It’s not the news New Jersey drivers wanted to hear.

This week we got word that gas tax collections have fallen behind expectations in the Garden State, which means the gas tax could be increased by 3 or 4 cents a gallon this fall.

When lawmakers approved a plan to hike the gas tax almost 23 cents a gallon back in 2016 in order to fund the Transportation Trust Fund, the law was written in such a way to guarantee that a predictable level of revenue would be generated every year.

If gasoline sales dip, according to the law, the gas tax can be raised in order to make up the difference and ensure an additional $1.16 billion would be collected for the fund that's used to pay for roadwork.

An official with the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services testified during a special hearing on Monday that sales have dipped. State Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio confirmed that officials will review tax collection numbers later this summer to make a determination about how much of a gas tax increase (if any) is needed.

When Gov. Phil Murphy was asked about this looming tax increase, he said: “We take every one of those dollars seriously, every penny at the gas pump. The fact of the matter is the Transportation Trust Fund had been allowed to go virtually bankrupt.”

Murphy said raising the gas tax a couple of years ago took a lot of courage.

“You have to stand up at some point; you have to do things that aren’t necessarily going to win you a lot of hosannas.”

He suggested raising the gas tax may not be popular, but it could be necessary.

“If you’re the fourth smallest state in the nation and the densest state in the nation, which we are, and you sit beside the largest market in the world in the north, and one of the largest in the country in the south, the one thing you’ve got to get right is infrastructure,” he said.

“That gas tax feeds the Transportation Trust Fund and allows us to dig out of the mess that we’ve been in and reclaim that space that we used to dominate, which is a state that really works and gets people around.”

Treasury officials will review gasoline sales in August, and if they adjust the gas tax, it will take effect Oct. 1.

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