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Lawmakers: Swapping 23-cent N.J. gas tax hike for estate tax cut is a 'shell game'

Thursday, June 16, 2016   (0 Comments)
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NJ.com 06/16/16

Democratic and Republican lawmakers on Wednesday came out against the leading proposal to rescue the Transportation Trust Fund, saying the deal to trade a 23-cent increase in the gas tax for an estate tax cut is a "shell game" that disproportionately hits the working poor. Sen. Ray Lesniak and Assemblyman John Wisniewki, both Democrats, announced they would oppose the bipartisan funding proposal so long as it eliminates the tax on estates and deals a blow to the budget. For their part, Republicans said they want to dump the estate tax, but not at the expense of imposing a 160 percent tax increase on drivers.

"I can't see how any Democrat or any Republican in good conscience can support this proposal as it now stands," said Lesniak, who indicated that he would introduce amendments to lower, but not eliminate, taxes on inherited wealth.  Wisneiwski (D-Middlesex), who has been leading the call for a 25 cent gas tax increase, said he found himself in the awkward position of fighting against this new proposal. "I have hoped in the worst way that we would raise the gas tax," he said. "And my hopes have come true, because we are going to do it in the worst way."

Like Lesniak (D-Union), Wisniewski said lawmakers should not be cutting a half billion dollars in badly needed revenue to provide a tax break to the state's wealthiest residents, while raising taxes on all residents. "When wealthy families are paying 20 percent of the gas tax increase and receive 80 percent of the tax cuts, that's not tax fairness. This proposal is not tax fairness. It's tax injustice," Lesniak said. "This compromise is not a compromise. It's capitulation."

The senator said he would support a plan to raise the estate tax threshold from $675,000 to $1 million — which liberal think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective estimated would spare middle-class residents from getting caught up in the tax and cost the state up to $30 million in revenue. About 4,000 estates per year pay the tax, which is one half of the state's duo of death taxes. Eliminating it would slow the rate of residents leaving New Jersey with their wealth, Oroho said.

 


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