus didn't mention that she had voted for Ballot Question 2 earlier this year, when it was discussed and debated for months on its way through the Legislature.
Was she awake during those legislative proceedings? Was she playing video games on her iPhone?
Apparently Assemblyperson Phoebus scares easily. A combination of Alt-Right "Red Shirts" led by Bill Spadea (who was tossed out of the GOP twenty years ago for attacking President Reagan and trying to set up a far-right alternative to the Republican Party) and far-left liberals like Democrat State Senator Ray "Lord of Ass" Lesniak (New Jersey's biggest proponent of left-liberal cultural values) are trying to defeat Ballot Question 2.
For Spadea, it is about power. If he can derail the vote, he can build his new order movement and split the GOP. For Lesniak, it is about giving the majority Democrats in the Legislature the power to take the money from the gas tax and use it to do things like replenish the funding for Planned Parenthood that Governor Christie took away.
According to the nationally-recognized, non-partisan organization ballotpedia, the purpose of Ballot Question 2 is easy to understand:
A "yes" vote supports this proposal to dedicate all revenue from gas taxes to transportation projects.
A "no" vote opposes this proposal, thus devoting the same levels of revenue to transportation projects.
The non-partisan organization ballotpedia.org provides the following details:
Question 2 would create a constitutional requirement that all revenue derived from taxes on motor fuels be deposited into the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF). Currently, only 10.5 cents of the gasoline and diesel fuel taxes is required to be deposited into the TTF.
Transportation Trust Fund
Question 2 would require all revenue from tax revenues on motor fuels to be deposited into the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF). The TTF was designed to fund the Department of Transportation and NJ Transit, which then use the revenue for transportation-related projects.
Phoebus has consistently voted against placing questions on the ballot that she opposes, so her opposition to a ballot question she strongly supported is a remarkable, although not unprecedented, flip-flop.
It will be remembered that as a Freeholder, Phoebus seconded sending a letter urging support for an increase in the gas tax to fund the Transportation Trust Fund and prevent a property tax increase. She later voted against the gas tax increase and for the property tax hike.
As a candidate for the Assembly, Phoebus was less than honest when she denied voting to send the letter (she had seconded the motion and voted for it). She also compounded that untruth by denying it on her campaign literature and website.
Phoebus' latest flip-flop is even more remarkable because the Assemblyperson must be aware that her Democrat colleagues are itching to get their hands on the new revenues from the gas tax to send them to their urban districts. During her talk Wednesday night, Phoebus expressed her strong support for mass transit and her wish to expand mass transit into Sussex County.
The Lackawanna Cut-Off Rail Project is almost completed but could end up being scrapped if the gas tax revenue that should rightfully go to transportation, ends up in the pockets of urban Democrat Party bosses. The Andover Township council is pushing strongly for this expansion of mass transit in Sussex County and their efforts will be for naught if Ballot Question 2 is defeated.
There are countless examples of how funds raised for one purpose are misused for another. The diversion of fees from the state's 9-1-1 program would not be happening if there was a Ballot Question 2 protecting how it should be spent.
Ballot Question 2 is the only way we can make sure that the revenue raised from the gas tax is spent in the way it was intended to be spent -- on transportation projects like roads and bridges and the Lackawanna Cut-Off Rail Project. Sadly, Gail Phoebus is missing on this when it counts.
The Lackawanna Cut-Off Rail Project is doomed without a YES vote on Ballot Question 2.
Update: In this morning's New Jersey Herald, Assemblywoman Phoebus denies knowing in January 2016 that there were negotiations on-going that included a gas tax increase. This is, of course, less than honest. In November of 2014, then Freeholder Phoebus seconded a motion by the Freeholder Board to send a letter in support of an increase in the gas tax.
The Minutes of the Freeholder Board meeting, including Phoebus' motion and her vote to send the letter, can be accessed below:
According to New Jersey Herald (November 25, 2014) reporter Bruce Scruton, Phoebus and her Freeholder colleagues clearly understood the need for a gas tax increase:
“I never thought I'd be in favor of increasing taxes."
"They do need to cut some costs down there, but the roads and bridges need to be funded.”
"Most of the ideas being considered by the state Legislature are on some form of tax or 'assessment,' whether from raising the state's gasoline tax, a sales tax on gasoline or possibly an assessment on the suppliers."
In the light of Phoebus' vote in November 2014 and these comments, Phoebus' comments today in the Herald appear to be willfully misleading