Christie gas tax hike runs low on fuel

Governor Chris Christie, Senate President Steve Sweeney, and Speaker Vincent Prieto ran into opposition for their scheme to increase the gas tax by 23 cents while reducing the sales tax and eliminating the estate tax altogether.

On Friday, Sept. 30, Christie, Sweeney and Prieto announced their plan to fund the Transportation Trust Fund with a $2 billion gas tax increase in exchange for a cut in the sales tax from 7 to 6.625 percent and a repeal of New Jersey’s estate tax, which raises about $700 million yearly from the richest residents.

“They didn’t have the votes today for an emergency, which is a good thing,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Anytime we can slow it down it buys us more time to fight this sell-out of a deal. The Legislature is trying push through this dirty deal as quickly as possible.”

“They don’t want the public to know what they’re doing and they’re trying to sell us out as fast as they can. They don’t want to have a hearing so the public won’t know how bad of a deal this really is,” said Tittel. “We’re concerned that they are trying to rush this through now to draw away from the fact that the failure to fund TTF may have contributed to Hoboken tragedy and that is why they are trying to push through this dirty deal.”

The three political leaders announced the plan at 6 p.m., Friday hoping the public would not notice over a holiday weekend, when the government always puts out bad news.

They also hoped to have the floor vote right after the holiday as another way to get around public scrutiny.

“They’re going to back on Friday with a vote so we need to keep fighting to block this deal that’s bad for the people of New Jersey. Billionaires get tax breaks and everyone else sold out. With this sell-out we get the worst of both options from Christie and legislative leaders,” said Tittel.

Senator Jim Holzapfel, Assemblymen Dave Wolfe and Greg McGuckin (R-10) said they will vote against the $2 billion gas tax plan because it will disproportionately impact Ocean County drivers.

“There are more than 80,000 EZ Pass users in our legislative district alone,” Holzapfel said. “These drivers are already paying the highest tolls in the nation. They simply cannot afford to pay any more to use New Jersey’s roads and highways. We will not stand silently by and watch as the legislature approves a 23-cent gas tax hike that will impose severe financial hardships on the people we were elected to serve. Taxpayers in Ocean County and across this state deserve better.”

“With little or no access to mass transit, Ocean County residents have no choice but to drive long distances to get to work every day,” Wolfe said. “They won’t benefit from a new light rail line many miles away, and paltry three-eighths percent cut in the sales tax will not offset the hundreds of dollars more a year they will have to pay at the pump.”

New Jersey’s gas tax is currently the second lowest in the country, but the state will have the seventh highest gas tax in the nation is Christie succeeds in passing his plan.

Even gas tax supporters are having trouble with the plan. Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20) called  the compromise worked out among Christie, Sweeney and Prieto a “tax cut for the wealthiest” state residents.

“Their solution continues the fiscal irresponsibility that has been a hallmark of the Christie administration and, as ardent an advocate as I am for a gas tax hike to replenish the Fund, I will be voting no on the proposal,” said Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman John Wisniewski.




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