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5 years ago

Interview with Alan Sagner - Center on the American Governor

Interview with Alan Sagner - Center on the American Governor

ong>Sagnerong>: Yeah. Anyway, the committee voted me to be approved. Q: Wait a second. You came from Essex County . ong>Sagnerong>: Yes. Q: Imperiale is from Essex County . ong>Sagnerong>: And they would not give him-- there was a big issue of senatorial courtesy. Jim Wallwork and he both wanted to hold me up. I don’t know the details, but evidently they were not allowed to do it. Q: Wallwork was a Republican senator? ong>Sagnerong>: Yes. Q: From Essex County . ong>Sagnerong>: Right. Q: You think that the senate stripped them of their senatorial courtesy power in that instance? ong>Sagnerong>: I don’t know. I have some newspaper clippings from that time where I could look up and get the details. But I know that the committee voted him down and he was unable to use senatorial courtesy to stop me. I know it’s-- Q: Do you remember if he voted against you? ong>Sagnerong>: He did. There was five votes against me. Yes, he voted against me. Q: How many votes did you get? ong>Sagnerong>: About 20, I think. He did the same thing again when I was appointed to the Port Authority. Again, it turned out. Q: So you made it through the senate. What issues did you deal ong>withong> as transportation commissioner? ong>Sagnerong>: The first one we had right from the very beginning was the subsidy for the buses. The state didn’t operate the buses. Private contractors operated them and the state provided a subsidy and ordered them to provide the service. We were out of money to do it. We were $30 million short of what we needed for the next period of time, whether it was the quarter or whatever it was. About that time, I was asked to come down to Newark and speak to the Chamber of Commerce as the new commissioner and telling about what was happening. I pointed out that this is a very serious problem, because commuters needed the bus service. It appeared to me that if we could get a $.02 gas tax increase we could raise the $30 million very easily. Gas at that time was somewhere around $.35 to $.36 a gallon. I came back to Trenton to a very cold reception by the administration and leadership. Q: You hadn’t cleared this ong>withong>--? ong>Sagnerong>: It was off the top of my head, unfortunately. I don’t think it actually was in the remarks that I made. It was probably an answer to a question when I talked about our financial problems. I certainly had not the approval. It seems that the gas tax is an explosive an issue then as it was when Lou Gambaccini thought about it and when it was proposed at the current time. I still don’t understand it. It’s a political concept that I don’t understand. Q: People don’t like taxes. -14-

ong>Sagnerong>: I’m a person who likes taxes. I testified for McGreevey’s when he proposed it several years ago. Q: The millionaire’s tax? ong>Sagnerong>: The millionaire’s tax. I believe we have a responsibility. The irony of it is that people who pay high taxes and complain about taxes and support regressive or bad government because they give them lower taxes never make a sacrifice because of the taxes that they pay. It’s almost an instant to be opposed to taxes. These are people who will make generous contributions to the symphony orchestra, will spend money liberally in other ways, but want to buy their government cheap and they won’t buy anything else cheap. Everything else they want the finest quality--clothing, cars, home, vacations--but they want cheap government. Q: Do you think it’s the rich that stop tax hikes, not the middle class? ong>Sagnerong>: It’s people who are rich and the middle class who identify ong>withong> the rich. I’m not rich, but maybe I’m going to be rich. They identify ong>withong> the rich. Q: When you walked into office, what was the state of the bus system and the rail system in New Jersey ? ong>Sagnerong>: We were concerned about how we were going to continue this system. We had no really control over how they operated, but there was a system in place to provide a subsidy. Somehow, I forget the details how we found the money, we did continue it. But we knew that this was not a system that was going to continue to work. We had to find a better way to do it. Q: There was no New Jersey Transit yet? ong>Sagnerong>: No. That came long after I left the administration. I don’t know if it was Brendan’s second term. I think Lou Gambaccini was probably involved in that. But I was not involved in that. Q: What train lines operated in New Jersey ? ong>Sagnerong>: The Erie-Lackawanna was operating. The train to the shore was operating. Q: Northeast corridor? Pennsylvania Railroad? ong>Sagnerong>: You had the main line from Trenton to New York . You didn’t have the mid-town connection, the direct train that we have now, which is-- I’m very happy to see that our governor is supporting something we talked about even in those days is another tunnel for the trains so that we can increase it. It’s interesting that this is one place where New York and New Jersey can agree that the economies of each state would benefit from having another tunnel and having better transportation. I live in South Orange and ong>withong> the direct line now I can be in New York in 35 minutes. So I rarely, hardly ever drive to New York anymore. It’s very gratifying to see how many people ride the trains, something that we talked about so many years ago. I remember one of the things that we faced in our department besides the public transportation was getting a highway program underway, maintaining the bridges and the routes that we had. Q: What was the state of the highway system in your recollection? ong>Sagnerong>: It very much needed repair and upgrading. There was a regulation that you could transfer your allocation of interstate highway money to the state roads if you wanted to. One of the few times when I publicly disagreed ong>withong> Brendan, quietly and not for very long, was that I wanted to transfer all the money from 287, which would be extended through suburban part of New Jersey up to the New York throughway so that we could maintain the roads that were in desperate need of improvement and upgrading and safety. And Brendan didn’t do it. He got particularly Ed Crabiel, who was part of the administration who was a road contractor, the construction unions. -15-

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