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New Jersey Needs to Raise the Gas Tax to Repair Bridges and Roads

Friday, June 19, 2015   (0 Comments)
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NYT.com 06/18/15

Drivers in New Jersey enjoy boasting about cheap gas in their state, where prices at the pump rank among the lowest in the country. The reason for the low prices is New Jersey’s relatively modest gas tax. All that cheap gas carries real costs. Since gas tax revenues help pay for roads and public transit programs, the low tax has meant deteriorating bridges and pothole-strewn roads and ever higher transit fares that hurt working families. The state’s road and bridges are “old, crumbling and getting worse every day,” the state’s transportation commissioner, Jamie Fox, recently toldstate lawmakers. Riders on New Jersey Transit are about to face a 9 percent fare increase, in part because the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which helps subsidize that system and is supported by the gas tax, is about to go broke.

New Jersey’s gas tax is 14.5 cents a gallon. That compares with 44.46 cents per gallon in New York, 40.86 cents in Connecticut and 51.60 cents per gallon in Pennsylvania. A gallon of regular gas in New Jersey was $2.60 on average on June 12, much cheaper than $2.92 in New York. (Some experts say New Jersey gas would be even cheaper if drivers were allowed to pump their own gas.) According to Mr. Fox, New Jersey has 577 “structurally deficient bridges,” and, he estimates, 300,000 potholes that need filling. An Aprilpoll found that half of New Jersey voters would endorse an increase in the gas tax to pay for mass transit and safer roads and bridges.

State Senator Raymond Lesniak and Assemblyman John Wisniewski, both Democrats, have bills pending that would raise the tax to help address the state’s growing transportation needs. A responsible governor who cares more about New Jersey than his own political ambitions would endorse these efforts or offer an alternative plan of his own. If Mr. Christie continues to resist, legislators should approve an increase on their own and be prepared to override a Christie veto.


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