Christie signs gas tax hike! Prepare to pay 23 cents more per gallon
TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation late Friday raising New Jersey's gas tax by 23 cents per gallon — a week after the state Legislature approved the deal he brokered.
The timing echoes that of Christie's announcement along with legislative leaders that a gas tax deal had been struck — also late on a Friday, two weeks ago.
The measure had been uniformly opposed by New Jersey 101.5 hosts, with morning show host Bill Spadea leading an on-air and social media charge against it, encouraging residents to call their legislators and tell them "#NoGasTax."
Since the deal — which funds the states Transportation Trust Fund and allows halted infrastructure projects to continue — passed the legislature last week, he's been urging residents to "#RememberInNovember." State legislators won't be up for reelection for another year.
Fellow host Jeff Deminski estimated an average New Jerseyan would have to spend $45,350 on taxable goods in a year to come out ahead on a key selling point for the gas tax — an accompanying break on the state sales tax. His reply Friday is below:
The measure was also opposed by Christie's own lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, as she told Spadea Thursday morning.
Christie on Friday also signed an executive order formally ending a moratorium on most construction work.
“Through this legislation, we are continuing our commitment to providing tax relief for working New Jerseyans of all income levels, senior citizens, military veterans and property owners, while ensuring solid, reliable, state-of-the-art roads, bridges and mass transit systems,” Christie said Friday. “Over the next eight years, a record $32 billion in state and federal funds will be invested in infrastructure improvements and modernizations in New Jersey. This compromise legislation locks in what I called for from the beginning: tax fairness for all residents, leading to a more affordable state and an improved economy.”
The gas tax would increase Nov. 1, though that could have been later if Christie waited longer to sign the bill. New Jersey last increased the gas tax in 1988. The state will go from having the nation’s second lowest gas tax, 14.5 cents, to its seventh highest, 37.5 cents.
There are tradeoffs in the measure. The sales tax would be reduced by three-eighths of a percent by 2018. Income taxes would be reduced for most retirees, the working poor and veterans.
Several groups on Friday heralded the measure — both for the potential tax relief through those tradeoffs, and for securing funding for the TTF. Voters will be asked on their ballots this November whether funds raised through the gas tax should be locked into the TTF — a measure the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce said Friday it hopes passes.
The New Jersey Business and Industry Association applauded Christie and the legislature "for working together in a bipartisan way to address New Jersey’s tax climate" — praising them for eliminating the state estate tax and giving retirees "a substantial increase in the income tax exclusion for retirement income."
It said those changes would make New Jersey more competitive with New York and Pennsylvania, and push back against outmigration.
“With this new law, we’ve ensured a stronger New Jersey and a safer New Jersey, put laborers back to work and taken a major step toward finally bringing our state a 21st century infrastructure," Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, a Democrat, said Friday.
Republican State Sen. Jennifer Beck, a vocal opponent of the gas tax, said Friday the measure defies" the will of so many people on such an important affordability issuee" and "will not help us to change the perception shared by too many residents that they are being taxed out of New Jersey."
Senator Kip Bateman, also a Republican, said he was introducing legislation to repeal the new gas tax increase.
Even with the gas tax, the state plans on incurring another $12 billion in debt to pay for transportation costs over the course of a decade. The 23-cent-per-gallon hike in the gas tax would yield $1.2 billion a year, but just $500 million is being used for “pay as you go” funding. The rest of $2 billion a year in spending would be supported by $1.5 billion a year in borrowing for eight years to be repaid through gas taxes.
— With prior reporting by Michael Symons
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