Why we absolutely don’t need a gas tax in NJ: #TheDailyPoint
Above: State Sen. Jennifer Beck in May
If you listen to my show, you know I love New Jersey. But you also know the way we're taxed to death drives me absolutely insane.
And that's why as New Jersey lawmakers — Republicans and Democrats alike — consider a huge gas tax increase, I'm saying "No." Join me on Twitter and tell your legislators you feel the same — use the hashtag #NoGasTax and always follow along with me at #TheDailyPoint.
New Jersey infrastructure has serious problems — and we need a solution to the state's failing Transportation Trust Fund, the about-to-go-broke reservoir of cash that's supposed to pay for our roads and bridges. But 20 cents extra per gallon? 25? Don't make New Jersey's hardworking residents pay for Trenton's fiscal mismanagement. We can't afford the taxes we already have.
I was glad to be joined Monday on the air by two Republican lawmakers who are standing their ground against a gax tax hike, state Sens. Jennifer Beck and Michael Doherty. Tuesday, I'll hear from Sen. Steven V. Oroho — the architect of the gas tax plan as well.
That should get interesting.
But in the meantime, I'd like you to read what Beck's got to say — and why she's joining me insisting: #NoGasTax.
Why we don't need a gas tax hike
By state Sen. Jennifer Beck
I am firmly opposed to raising New Jersey’s gas tax by 25 cents a gallon and will stand up for my residents over the construction union that has spent a quarter of a million dollars in negative ads. I will fight for my residents who already pay the highest property taxes, highest income taxes and among the highest sales taxes in the nation.
I have developed a well-researched, thoughtful proposal that allows us to fully fund the Transportation Trust Fund at $1.6 billion per year, for seven years — without raising our gas tax. This can be achieved with common sense public policy changes such as consolidating and merging our transportation agencies into one unit, reducing employee health benefits from “platinum” plans —which without change will be subject to a massive federal cadillac tax under the Affordable Care Act — and increasing motor vehicle fines and penalties for dangerous or unsafe driving behaviors like DUI or texting and driving.
More than anything, my plan requires members of the state Legislature to exhibit fiscal restraint, a trait all too uncommon in New Jersey. If transportation and infrastructure are of the importance that we all say they are, it must be part of our yearly budget discussion and prioritized accordingly.
The proposal I have developed requires a portion of the state’s revenue growth to be devoted to transportation funding. Under my seven-year plan, 60 percent of our $11.2 billion in transportation projects would be paid for using general fund revenue ($6.8 billion) and not by borrowing. My plan also addresses our other priorities, allowing for increasing pension payments along the model that Gov. Chris Christie has adopted. Additionally, I budget for increased health benefit and Medicaid expansion costs over time, using Office of Legislative Services projections for realistic and conservative revenue estimates.
As evidence of New Jersey’s capacity to fund transportation projects each year, I point to the fact that in fiscal year 2016, revenue grew less than we projected, affecting both the current year and the next year’s budget baseline. Within a few weeks, the $1.1 billion shortfall was addressed with limited disruption. We found unspent dollars in lapsed funds, altered business tax credits, reduced charity care dollars and changed how we tax lottery winners. If we can find $1.1 billion in our budget within weeks, doesn’t that indicate we must be capable of finding funds for transportation projects as well?
We must address spending and the unusually high cost of our transportation projects. We have all read the reports on the astronomical cost of the Route 35 reconstruction in Ocean County. A 12.5 mile project ended up costing $341 million, working out to more than $27 million per mile. These projects are not isolated cases. There have been numerous reports and studies that show New Jersey’s road costs to be among the highest in the nation, and certainly higher than our neighboring states. Before the Legislature asks for a 25-cent-a-gallon gas tax increase, we must make sure taxpayers dollars are spent wisely.
I remain open to ideas and discussion from any group that is serious about solving our transportation funding problem. My plan funds our transportation priorities each year, with more than $1.6 billion available for the projects that our state desperately needs. At this point, no other comprehensive, alternative plan has been put forward. Many of the same groups that criticize my work have not offered any other proposals. I’m happy to answer any questions on my proposal, as well as talk through the numbers behind my effort with any resident who wishes to speak.
As for a 25-cent-a-gallon gas tax increase, I ask all taxpayers, commuters and residents to join me in opposing this bad idea. Please sign my petition at www.senatenj.com/nogastax or reach out to my office for a lawn sign at 732-933-1591 or SenBeck@njleg.org. We are overtaxed already — stand with me and do not allow the special interests to force more taxes on New Jersey residents.
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