New Jersey Approves Controversial Gas Tax

By Eric Braun, Senior Writer, USRW

Dig deeper in those pockets Road Warriors, fueling up in New Jersey is going to cost you more money–that’s if the Governor gets around to signing the bill. The legislature has approved the controversial bill over a week ago, and it’s been sitting on Governor Chris Christie’s desk, and he has approved it late Friday afternoon.

To the outsider, it looks like an issue, but if you live in the Garden State you soon realize that the biggest export isn’t blueberries or cranberries, its shady politics. This issue isn’t just about a gas tax that can wait.  The tax is an effort to fund the bankrupt Transportation and Trust Fund, whose associated workers have been without a job since the summer as the Republican Governor and Democratic Senate could not come to an agreement. Christie ordered all state funded construction and repairs to stop work and the game of chicken began.

Ironically, the announcement of an agreement came soon after the train crash in Hoboken which killed one and injured over 100. Authorities were quick to point out the train was speeding and that it was not as a result of the poor condition of the tracks etc. Sounds like a plot to an Oliver Stone movie, but even if it was a coincidence, it gave lawmakers a “what if” reminder.

Next to Texas, New Jersey enjoys the cheapest gas prices in the country and has the lowest gas tax next to Alaska. A gallon of mojo will cost you 14.5 cents in tax right now and will go up to 37.5 cents on the gallon-- a 23 cent gas tax hike. New Jersey has not raised the gas tax in three decades.  However, like everything else, Professional Drivers will be expected to pay more, as the diesel tax will increase by 27 cents a gallon. To soften the blow to truck drivers, the plan delays implementation of the diesel tax until next year. At that time, the diesel rate will be raised by 13.5 cents. The remaining 13.5-cent rate increase will be imposed in 2018.

To get the voter buy-in, the State will decrease the sales tax which will drop to 6.6% from 7% by January 2018, but that did not sway the Jersey folks from calling their legislators in record numbers to protest the proposed tax. If that’s not messy enough, it’s an election year, and the politicians had to walk a fine line. State Sen. Jennifer Beck called the gas tax increase “a regressive, onerous tax” that would unfairly burden lower-income drivers.

Although residents will get something in return for the higher tax with the sales tax break, what does the Road Warrior get?

To quote Willy Wonka… “Nothing, you get nothing…Good Day Sir!”

 Among the goodies to temper voter reaction, the estate tax would be abolished and veterans and retirees would get tax breaks and the earned income tax credit would be increased.  

"I am pleased to present a plan that represents tax fairness for the residents of New Jersey,” Christie said in prepared remarks announcing the funding deal. “This is the first broad-based tax cut for all New Jerseyan’s since 1994, which is much needed.”

New Jersey is not the only state imposing a higher gas tax to fund programs; the trend is drifting that direction by Governors that can’t pay the bills.

All that, and no one even gives out green stamps anymore…

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