NJ residents could face a double gas tax hike
New Jerseyans could be faced with what amounts to a double tax if both the Garden State and the federal government decide to implement gas tax increases to help fund projects to repair roads and bridges.
New Jersey's Transportation Trust Fund is on pace to run out of money for capital projects at the end of this Fiscal Year on June 30. Some lawmakers have called for increasing the state's gas tax to raise revenue. Talk in Washington, D.C. has now turned to hiking the federal gas tax to replenish the Highway Trust Fund which raised the possibility that New Jersey residents could soon be forced to pay what amounts to a double tax.
"The federal government needs to do what it needs to do to help this country and to help New Jersey as well. We really will be working hand in hand so I think it's a good development. It just shows there's recognition in Washington that we have to pay attention to these needs and have to get something done and can't just sit back and do nothing," said State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Union) who is sponsoring a bill (S-1865) to increase the state gas tax by 5 cents a gallon for three years.
On this past weekend's "Fox News Sunday," incoming U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee chairman, Sen. Jim Thune (R-SD) said all revenue raising options must be explored. The federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon. It has not been increased since 1993.
The chairman of the New Jersey's Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee conceded that a federal gas tax increase could make it tougher to hike the state's gas tax.
"It certainly then makes it more difficult to raise the revenue needed here in New Jersey. I am concerned that we may reach some sort of tipping point," said Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville).
The political reality is that it would be tough to go to the same pool of motorists and ask for a state gas tax increase if the federal government just hiked its gas tax, Wisniewski said.
New Jersey collects 14.5 cents per gallon with its gas tax. The gas tax in the Garden State was last increased in 1988. Only Alaska (8 cents) and Wyoming (14 cents) have lower gas taxes.
In June of 2014, U.S. Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced legislation to increase the federal gas tax by 12 cents over two years and to tie future increases to the rate of inflation, but the bill has yet to gain traction.