Gas Tax Debate Breaks Down Along Party Lines in Trenton
Several Republican lawmakers are on the record saying they will not vote in favor of a gas tax increase if that is the solution for replenishing the nearly bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund. That's not stopping Democratic leaders from calling for bipartisan support of any plan to add to the TTF.
"It's not about Republicans or Democrats. It's about doing the right things for the residents of the state of New Jersey," said Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto (D-Secaucus). "It's needs to be everybody's skin in the game. Everybody has to hold hands and jump off the cliff like Butch Cassidy and Sundance did."
Republicans such as Assembly GOP Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) and Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce (R-Parsippany) have urged the Legislature to explore the idea of reworking the state's school funding formula to possibly save $1 billion that could be dedicated to the TTF. That concept would be dead on arrival for many Democrats who were critical of any cut in education spending.
"I personally am opposed to a gas tax and our residents are opposed to a gas tax," NJ Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank) said at a recent legislative forum. "More taxation is not an option. I don't think we can just wave our hands in the air and say it has to be a gas tax. I don't think it's acceptable to the people of this state that we implement higher taxes."
The top Democrat in the NJ Senate said a TTF funding solution will not be partisan in any way, shape or form even if it does include an increase in the gas tax.
"They're (Republicans) basically saying, 'You do it and then we're going to criticize you for doing it.' No, no, no. I've watched that act before. Everyone likes to talk about bi-partisanship. You just can't take a pass on the hard ones," Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) said.
Then TTF is on pace to run out of money for new capital projects on July 1. If a new funding source isn't identified before then all of the revenue collected would be used exclusively to pay down debt.