After the minor upset of retired New Jersey Department of Corrections Officer and Vietnam veteran Bruce Land unseating Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi (R-1) on Tuesday, Senator Jeff Van Drew (D-1) said that while the first district’s Democrats are glad to be part of the historic legislative majority, their caucus shouldn’t count on additional override votes for a gas tax hike.
As one of the few proposals for bolstering the depleted Transportation Trust Fund, the gas tax has taken pride of place in the back-and-forth between the parties since this week’s returns. Van Drew, a vocal critic of the state’s inheritance and estate taxes, said that not even a trade-off of fewer estate taxes for higher gas prices would sway him or the Assemblymen to join in the fray against any future vetos.
“He is firmly opposed to an increase in the gas tax,” said Van Drew of Bob Andrzejczak (D-1). “He, Bruce and I are all firmly opposed to increasing the gas tax.”
Asked about Governor Christie and Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick’s proposed inheritance tax compromise, Van Drew said that neither he nor the Assemblyman would go in for such a deal.
Van Drew, who tapped Andrzejczak in 2013 and Land earlier this year, served as the guiding light for their Assembly campaign. Signs for the candidates billed them as the “Van Drew Team.”
“The effect of a gas tax is far more profound in Cumberland County, and in Cape May County, and Atlantic County, than it would be in Essex County or Hudson County or Bergen county,” Van Drew added, citing the long distances that residents have to drive in rural South Jersey and the region’s reliance on industries that require larger vehicles and heavy machinery.
“Do as many projects as you can as revenues increase in the state of New Jersey, try to pay as you go, but because of the very nature of South Jersey we cannot afford to have an increase in the gas tax,” he said.
On the campaign itself, Van Drew said that he believed its focus on the local economy, creating sustainging local tourism and improving veterans’ healthcare in South Jersey all resonated with voters.
“Bob won in double digits, and Bruce just about won in double digits, so this was not a squeaker,” he said. “It was a solid affirmation by the constituents of the district for both Bob and Bruce, and I was proud to be part of the team and help out a little bit.”