Few were surprised when Gov. Corzine announced over the weekend that he would no longer seek to add tolls to Route 440.
"Oh boy, what a shock that was," joked Senate President Richard J. Codey, alluding to widespread speculation from day one that Corzine ultimately would leave Route 440, which connects New Jersey to Staten Island, toll-free.
The question now is what other compromises the governor might consider as he tries to get his financial restructuring plan - including his toll-hike proposal - through the Legislature.
Corzine's plan calls for raising tolls on the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway, and Atlantic City Expressway by 50 percent plus inflationary increases in 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022. After 2022, tolls would increase every four years until 2085 to reflect inflation.
The plan has drawn plenty of critics: Every Republican lawmaker has pledged to vote against it and a handful of Democrats, including State Sen. John Adler (D., Camden), have also voiced opposition.
"The public is saying we don't have a revenue problem, we have an expenditure problem, and they want [the governor] to cut," said Assemblyman Alex DeCroce (R., Morris).
Even those who say they support the governor are tinkering with the details and proposing their own ways to cut spending or raise revenues. Among the ideas are privatizing the lottery, instituting a discount for commuters, increasing the gasoline tax, and undertaking smaller toll increases.
So far, Corzine has not said much publicly about which ideas he might support.
"Gov. Corzine has always said he was open to considering alternatives and tweaking some details of the plan, as long as the overall objectives are still met," said Lilo Stainton, the governor's spokeswoman.
Codey, who favors exploring the lottery idea, said Corzine knows that other compromises lie ahead.
"I don't think the governor actually felt the plan as presented would be the one that would eventually pass," Codey said. He suggested the governor presented his proposal as merely a framework from which to begin negotiations.
Jon Shure, president of the think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective, said Corzine's choices boil down to two basic ideas: Reduce the scope of the plan, which in its current form would pay down about half the state's $32 billion in bonded debt and fund transportation initiatives for the next 75 years, or change the sources of revenue to pay for the plan.
One popular idea that Corzine is already considering is a discount for New Jersey commuters. He said Sunday at a town hall meeting that the discounts could amount to 25 percent, although details have not been worked out.
That meeting, before more than 600 people at East Brunswick High School, is where Corzine acknowledged that there wasn't enough support in the Legislature and among the public for his plan to charge for traveling on Route 440.
"Since it's not central to the plan, I don't think we will be moving forward with that plan," Corzine said during the two-hour session. "I'm a practical guy. I have been all my life."
Gregg Edwards, president of the Center for Policy Research of New Jersey, noted that a consultant's report on the governor's plan showed several options for the toll increases.
"He took the most aggressive one, which would suggest to me that there is some fallback position," Edwards said. "You don't do a plan this large and not have some fallback. You just have to assume there's going to be some compromise."
Some say the governor's fiscal restructuring plan will start to look more attractive when he presents his next budget on Feb. 26.
The budget will likely call for significant budget cuts as well as $1 billion in savings from the toll plan, said State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D., Union). The Legislature will have to adopt some form of the governor's plan or make an additional $800 million to $1 billion in cuts, Lesniak said.
"I do not think there's going to be a lot of support from Republicans and Democrats to make those cuts," he said.