HAMILTON – A recent survey of New Jersey motorists conducted on behalf of the Automobile Association of America found a majority would support an increase in the gas tax, if that money was dedicated to transportation infrastructure projects.
While it is clear that motorists want to use existing funds first, declining road conditions continue to be a cause for concern, leading motorists to believe that infrastructure investments must be made. Sixty-six percent of motorists agreed with the statement: “I would support a reasonable increase in the gasoline tax to be dedicated to the Transportation Trust Fund, so long as there are safeguards in place to ensure there is no waste, abuse or diversion of that money.”
Of those that supported raising the gas tax, most (28 percent) believed it should be raised by 10 cents, although few (11 percent) correctly identified the current gas tax as around 10 cents. New Jersey’s gas tax is currently 10.5 cents, the third lowest in the country. A quarter of those surveyed believed it was about 50 cents, closely followed (19 percent) by those who believed it was about 25 cents.
The key seems to be in convincing motorists that those safeguards are there. Currently few motorists believe that their gas tax dollars are getting to the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF). When asked how much out of every dollar is getting to the TTF, 26 percent believed 0-10 cents was getting there, and ten percent believed that more than 51 cents was getting to the fund, a drop in 6 points from six years.
“These results are clearly telling us that motorists are willing to pay for needed repairs, but they just don’t trust that the money they are paying in is addressing the problem,” said Tracy E. Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Before any new funding solutions are found, government needs to make sure funding is transparent and that all the dedicated dollars make their way to infrastructure projects.”
The survey also asked motorists what methods should be used to pay for infrastructure projects. When it comes to new projects—expanding railways and providing congestion relief, motorists first want the state to use the funds that are already earmarked for transportation (28 percent), closely followed (27 percent) by support for toll systems so that “those using new roads and lanes pay for their construction and maintenance.” There was a two point increase (16 percent) in support for raising the gas tax to support these projects when all funding options are presented.
Overall, motorists want to make sure that the monies they have already put into the system are used before they are asked to give more:
- 74 percent want government to restore earmarked funding that has been diverted to the general fund.
- 67 percent want to maintain existing toll rates and planned toll increases.
- 68 percent want government to stop using Transportation Trust Fund funding for salaries, benefits and operating costs.
- 59 percent want to constitutionally dedicate fees to the Transportation Trust Fund.
“Until collected TTF monies find their way back to infrastructure projects, motorists should not have to dip back into their pockets to fund increased fees,” Noble said.
The telephone survey was conducted by National Research Inc. among a sample of 800 New Jersey motorists in May 2011. The margin of error for this survey is +/-3.46 percent.
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