New York

New Jersey Lawmakers Poised to Raise Gas Tax for First Time in 25 Years

New Jersey legislators appear to be on the verge of passing a 23-cent increase in the gas tax, the first increase in more than 25 years, just as the state is about to run out of money to pay for road, bridge and transit repairs. 

The legislation calls for a 10-year, $20 billion transportation trust fund, paid for in part by raising the gas tax from 14.5 cents per gallon to 37.5 cents per gallon. 

Only Alaska has a lower gas tax than the Garden State, but just as the current $1.6 billion transportation trust fund runs out of borrowing authority, some business leaders have been lining up in favor of raising the gas tax -- and some motorists are buying. 

"The repairs I've had to make over the past couple of months because of the potholes, the problems with the brdiges, I think it might be worth it," said motorist Debbie Rebnicky.

"I'd rather pay a little bit more than risk my life," added Alfred Kayateh. 

For an average driver hitting 12,000 miles a year, the cost of the proposed gas tax hike would amount to a little over $2.50 more per week, or $138 a year. New Jersey gas would still be pennies less than New York. 

The Assembly's plan also has tax cuts, including phasing out the estate tax, raising retirement income exclusions and increasing a tax credit for low-income filers.

The proposal has come under fire from conservative and liberal groups, but for different reasons. Conservatives oppose the gas tax hike as economically harmful, while liberals criticize the cut to the estate tax, arguing that it should remain because it only affects wealthier residents. 

The Democrat-led Assembly will be considering a plan identical to one introduced in the Senate this week.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie has said he would not sign the legislation as written, but that he is open to negotiating with lawmakers. He has repeatedly said he would only support legislation that results in "tax fairness" for residents. He has not said what that plan would look like.

On Wednesday during his regular radio show, he reiterated his position.

"I don't think it's good enough," he said. "I'm not going to give in."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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