After the November election, the biggest battle in Trenton will be whether or not to provide funds to repair New Jersey’s crumbling infrastructure via an increase in the gasoline tax – one of the lowest in the nation. Our Transportaion Trust Fund, which pays for these improvements, is broke. Although New Jersey residents want better roads and bridges, they don’t want to pay for them. This is simply a foolish byproduct of the no-tax drones on Fox “News” and 101.5.
Because of this singular and simplistic approach – one aided and abetted by unenforceable “no-tax” pledges – taxpayers are paying more in the long run. We’re paying through more expensive emergency repairs, time lost in traffic, and increased wear and tear on our vehicles as they fail to navigate the potholes that have become the symbol of institutional neglect.
Gasoline taxes are just one aspect of the revenue picture, but they have one very attractive discriminator. With New Jersey in the center of the busy Boston-Washington corridor, a good portion of the revenue collected will come from out-of-state residents. When we visit other states, we’re paying more into their coffers. It seems sensible to have those residents reciprocate.
It could be that the politicians are intentionally allowing our roads and bridges to deteriorate so they can do to our infrastructure what they have done to our public education system. Desperate commuters would look the other way as major roads and bridges are privatized, tolled, and run by for-profit companies. These same compaines would redirect a portion of their profits to campaign coffers. Overall commuting costs would rise. As far-fetched as this sounds, it is already happening.
Another side benefit to a gasoline tax increase is that it would encourage (and provide voter support for) more efficient mass transit, make fuel-efficient cars more attractive, and reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions.
According to Martin Robbins of the Rutgers Voorhees Transportation Center, a thirty cent per gallon increase would allow us to essentially tread water and maintain our current infrastructure. While commuters would complain, responsible elected officials should clearly explain why this long-term investment in our future is vital. Or they should be prepared to explain to our grandchildren why New Jersey’s roads are no better than those in third world countries.