Legislators, Progressive Groups Rally Against TTF Deal

October 4, 2016 | Politics, Transportation
Sen. Ray Lesniak is among those opposing an agreement for the Transportation Trust Fund that would increase the gas tax.

By Briana Vannozzi

“The one group that is clearly going to come out ahead from this deal are wealthy people such as myself,” said Eric Schoenberg of Patriotic Millionaires.

If you don’t believe the progressive groups railing against the new Transportation Trust Fund deal, they hope you’ll believe him — Schoenberg, a millionaire who’s come out against the plan to replenish the fund with a 23-cent gas tax hike and — among other cuts — an elimination of the estate tax.

“When we pass on our estates, a large portion of what we pass on — what my father passes on to me and what I pass on to my children — is in fact appreciated securities that have never been taxed,” Schoenberg said.

In a last ditch effort to rally support against the resolution, a coalition of public interest groups and legislators rattled off a litany of concerns.

“You’re going to end up paying an additional $170 at the pump with this gas tax increase, that’s guaranteed. You would have to spend about $45,000 a year in taxable goods in order to get to that $170 a year and offset that small decrease,” said Analilia Mejia, director of New Jersey Working Families.

The deal replenishes the trust fund for eight years by generating $1.2 billion in annual revenue through the gas tax hike. It’s being offset by the so-called tax fairness proposals — a slight two-year decrease to the 7 percent sales tax; tax credits for the working poor, veterans and seniors; and the all out elimination of the estate tax.

“Jersey, 9 million people and 70,000 of them die every year. Of the 70,000 who die only about 3,500 have to file an estate tax return with a check,” said New Jersey Policy Perspective President Gordon MacInnes.

While the NJBIA and other labor organizations favor cutting the estate tax, the groups argue the cuts will leave a more than $1 billion hole in an already bleeding budget.

“So what you’re talking about is eliminating a very, very special source of revenue for the rest of us by rewarding 95 to 100 families every year with a sweetheart deal,” MacInnes said.

Sen. Ray Lesniak says lawmakers will see the bill for the first time tomorrow, when they’re asked to vote on it.

“It’s going to be a close vote so we need every single senator for sure to vote their conscience for their constituents and vote no,” he said.

Though not in attendance today, Republican Sen. Mike Doherty made his vote clear in a statement saying: “Until we get a handle on why New Jersey spends significantly more per mile than every other state, any new gas tax revenues we raise would be wasted. I don’t think that’s fair to drivers.”

The coalition would like to see a public hearing on this, though that’s unlikely unless the Senate can get enough support to block it before it goes for a floor vote tomorrow.