Phoebus lied. Supported gas tax. Document attached.
In a strongly worded press statement written by the reporter who then went on to write the story (how is that for inventing news), Assemblywoman Gail Phoebus claimed to be fulfilling a campaign promise to oppose the gas tax. The reporter wrote on Phoebus' behalf and then reported the following statement from her:
"As I stated publicly when I ran for Assembly last year, I strongly oppose an increase in our gas tax. I won't cloud my position with wordsmithed promises of tax reform, suggestions of how this is really a good thing for residents, or paragraphs that try to soften the impact."
However, Phoebus' statement is not consistent with the facts. Two years ago, then Freeholder Phoebus seconded and voted in support of a motion by the Freeholder Board to direct Freeholder Director Richard Vohden to send a letter to the lobby group supporting the increase in the gas tax, expressing the Sussex County Freeholders' support for their position.
A letter was sent from the Freeholder Board outlining the ways in which Sussex County would suffer if the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) was not fully funded. The letter made a very persuasive argument to increase the gas tax:
"One of the most important functions of County government is maintaining and repairing of County roads and bridges. By doing so, we keep our residents safe, traffic moving and we provide greater opportunities for our local businesses to thrive. Sussex County alone is responsible for the upkeep of 300 miles of roadway and over 400 bridges.
Overall, County governments in New Jersey spend approximately $565.0 Million each year to operate and maintain an estimated 7,140 bridges and more than 6,775 centerline miles of roads. However, the State's current Transportation Capital Program (TCP) only allocates $165.0 Million each year in Local Aid with $78.75 million for Counties and Municipalities, $25.0 Million for County bridges, and $7.5 million in discretionary funding leaving County governments responsible for financing $453.75 Million of its transportation needs through the collection of local property taxes.
To compound matters, County governments must make substantial capital improvement investments as 281 (11.0%) of the 2,556 major bridges maintained by Counties are classified as 'Structurally Deficient' and in need of $663.0 Million worth of rehabilitation or replacement."
The letter that Freeholder Phoebus seconded and voted for went on to read:
"Moreover, 452 (17.7%) of the same 2,556 bridges are classified as 'Functionally Obsolete' and in need of $938.0 Million worth of rehabilitation or replacement."
The Freeholder Board's letter then went on to note that "2,941 of the 4,584 (64.1%) minor bridges maintained by the Counties are in need of repair and 1,002 (21.9%) must be replaced at a cost of $1.25 Billion for a grand total of $2.85 Billion."
The letter that Phoebus directed the Board to send actually called for an "increase in Local Aid allocations under the TTF as a means to mitigate the reliance on the collection of local property taxes, stimulate the economy and job growth, and ensure safe and reliable roads and bridges."
Freeholder Phoebus and the Freeholder Board urged Senator Steve Oroho, Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose, and Assemblyman Parker Space to "establish a stable, dependable, and long-term source of funding" for the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF). The Board sent this letter to the NJ Forward Coalition on November 25, 2014, the principal lobby group supporting an increase in the gas tax.
A few weeks later, Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose unexpectedly announced her intention not to seek re-election in 2015 and Freeholder Phoebus was endorsed for McHose's seat by Senator Oroho and Assemblyman Space.
During the course of her 2015 primary campaign for Assembly, candidate Phoebus repeatedly told the voters and the media that she did not know about the letter to the NJ Forward Coalition, that she hadn't voted to send a letter, and that she had never supported a gas tax increase. All of which was false. Phoebus also attempted to shift the blame onto her colleague, Freeholder Vohden.
Now you know the rest of the story...