NJ Gas Tax Hike Bill Formally Introduced [POLL/AUDIO]
There has been a lot of talk about increasing the gas tax in New Jersey, but Monday there was some action too. An influential state lawmaker officially introduced a bill to hike the tax.
The measure isn't what he originally planned, but he thinks it is doable.
"My bill would increase the gas tax by five cents a year for three years," said state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Union). "At the end of the third year it'll be 15 cents more than it is now. It will cost the average motorist less than $100 a year and the cost of not making road repairs seriously exceeds that."
Originally, Lesniak planned to sponsor legislation to hike the gas tax by four cents a year for six years. He said he took another look at the numbers and decided the state could get by with less if other improvements are made as well. The senator has also introduced a measure to consolidate all of the state's transportation departments into one agency. He estimated that could save more than $100 million a year. Lesniak understands his gas tax hike bill isn't likely to be very popular.
"This is something nobody wants to do, nobody likes to do, but is something that we have to do," Lesniak said. "We also need to be able to match federal dollars. If we can't raise $500 million for road improvements, we'll be turning down $500 million in federal money."
For years, Gov. Chris Christie has repeatedly vowed he would not raise taxes. Lesniak said he is fully aware of that.
"Let's see what the governor does when we run out of money," Lesniak said.
Another piece of legislation is coming soon, according to the senator. He said he will introduce a resolution to ask voters if all of the gas tax money should be constitutionally dedicated exclusively to transportation projects. Lesniak said that would ensure no politician from either party could raid the funds and use them to plug budget holes. He admitted that has happened a lot in the past.