Reasonable increase in gas tax is warranted

It is frustrating that our elected officials do not see the need to raise funds to properly maintain the transportation infrastructure in New Jersey. For many years, state, county and local officials have been fearful to change any funding in New Jersey. Tragically, New Jersey’s gas tax is preponderantly used to pay bonds, and it is better to have a pay-as-you-go and pay-asyou grow system of financing.

My neighbors, friends and even acquaintances are constantly complaining about the poor condition of roads, lack of transportation choices, infrequent or nonexistent bus/train service because New Jersey feels it must have one of the lowest state gas taxes in the country. Only Alaska’s is lower.

My conversations indicate that people feel that out-of-pocket expenses due to flat tires, additional wheel alignments, more brake jobs, more replacements of shock absorbers, and we can only drive to get to where we are going exceed the increase in paying a little more at the pump to better fund repairs, maintenance and strategic capital investments to serve our citizens, businesses and visitors that add so much to our economic development and well-being.

Many accidents and countless near misses are attributable to potholes, poor street lighting, road flooding, poor access management and inadequate attention to New Jersey’s infrastructure.

The increase at the pump must be fully dedicated to transportation, and full transparency of the expenditures is ensured by the governor, commissioner of transportation, and the Transportation Trust Fund. An accounting needs to show total funding mix (federal, state, county, local, private) for projects from Day 1 to Day of Completion/ Operation.

So, it is urgent and critical that citizens contact their representatives to sponsor an immediate and reasonable 10-cent per gallon increase in the New Jersey gas tax along with the New Jersey Department of Transportation in conjunction with the counties, municipalities and three metropolitan planning organizations presenting a game plan on recommendations on spending the projected revenues. The 10-cent increase would result in a 24.5-cent per gallon fuel tax.

As a compromise, the vital funding could be phased in over a period of time. With these changes, the New Jersey rate will still be much lower than neighboring states such as Pennsylvania at 41.8 cents and New York at 49.86 cents.

An analysis would show that even with this increase, a substantial amount of New Jersey gas tax revenue will still come from out-of-state visitors who oftentimes “fill up” before leaving New Jersey because of the price advantage.

Just recently, the U.S. Department of Energy released new data that projected oil prices will remain at a relatively feasible level for the next five years. Meanwhile, it is imperative that New Jersey leaders do something now to address the reduced effectiveness of the limited collected revenues just going to pay off bonded debt.

I assume that during budget hearings these concerns are addressed and that the Office of Legislative Services is available to help reliable, responsible and reasonable legislators and the governor to tackle this situation.

We need to fix our roads, improve transit systems, empower bicyclists and pedestrians, and make the decaying transportation network as safe and dependable as those we see in all the car ads and that we see in highspeed rail systems in other parts of the world, and wise, well-planned communities that use forward thinking land use planning to reduce reliance on auto-dependent travel patterns.

John C. Jennings
American Institute of Certified Planners
Professional Planner
Freehold Township