The hope of both a federal and state gas tax holiday in New Jersey may be just that — a hope, and nothing more.
On the federal level, President Joe Biden is asking a reportedly reluctant Congress to suspend the 18 cents-per-gallon tax for the next three months, while appealing to oil companies to lower prices as well.
In effect, New Jersey’s gas tax is 43 cents per gallon, but every penny is dedicated to road building, repair and related transportation improvements. That means Governor Phil Murphy can be counted as a “no” on the tax holiday idea.
"It’s constitutionally tied it infrastructure projects that you’d have to stop, and then when you restarted them, it would cost all of us including taxpayers more money," Murphy said Wednesday.
The governor said the state's big budget surplus is being directed at property tax relief and other items.
"State parks are free, marriage licenses are free, drivers license renewal free, certain professional licenses free," Murphy said.
But with oil and gas prices soaring since the Russian attack on Ukraine four months ago, many motorists seemed willing to forgo road improvements.
"Maybe for the time being till we get past this, you know," said Kathy Canniesary, of Red Bank.
Others cite what some economists have already said, that a tax holiday won't do much to lessen the damage.
The argument boils down to roads versus pocketbooks. And in New Jersey, where roads can also certainly take a heavy toll on tires and vehicle suspensions, it appears as of now that the roads will win out over any gas tax holiday.
Because any tax holiday needs legislative approval, the final word may belong to the state senate president — who has seen gas prices drop by nearly a dime over the past week or so, and said he sees no need to jeopardize road repairs.
"I can speak for myself, I’m encouraged that gas prices have come down this week," said State Senator Nick Scutari, a Democrat.
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin also did not sound enthusiastic, saying a gas tax is "something that we need to consider and look at, but I haven’t made any decision to commit to doing it as of right now."
Both New York and Connecticut have already enacted a gas tax holiday until the end of 2022.