Ever Wonder Why New Jersey Has Such Cheap Gas?

Monday, May 05, 2014

A gas station in New Jersey (Jessica Gould/WNYC)

New Jersey’s gas tax is the second lowest in the country after Alaska, and hasn’t gone up since the late ‘80s.

But transit advocates says that low, low cost comes with consequences.

Most of the gas tax goes to the Transportation Trust Fund, which pays for the state’s share of transportation projects – from fixing bridges to filling potholes and repairs for NJ Transit.

Because the tax is so low, the fund hasn’t had enough money to cover its costs. That’s led to a lot of borrowing, and some creative financing. And now even that money is now running out.

“Until we find a new source of revenues to support this, the transportation fund is going to be in real crisis,” said Thomas Wright of the Regional Plan Association.

State Senator Ray Lesniak thinks he has a solution. Over three years, he wants to raise the gas tax by 15 cents. He says that will cost drivers under $100 annually, less than the $600 on average they spend on repairs because of bad roads.

“It’s something that the time has come. We just have to bite the bullet and do it,” he said.

Many transit advocates want to go even higher. They say every penny that’s added to the gas tax amounts to $50 million more in transportation spending. They also want additional fees for electric vehicles.

Governor Chris Christie, however, has pledged repeatedly that he won’t raise taxes.

Raising the gas tax is unpopular among voters as well. A poll from the Eagleton Institute at Rutgers University found that two-thirds of New Jersey residents oppose an increased gas tax. The poll noted, however, that opposition fades when people learn the taxes would pay for repairs to crumbling roads and bridges.

David Hanson of Upper Saddle River is a case in point. He called both the gas prices and New Jersey’s pattern of borrowing “outrageous.” But he would like to see an increased investment in infrastructure.

“If it truly was going to go to it, and it truly did improve the roads, have at it," he said. "Charge more. But, you know, I’m skeptical,”


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Comments [13]



How many of the NY drivers who use NJ roads are there mostly just to get gas? Aren't they paying more per mile driven on NJ roads than NJ drivers?

Also, please do charge them more they stop going to NJ for gas and instead buy gasoline in NYS so we get their tax dollars.

May. 06 2014 09:58 PM

Hey Tal what are taxes for infrastructure?

Transit should be subsidized. It's cleaner and kills fewer people than cars. Cars should not be subsidized, for the same reason.

May. 06 2014 09:56 PM
TOM from Brooklyn

Of course, the NYS gas tax was capped at the first $2 when the price spiked. Never mind NJ, a lost cause until the prosecutors do their magic, NY needs to fully fund using the existing authority and stop raiding the MTA.

May. 06 2014 12:57 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

How about looking at the causes for the opposition rather than the effects for once? Some oppose it for the fact that gas prices are already high as they are right now. Others hate it because they feel that it adds insult to injury when it comes to commuting from where they live with no viable alternatives to getting around. The rest just oppose because they see that it hardly goes to where it's supposed to. Seriously, I could never understand the double standards when it comes to subsidies. Why is there so much outrage to how driving is heavily subsidized, but the same people who are against that are fine with how transit is heavily subsidized especially in keeping their fares very low? BTW, there is something that already pays for the upkeep of roads and crossings and that is known as taxes for infrastructure, so anything else is considered double tipping be it gas taxes or even tolls. I still think that alternatives should be looked at before raising the gas tax any higher.

May. 05 2014 06:47 PM
Wen from NJ

In theory I'm in favor addition to deteriorating roads and bridges, NJ has a terrible public transportation system. My home and work are 20 miles apart-a straight shot up Route 1. 100 years ago there was a light rail system that went from Trenton to points north. I would have been able (and willing) to walk to the trolley, take it the 20 miles and walk the 1/2 mile or so to work. Now the only public option involves a minimum 2 buses, going miles out of my way and would take 2-3 hours each way. We already have among the highest property tax and car insurance rates in the country. Raising the gas tax without options or easing elsewhere would be very tough on many of us.

May. 05 2014 06:20 PM

It always amazes me how unwilling people are to pay for the things they use. If you oppose raising the gas tax to pay for road maintenance in NJ, you are essentially asking for subsidy for your driving to come from the general tax fund. If the state is going to subsidize any form of transportation, it ought to be cleaner, more efficient, less congesting forms than cars. Jack up those tolls and the gas tax. I will gladly pay them both when I drive through NJ if it means better roads and less congestion.

May. 05 2014 05:40 PM

I'd pay a reasonable higher gas tax (up to 50 cents per gallon) *if and only if* it was dedicated to roads and bridge improvement. No political hanky-panky, no pay for play, no spending it where the donors live. Higher costs might cause some of us to drive less which is a good thing.

Can the state tax vehicles registered out of state at a higher rate? Say $.25/gallon for all the NY and PA cars that are here getting tanked up? (I'd even back a higher tax for ALL out of state cars. It would be fine by me if the other states reciprocated.)

May. 05 2014 05:05 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

Gas prices are already high as they are. The gas prices around where I live is the reason I come to NJ to fill up, and I'm probably not alone on that. If they are hardly going to the roads, which is what they are said to do, then they shouldn't be raised at all. As a matter of fact, there shouldn't even be toll hikes either considering that this region has the highest on average, not to mention that so many of the highways and crossings were long paid off, but are kept because it's believe that they are part of a revenue source that only makes them go up higher than needed. Overall, it really amazes me that the northeast has the among the highest in both average gas prices and tolls, but the roads and crossings are still in bad shape despite all of that.

May. 05 2014 02:12 PM

Let's get an explanation for this first:

May. 05 2014 01:52 PM

(Pina1978 -- if you are driving to NYC your tolls just paid for the WTC and then the Freedom Tower, among other things… politically, gas tax would cover part of what tolls cover today. But tolls probably spread the costs more fairly to all toll road users than a gas tax would, assuming more out-of-staters use toll roads then gas up.

I'm just as curious about reducing the bottom line of expenses. Freedom Tower? Pothole repairs that need to be re-repaired 2x a year? Billed jobs that are never done? Let's just say the Autobahn is treated differently…)

May. 05 2014 10:32 AM

Seems like logical issue for a referendum to a well-informed public.

May. 05 2014 10:25 AM
pina1978 from So.Plainfield

So where are money going for all the tolls we pay???? Other states have all free roads and somehow they manage. If they raise taxes they should eliminate road charges. They want to have both ways. That's it... time to move out!

May. 05 2014 10:00 AM
Louis Sena from Jersey Shore

I was always for a gas tax for roads, trains, and bridges, etc. And if we can't get that, then we should charge a gas tax on new cars according the weight of the vehicle.

May. 05 2014 08:48 AM

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