By Lauren Wanko
Like the majority of New Jerseyans, Wall Township resident Michael Buono is saying no to a gas tax increase. That according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton poll.
“New Jerseyans continue to oppose any increase in the gas tax. About 56 percent oppose it right now, 41 percent would support it,” said Rutgers-Eagleton Poll Director David Redlawsk.
“Don’t increase taxes because people don’t need to pay more taxes,” said Beachwood resident Al Venezzio.
The Garden State’s gas tax is 14.5 cents per gallon — a 10.5-cent motor fuels tax with a 4-cent petroleum tax. It’s one of the lowest in the nation, second only to Alaska. New Jersey’s gas tax has not increased since 1988.
Rutgers-Eagleton pollsters conducted an experiment. They told one group that the Garden State’s gas tax is among the lowest in the nation, but they didn’t give that information to the next group. The result? Those who knew the gas tax is one of the lowest are more likely to want to keep it that way.
“Financially it costs a lot of money to live in New Jersey. We got to get a break somewhere. My real estate taxes are crazy too,” said South River resident Gene Wiecek.
“New Jerseyans feel terribly taxed as it is, so virtually any tax increase is a no go in the state,” Redlawsk said.
Still it’s not just about feeling overtaxed, says Redlawsk. When asked how New Jerseyans rate the conditions of the roadways not funded by tolls, even Redlawsk was surprised.
“We’ve all made such an assumption that everyone thinks the roads are terrible that we haven’t even asked the question since 1980,” Redlawsk said.
Turns out even though 34 years have passed. The result is virtually unchanged.
“A majority of New Jerseyans think state roads are in pretty good condition, and while fewer think local roads are in good condition, it’s still the case many people are perfectly happy with the roads as they are,” said Redlawsk.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation tells NJTV News the motor fuels tax and the Transportation Trust Fund Authority fund capital projects for both NJDOT and New Jersey Transit. So the money is used for roads, bridges and mass transit capital projects. These projects don’t include work on toll roads like the Garden State Parkway.
“There’s been enough talk about the Transportation Trust Fund being broke that people understand the trust is in trouble, they just don’t see the need to spend more money,” Redlawsk said.
The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 report card for the country’s infrastructure indicates 35 percent of New Jersey’s major roads are in poor condition and driving on roads in need of repair costs New Jersey motorists $3.6 billion a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs — $605 per motorist.
“Our roads, our infrastructure is bad,” said Neptune Township resident Butch Furrow.
Jersey Shore resident Mike Griggs has a lot to fill up at the gas station — his Jeep, boat and jet ski.
“When prices are low it’s not so bad to have a tax, but when prices are high it’s just crazy,” he said.
The majority of New Jerseyans polled agree with him. They don’t think there will ever be a good time for a gas tax hike, but if they had to chose, with prices at the pump this low there’s no better time than now.