Ending Stalemate in Trenton, NJ Legislature Approves Gas Tax Increase — but at What Cost?

Image: @UTCANJ/Twitter

After a 98 day stalemate, the New Jersey Legislature approved a pair of measures today that will end the state transportation shutdown and raise the state’s gas tax by 23 cents — the first increase since 1988.

While the 23-cent gas tax increase will bring New Jersey’s state gas tax up to par with other states in the Northeast, the capital program it will afford — $16 billion over eight years — is a continuation of the previous 10 years of stagnant funding. The previous annual outlay of $1.6 billion, when adjusted for inflation, comes out to $1.98 billion today.

We’re glad to see the TTF funded again, but it will come at a substantial cost to the state’s General Fund thanks to Governor Christie’s insistence on passing tax cuts unrelated to transportation. Fiscal estimates put the loss as high as $1.4 billion annually by 2021 once all the cuts are phased in.

Even worse, the plan passed today does not address NJ Transit’s funding problems, specifically the lack of adequate funding for operating. This moment could have been seized as an opportunity to address the state’s dearth of transportation funding woes in a holistic manner. Instead, the governor played games with the state’s transportation system. He’s taken to Twitter to tout his victory, but unfortunately in this case, when Governor Christie wins, his state loses.

The stalemate is over, and the Garden State’s transportation funding crisis has ended for the time being. But will politically-driven tax cuts create a new crisis in New Jersey? We’ll have to wait and see.

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