Tuesday morning at a legislative leadership panel hosted by the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, State senate Budget Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) said there was enough support among Democrats to increase the gas tax in exchange for phasing out the estate tax and lower income taxes for retirees. He told the crowd gathered in East Windsor that he could put that package on the table tomorrow, if Gov. Chris Christie signaled he would sign it into law.

Tuesday night on the December edition of Townsquare Media’s Ask The Governor program Christie was asked point blank by host Eric Scott if he would support Sarlo’s plan.

"No. First of all, he hasn't proposed it to me. After what they did yesterday, who can trust these people. Who's he," Christie said of Sarlo. "He's making policy now for the whole state? As far as I know he has no position of any authority in the Legislature except for budget chairman."

Christie said he's had no in-depth conversations with Sarlo on the issue.

"I've said all along that all they ever want to do is raise taxes," Christie said, challenging Sarlo to call into the show and explain his position on the $3 billion tax increase to fun the constitutional amendment. "Who are you getting it from? Let me tell every middle class Middlesex County taxpayer out there...get your hands on your wallets because you are the people they're coming for."

On Dec. 2, 2015, a coalition called “Better Choice Choices for New Jersey” held a press conference and blasted any proposal to eliminate the state’s inheritance and/or estate tax in exchange for an increase in the gas tax. New Jersey Policy Perspective released a report that day that claimed the state’s average home value is $355,685. Less than 10 percent of the state’s municipalities, which are home to just 4 percent of the state’s population, have average home values at or above the $675,000 threshold at which the estate tax takes effect.

The coalition estimated that repealing both of the so-called death taxes would impact just a few thousand wealthy Garden State residents, but increasing the gas tax would affect almost every New Jerseyan. Members also said eliminating both taxes would mean roughly $800 million less in revenue for the state annually.

“Tying a gas tax increase to a repeal of the state’s inheritance and estate taxes is wrong and worse, it’s stupid,” said coalition member and NJ Citizen Action program director Anne Vardeman.

The transfer inheritance dates back to 1892. It is one of New Jersey’s oldest taxes. The 16 percent tax is applied when property is transferred outside the immediate family. Another so-called “death tax,” known as the estate tax, is applied on property valued at more than $675,000.

A poll released in November by Quinnipiac University poll showed 62 percent of registered New Jersey voters were against a gas tax hike. Just 35 percent supported the idea. The same survey showed voters still said they were opposed to a gas tax increase even if it was tied to a cut in the any of the so-called death taxes (56 percent to 33 percent).

Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at kevin.mcardle@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.

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