NJ Politics Digest: Residents Claim Gas Tax Hike Hasn’t Led to Improved Roads

A car pass by a Exxon mobile gas station on October 25, 2018 in Weehawken New Jersey.

A car pass by a Exxon mobile gas station on October 25, 2018 in Weehawken New Jersey. Kena Betancur/VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images

New Jersey residents now pay some of the highest gasoline taxes in the nation, and residents here say they are not getting their money’s worth.

That’s the finding of a Fairleigh Dickinson University study, which found that a third of the 808 people polled think the condition of state roads, bridge and tunnels are getting worse despite residents being socked by 41.4 cents per gallon increases since the state legislature hiked the gas tax beginning in 2016. About half the residents polled say the quality of state roads remain the same while a meager 16 percent said road quality has improved since they started paying more, according to a report by NJ101.5.

State law allows for annual hikes in the gas tax if the state treasurer declares revenues are falling behind what’s needed to fund road and rail projects. That’s what happened last year, when Gov. Phil Murphy hiked the tax 4.3 cents a gallon. This year, with the entire Democratic-controlled state legislature up for re-election, state Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio said collections were meeting projections and there was no need to increase the tax.

If Muoio decides next year, after elections are decided, to increase the tax again, voters will not be happy. The poll found 83 percent of residents believe the state should find ways to do the work with the money it already raises.

Only 36 percent of respondents said they trust government officials to spend the money wisely, while a third said they had no trust and 28 percent said they had little trust.

Officials at the state Department of Transportation contend drivers who use the roads are wrong in their assessment about the lack of work they are seeing, according to NJ.com.

The DOT said it has spent $498 million to improve 1,734 lane miles of state highways in 2017 and 2018. That’s more than $287,000 per lane mile of repairs.

When the legislature hiked the gas tax, it also approved a small reduction in the state sales tax as a way to ease the sting on state residents. Gov. Phil Murphy, who contends state residents don’t mind paying higher taxes if they feel they are getting their money’s worth, has repeatedly called for rescinding the sales tax decrease and hiking the levy once again.

Quote of the Day: “It’s a correctional facility program. Sheriff’s officers are not out in our community locking up individuals who are illegal immigrants. That is not the case. We are not out in those communities in any threatening manner,” — Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden, defending his decision to turn over 40 inmates wanted by immigration authorities. Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has warned such action violates his directives that critics say are aimed at turning New Jersey into a sanctuary state.

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NJ Politics Digest: Residents Claim Gas Tax Hike Hasn’t Led to Improved Roads