It’s Time to Raise the Gasoline Tax Unconditionally

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.

Comments (2)

  1. scott olson

    I agree that *something* must be done to save our failing infrastructure, but it’s not a tax increase alone.

    What needs serious discussion is the inefficiency, attitude and culture within NJDOT itself. Being an elected official, and having just suffered through almost 6 years of a widening project of just ONE mile of Route 206 in Byram, NJ, I can tell you that *if* the lack of management of contractors, no-show DOT management and half-assed workmanship on this small project goes on statewide, we may as well be lighting a match to half the money being directed to road construction by the state.

    Correct the cultural within NJDOT as part of this process, or we’ll never see the infrastructure of our state maintained effectively or efficiently.

    Reply
  2. Gil

    I understand the argument, but there’s a problem with the structure of the gas tax. It hits working people and working families the most, and that’s something that remains true no matter how low the gas tax is in New Jersey. Can’t we raise a tax that’s going to predominantly effect those who can actually afford it for a change? Why can’t we raise the property tax on homes over a certain value? Why can’t we raise sales taxes on purchases of luxury items over a certain value?

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