Christie would consider 25-cent gas tax hike if overall plan is ‘fair’
Besides the financial crisis in Atlantic City, Gov. Chris Christie is dealing with another huge problem looming on the horizon.
The state Transportation Trust Fund, the pool of money that’s used to pay for all road and bridge projects and repairs in the Garden State, will run out of money in three months and state officials do not have a way to borrow more.
Virtually all of the funds collected from tolls and the 14 ½-cent-a-gallon state gas tax is paying off debt, which means a fresh infusion of cash is needed to keep the trust fund solvent.
For months there’s been a growing public discussion among Democratic leaders about increasing the state gas tax to fund the TTF, and some private rumblings about a 25-cent gas tax hike that would be phased in over three years — although no such proposal has officially been put forward.
Christie has many times said he would not agree to any hike in the gas tax unless it also included a plan to cut taxes somewhere else.
But when asked about this during a news conference Thursday in Trenton, Christie said “everything is on the table as far as I’m concerned for conversation, but they (lawmakers) haven’t put anything on the table. What I’m looking to see is what are they willing to propose and what are they willing to stand behind.”
When pressed on whether he would accept a 25-cent gas tax increase under any circumstances, even one that’s phased in, Christie said “I’m happy to consider any proposal they put forward, but it has to be made in the context of overall tax fairness for the people of New Jersey."
He added “if they want to increase an increase in the gas tax then they should propose it, and if that’s what [Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto] wants he should put it up and get 41 votes for it. I’ve said right along that I am willing to listen as long as whatever proposal they come forward with represents tax fairness for the people of New Jersey.”
Christie said there's ample time to restore the trust fund.
State Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, has proposed a plan to save the trust fund without raising the gas tax. She wants to dedicate 3.34 percent of state revenue to the TTF annually, which would generate about $11 billion from 2017 to 2023, enough money to pay for needed transportation projects statewide.