Pigs fly in protest of NJ toll hikes

February 8, 2008 3:54:06 PM PST
Hundreds of people angry over proposed toll hikes in the Garden State held a noon time rally on Friday.700 vocal demonstrators descended on the Statehouse to protest the governor's controversial plan to fix the state's financial problems by raising tolls on major highways.

"It's going to hurt a lot of families in New Jersey. Everything's going to go up if the tolls go up," Carla Hoolihan of Jackson said.

"We use the parkway and turnpike every single day, to and from work, and it's going to be unreasonable," Linda Grove of Highlands said.

Corzine's plan is to issue bonds to generate as much as $40 billion. That money would be used to cut state debt in half and finance transportation projects. To pay the bonds back, huge toll hikes would be imposed on the Parkway, Turnpike, Atlantic City Expressway and Route 440 in North Jersey for decades to come.

Critics say that's unfair to those who live near those roads.

"It means a sixth of the state's population is going to carry the burden to pay these tax increases. Basically, it's a tax increase," John Millett of Citizens Against Tolls said.

Instead of borrowing more money protesters are demanding budget cuts.

"We don't want to freeze spending; we want to roll it back," Assemblyman Peter Biondi of Morris County said.

There were images of pigs everywhere, on wild hats, masks, signs, and in a sight not seen before in Trenton, dozens of pigs flying over the Statehouse.

They were balloons, of course. It was meant as a jab at the governor for delivering a certain line last month while talking about why the toll hikes are necessary.

"Pigs will fly over the statehouse before there's a realistic level of new taxes or spending cuts that can fix this mess," Governor Corzine said.

"The man's supposed to be a financial genius, that's why people voted for him and he can't even do what you and I do, take care of our own budgets," Rich Schutts of Hamilton Township said.

Governor Corzine says there will be budget cuts, but not enough to dig New Jersey out of the hole.

Corzine wants to form a new state agency to manage state toll roads and issue bonds to generate about $38 billion that would be used to halve state debt and fund transportation work.

To pay back the bonds, Corzine wants to increase tolls 50 percent in 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022. Those increases would include inflation adjustments and, after 2022, tolls would increase every four years until 2085 to reflect inflation.

As for the toll hike, Corzine is willing to compromise, even though GOP legislatures have said the plan is dead on arrival. He said so far no one has come up with a better solution and he continues to travel around the state trying to educate voters about his proposal.