NJ Residents Still Against Higher Gas Tax Despite Alarm Over Transportation Funding
Neither a proposed estate tax cut nor the near-bankruptcy of the Transportation Trust Fund has convinced New Jersey residents to get behind an increase in the state's gas tax, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton poll out Thursday.
In numbers that have remained static for the last year and a half, 56 percent of state residents oppose a gas tax hike for any reason, while 42 percent of respondents support the idea.
Nearly half (49 percent) of those surveyed said the prospect of lower estate and inheritance taxes would actually make them less likely to back an increase in the gas tax. That's a 5 percent increase since a similar poll last October. Thirty-seven percent said they would support raising the gas tax if estate taxes were cut.
"The estate tax tradeoff is really not the type of tax fairness that New Jerseyans seem to want if a gas tax will be forced upon them because New Jerseyans, first and foremost, do not want a gas tax," said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University.
Koning said state residents have been asked this kind of question, in a variety of different ways, for several decades now.
"We've been polling this type of question since, actually, the 1980s, and most of the time — nine times out of 10 — New Jerseyans do not want a gas tax," she said. "There's adamant opposition towards a gas tax."
The poll revealed that driving habits have little to do with how residents felt about a possible gas tax hike: Those who drive almost every day were only slightly more likely to resist the proposal than those who drive less often.
"I think New Jerseyans see the gas tax increase as directly coming out of their pockets, and something that is yet another tax that they don't want to pay," Koning said.
Yet despite the majority opposition to a higher gas tax, most residents also acknowledge that an increase could be put to good use.
Just over half of residents who responded in the poll, 51 percent, believe the state is not spending enough on road and bridge repairs and maintenance. Fifty-four percent believe all gas tax revenue should be redirected toward replenishing the Transportation Trust Fund.
"New Jerseyans clearly recognize the fact that there's not enough spending being put into transportation and road repair and improvements, but that really doesn't change their opinion a whole lot on the gas tax increase," Koning said.
The poll of 801 New Jersey adults was conducted by phone last month, and has a margin of error of 3.9 percentage points.