(The Center Square) — Gov. Phil Murphy has vetoed the New Jersey Turnpike Authority’s multi-billion dollar operating budget amid a public backlash over proposed toll hikes.
On Tuesday, the Turnpike Authority’s board of directors signed off on a proposed $2.62 billion budget, which included a 3% toll increase for the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway.
But on Thursday, Murphy used a parliamentary move to reject the plan by vetoing the minutes of the Turnpike Authority’s meeting that included the toll hike proposals.
“I am not satisfied with the justification provided for the toll increases reflected in the budget and need more information for why the board is taking this step,” the Democrat said in a statement posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
The Turnpike Authority’s budget proposal called for a $100 million increase in spending from the previous year and would add more than 40 new employees to the state agency.
The proposed toll hikes, which were set to take effect in January, would be the fourth increase since 2000, officials said.
Under state law, Murphy can veto the budget because he appoints most board members, including the chairperson, and can unilaterally overturn board actions. In 2019, he vetoed the minutes of the Delaware River and Bay Authority, putting the brakes on a $1 toll hike for the Delaware Memorial Bridge.
“We respect the Governor’s decision to veto the budget and will be working to provide him with the additional information he wants,” Turnpike Authority spokesman Tom Feeney said in a statement to media outlets.
Democratic legislative leaders who pressured Murphy to reject the proposed toll hikes praised the move, calling it a “win for the pocketbooks of New Jersey families.”
“We want to thank Governor Murphy for heeding our call to prevent this toll increase from taking effect, and we commend him for working with us on making the lives of New Jersey families more affordable,” Senate President Nick Scutari and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin said in a joint statement.
Republicans had also called Murphy to reject the toll hikes, arguing that they add to the high cost of living in New Jersey, which is putting the squeeze on the state’s taxpayers.
“For working families who are already struggling with New Jersey’s affordability crisis, toll increases would only add to the incredible tax burden impacting New Jerseyans,” Assemblyman John Catalano, R-Brick, said in a statement.
Murphy also faced pressure from consumer groups, such as the New Jersey chapter of the National Motorist Association, who had asked Murphy to veto the toll hikes.