Joined: 17 Aug 2005
Location: Twin Cities, MN
|Posted: Sat Oct 27, 2007 11:33 pm Post subject: State asks judge to toss GOP 'monetization' suit
|State asks judge to toss GOP 'monetization' suit
Saturday, October 27, 2007
BY JOE DONOHUE
The Corzine administration yesterday urged a judge to dismiss a Republican lawsuit seeking what the governor considers preliminary and confidential information about his plan to tap state assets for billions of dollars.
"At this time, the governor has not decided whether to propose proceeding with a monetization program, or, if such a program is deemed desirable, how to structure the program," Attorney General Anne Milgram said in a legal brief filed on behalf of the administration. It argues that because the report being sought is still incomplete, it is not subject to the state's Open Public Records Act.
Republicans criticized the Democratic governor for deliberately delaying the controversial proposal until after the Nov. 6 election. They contend it will lead to major toll increases.
"It is unconscionable that critical public information, paid for with tax dollars, is being withheld from New Jersey's citizens and legislators," Assemblyman Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) said.
Beck, who is locked in a tight race trying to unseat Sen. Ellen Karcher (D-Monmouth), jointly filed the lawsuit with Assemblyman Sean Kean (R-Monmouth). Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg has scheduled a hearing on Nov. 16.
For more than a year, Corzine has been studying whether to raise tolls on state highways and take other steps to borrow billions of dollars for public works projects like new schools and bridges. In comments this week, he didn't rule out releasing the plan during the lame duck session after the legislative elections. But he said that doesn't mean a final vote must be taken during the two-month period before a new Legislature takes office on Jan. 8.
"I have made a commitment to talk to the public about this on a very extended basis and we will do that," Corzine said, according to a transcript of a press availability provided by the governor's office. "If we can't get that done before lame duck is over, then we will just continue."
Administration officials refused to comment beyond the 25-page legal brief filed yesterday by Milgram's office. It counters Republican demands for immediate release of an $800,000 study by Steer Davies Gleave of London of toll revenues and traffic trends. The firm began the analysis in December and while it has submitted preliminary drafts and been paid most of its money, its analysis is not done, the brief states. Administration officials have asked the firm to "refine" its work and "to include additional analysis and traffic/revenue scenarios and projections," it adds.
The initial study focused solely on the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway, Atlantic City Expressway and Route 440 between the Turnpike and Parkway. Republicans are concerned the administration may also be considering imposing tolls on highways such as Routes I-80 and I-78.
Joe Donohue may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (609) 989-0208.