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Governor Corzine’s recently unveiled plan to raise money for the state has met with a lot of pessimism in the real estate industry. Half of this week’s poll respondents predict the plan will do no good at all. Thirty-eight percent are maintaining a wait-and-see attitude. A mere 13% think the plan is a good one. Mike McGuinness, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties refuses to follow the crowd. He remains cautious about the proposal, but hopes for the best. Here are his thoughts on the subject:

“NJ-NAIOP currently is taking a close look at Governor Corzine’s toll increase plan. We are polling our trustees and our leadership to gather their opinions before we form our official position.

“Surely, increasing tolls would provide some fiscal relief for the state. Yet, while it still is too early to make a statement for or against the plan, we are concerned the plan won’t work the way everyone hopes it will.

“For example, as the plan is written there appears to be an inequitable burden on certain businesses and residents of the state. The toll increases are limited to only a few major roadways. The increases mostly would impact communities up and down the turnpike, including the vital Port Newark/Elizabeth region. This could have a significant adverse effect on New Jersey’s logistics industry, which is primed for growth by the exponential increase in cargo from China and the Far East. Our fear is that current and prospective tenants of the many warehouse and distribution facilities located there would decide against making local commitments.

“NJ-NAIOP feels that it should be one of the administration’s goals to do what it takes to energize and redevelop areas around the port. Rather, toll increases may push companies to look at other areas, including Pennsylvania’s red-hot Lehigh Valley. With increased competition from outside our borders, New Jersey needs to do everything it can to stay competitive. Why not place tolls on commercial vehicles that use our “east-west freeways” such as Routes 78 and 80 and are taking jobs out of state?”At the same time, it is clear that a major part of maintaining our state’s economic health and quality of life is to provide a safe, efficient and modern transportation network that operates at full capacity. Most people who use New Jersey’s roadways recognize that our state’s transportation infrastructure has deteriorated significantly. There is no question that we need to do something about it now. Unfortunately our Transportation Trust Fund is all but depleted, and funds need to be raised – and quickly – to provide relief.

“NJ-NAIOP believes that the best way to raise significant money is to take a broad approach. For example, NJ-NAIOP has supported an increase in the state gasoline tax in order to provide some stability to transportation funding. This would include a constitutional dedication of gasoline taxes solely for the maintenance and improvement of our transportation network. We suggest that this portion of the gasoline tax be linked to an economic measure, so that it adjusts automatically for inflation.

“How the governor’s plan will play out remains to be seen. In any event, while toll increases may be a logical step, they might be better considered as part of a multi-faceted approach to solving our problems rather than a solution unto themselves.”

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