For the first time ever, if you oppose a gas tax increase in New Jersey you are in the minority.

A new poll shows New Jerseyans would be ok with a gas tax hike. (Ronira, ThinkStock)

A Jan. 21 Quinnipiac University survey revealed that 62 percent of Garden State voters were opposed to a gas tax hike while just 37 percent supported it. Public opinion has changed dramatically since that time, however, according to a poll released Tuesday.

"Fifty to 47 percent, New Jerseyans say, 'Yeah' they could go for a gasoline tax. For the first time, the first time ever, the first time ever they'd consider a gasoline tax rise," said Mickey Carroll, Quinnipiac University assistant poll director.

Gas taxes have remained relatively low this year, but Carroll doesn't think that's the reason support for a gas tax hike has grown.

"Gas prices in New Jersey have always been low and there's the argument that so many out-of-state people who drive on the toll roads will pay the gas tax so why not let them do it," Carroll said.

Republicans were the only group still in opposition to a gas tax increase. The findings include:

  • Democrats support a gas tax hike 63-35 percent;
  • Republicans oppose it 56-43 percent;
  • Voters 18-34 years old are split 47-52 percent;
  • Voters 35-54 years old are divided too 48-50 percent;
  • Voters over 55 support the tax increase 56-42 percent.

As has been the case for well over a decade, New Jersey is cash-strapped as Gov. Chris Christie and the legislature try to cobble together a state budget. The poll showed 92 percent of respondents felt the state's budget problems are "very" or "somewhat serious."

"Overwhelmingly voters say, 'Yes there is a fiscal problem. The state is in a fiscal fix,'" Carroll said.

How should the state get out of its fiscal fix? 53 percent would prefer service cut over other tax increase (34 percent). By an almost two-to-one margin (64-33 percent) New Jerseyans would support a millionaires tax increased to fund public worker pensions.

"They say they'd go for a millionaires tax, but that's pie-in-the-sky," Carroll said. "The governor said he's going to veto it if it happens."

The governor has already vetoed a millionaires tax increase bill four times since taking office.

New Jersey does have a responsibility to fund public employee pension according to voters (51-40 percent) even if it means increasing taxes, but the majority also agreed with Christie that the system needs to be reformed.

Responses to the pension system change question include:

  • 55-35 percent voters said public workers should use a 401k-type plan rather than a set pension;
  • Support among republicans for that idea was 72-17 percent;
  • Support among democrats was 49-42 percent;
  • Support among independent voters was 60-29 percent.

In a non-budget related question, almost 9-in-10 (89 percent) voters said it is "somewhat" or "very important" to fix the rail tunnel between New Jersey and New York City and almost 7-in-10 (68 percent) said it's "very" or "somewhat important" to add a second rail tunnel.

A total of 1,428 New Jersey voters were surveyed from April 9-14. The margin of error is +/- 2.6 percentage points.