- Associated Press - Friday, October 28, 2016

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Advocates have spent about $1 million to back a “yes” vote on a constitutional amendment to require every penny of the state’s gas tax be used for transportation.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press show the Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative has spent $984,983 on the question. The documents were due to be filed Friday with the Election Law Enforcement Commission.

The group is running television and digital ads calling on voters to support the amendment. They argue voters should not trust officials to spend gas tax proceeds as promised. A yes vote creates a lockbox for the tax, which goes up 23 cents per gallon on Tuesday.

Mark Longo, director of the group behind the spending, said a “yes” vote will ensure politicians don’t “siphon money away for their own pet projects or interests.”

The spending over the question comes just as public polling shows the “yes” camp with a slight edge, but with the Republican lieutenant governor splitting from Gov. Chris Christie and the Democrat-led Legislature over the question.

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno on Thursday said on New Jersey 101.5 FM that she opposes the question because it amounts to voter approval of $12 billion of borrowing by the transportation trust fund over eight years, despite not mentioning the debt in the question.

The disagreement brings to light an important point about the ballot question: It asks voters to constitutionally dedicate gas tax funds but does not specifically mention borrowing. In 2008, when voters required lawmakers and the governor to seek voter approval for borrowing, they also approved an exception for constitutionally dedicated funds, which is what the question seeks to do.

Before the voters on Nov. 8 is a question that asks whether every cent of the state’s gasoline tax - which is being raised from 14.5 cents per gallon to 37.5 cents per gallon - should be dedicated exclusively to transportation.

Guadagno said the problem is that the legislation, which establishes an eight-year, $16 billion transportation trust fund, also requires $12 billion in borrowing. The trust fund measure says the borrowing is contingent on voter approval of the question, but the question doesn’t explicitly seek voter approval for the borrowing.

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