Elderly and disabled people could have a tougher time getting to the doctor, the super market or other key destinations, advocates warned, after Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill to offset a decline in funding for county shuttle buses.
The bill, S-1306/A-4607, would have added another $6.5 million to the $18 million in funding in the coming year.
In vetoing the bill, Christie told lawmakers that he was committed to a balanced budget, and opposed supplemental measures seeking to spend money the state had not set aside.
"Appropriations should be considered in the context of negotiating a balanced budget, and not through piece-meal legislation," the governor stated in his veto message. "Because I continue to object to disjointed, haphazard, and
irresponsible spending practices, I herewith return Assembly Bill
No. 4607 without my approval."
The shuttle bus program has been paid for by a share of Atlantic City casino taxes, and its funding has fallen 51 percent over the past six years, from $36 million in 2008, as casinos have shut down and the industry's overall revenues have declined.
Less funding means fewer rides, said Michael Vieira, director of the New Jersey Council on Special Transportation, a non-profit advocacy group.
Vieira said his group would look beyond the state's ailing casino industry for senior transit funds, to a penny or half-penny share of any increase in the state's 14.5% gasoline tax. He acknowledged that a gas tax hike was by no means certain while Cristie remained governor.