Christie on gas tax: ‘Everything is on the table for discussion’
The lame duck session of the New Jersey Legislature begins Wednesday after Tuesday's Assembly elections are over. Most political experts have predicted that a deal would be hammered out before the end of 2015 to increase the state's gas tax to replenish the fund that supports transportation projects.
Gov. Chris Christie talked about the possibility of the tax hike during his appearance Monday night on Townsquare Media's "Ask The Governor" program on NJ 101.5.
"Everything is on the table for discussion, but it must be done within the context of overall tax fairness to the people of New Jersey," Christie said. "If there is I'd consider any suggestions that they want to make regarding the Transportation Trust Fund."
The governor said he didn't know if a gas tax increase bill would be passed by the Legislature in the lame duck session because he hadn't talked to State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Thorofare) or Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto (D-Secaucus). He also took a shot at Democrats for using the possibility of a gas tax hike as a political football.
"Let's remember something, this is something that the Democrats in the Legislature decided to put aside in February and make no proposals, none for now almost a year because it didn't suit their politics because they were going into an election year," Christie explained. "There's nothing I can do about a gas tax Transportation Trust Fund without the Legislature."
One bill (A-3886) would increase the tax on petroleum products gross receipts from four cents per gallon to nine percent of the average retail price of unleaded regular gasoline and another measure (ACR-205) to constitutionally dedicate all of the new revenue collected to the TTF.
"It's about 25 cents a gallon," said Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville). "That translates to about 50 cents a day for the average driver in New Jersey. That's $180 a year. That has to be compared by looking at the cost of driving in New Jersey. It has to be compared to the $600-$1,200 a year that some estimate is the cost that people pay to maintain their vehicles because of the poor condition of our infrastructure."
The gas tax hike would be on top of the existing 10.5 cent gas tax. Wisniewski said that under his plan the tax would be adjusted annually based on the rate of inflation. He explained the increase would be a recurring and sustainable source of revenue to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund indefinitely. The TTF is on pace to run out of money June 30, 2016.
Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @kevinmcardle1.