- Associated Press - Thursday, April 2, 2015

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - As New Jersey emerges from a relentless winter with more than 180,000 potholes already filled, Gov. Chris Christie’s administration has detailed the dire transportation circumstances the state is facing.

New Jersey Transit Executive Director Veronique Hakim discussed a likely proposal for fare increases, and Transportation Commissioner Jamie Fox told the Senate Budget Committee on Thursday that the state’s transportation trust fund faces a June 30, 2016, “wall.”

Fox, who called the end of 2014 and the start of 2015 the “winter from hell,” said the transportation trust fund goes broke in 2016 unless lawmakers and the governor can reach an agreement on funding.

Here’s a look at the details that came out of the latest budget hearing:

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FARE INCREASES LOOKING LIKELY

Hakim said after the hearing that an agency proposal to raise fares is likely to come by the end of April. She says the agency is aiming to make the increase significantly lower than the 22 percent one in 2010.

Any proposal would first have to undergo a public hearing process.

An initial budget gap of $120 million is now expected to be about $60 million, with savings coming through increasing operating efficiencies. Hakim did not specify how that would be achieved.

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‘HIT A WALL’

Fox said that on July 1, 2016, “we won’t be able to spend any additional money.”

“Next year will have hit a wall,” he said.

He added that the sooner lawmakers and Christie could reach an agreement, the better it would be for businesses considering investing in New Jersey.

Fox warned that a decision on funding for fiscal year 2017 would need to be made by about April 2016.

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COVERED THROUGH FY 2016

The hearing comes after Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff testified this week and said the trust fund will use a combination of bonds, loan repayments and cash infusion from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to keep the $1.6 billion capital program solvent through June 2016.

Months of effort to find a new revenue source appear stalled, though Fox says there’s “pace” to such talks and that lawmakers understand the importance of paying for the fund.

Christie has said the fund is not in crisis at the moment, and the Democrat-led Legislature has not advanced any bills to address the issue.

The fund has more than $16 billion of debt, and money dedicated to it goes directly toward debt service while road and bridge projects are paid for through additional debt.

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