WASHINGTON — So is Gov. Christie now definitely against a new gas tax? Was that the signal he was sending at his speech Thursday night at the annual New Jersey Chamber of Commerce dinner?
Following a boozy chartered Amtrak train trip that took the state’s political class from New Jersey to the nation’s capital, Christie addressed a hotel ballroom for the annual New Jersey Chamber of Commerce dinner. The room was filled with lawmakers, lobbyists and reporters who recognized his talking points and laugh lines from addresses he had given in the early, heady days of his tenure in Trenton.
He said there was no “money tree” to get new revenue from, because the Democrats had taxed New Jersey into an economic malaise that he was now digging it out of. And he said taxes were not the answer.
“I’ve done 127 town hall meetings in five years as the governor of New Jersey,” he said. “I have taken probably a thousand or more questions randomly from the general public and I will tell you that not one time, not once in the last five years has someone stood up and said, ‘Governor could you please have the government raise my taxes more? You people are too frugal you simply are not taxing me enough. If you could just tax me a little more I know my future would be better.'”
But Christie left one glaring hole in his fervent anti-tax speech: The gas tax.
The state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which pays for repairs to New Jersey’s endless highways and many bridges, gets its money from taxes on gasoline, which are among the lowest in the nation. Democratic legislators want to raise that tax in order to pay for the fund, which is now so broke that some bridges are being closed because they are deemed in need of repair. Even Christie’s own transportation commissioner has hinted that a gas tax hike is possible. The governor himself has said all options are on the table.
But he didn’t mention the gas tax at all on Thursday. He just said this: “I’ll continue to reach out and try to compromise with my friends who run the state legislature.”
Reporters were unable to find out if Christie’s pledge to not raise taxes included the tax New Jerseyans pay at the pump. He left without taking questions, or eating his dinner. His address to the Legislature on his fiscal year 2016 budget is scheduled for Tuesday.