Raising the Gas Tax Now Makes Sense, Political Pundits Say
A Quinnipiac University poll released on Nov. 11 revealed that 62 percent of New Jersey voters were opposed to a gas tax increase to fund transportation projects in the state. Despite the opposition, two political experts think now is probably the best time for politicians to pull the trigger on hiking the gas tax.
“It looks to me like this is one of those times when the politicians are going to do something that they know is unpopular, but they look at the calendar and they realize that they don’t have to worry about voters until 2017," said Maurice "Mickey" Carroll, assistant poll director at Quinnipiac University Poll. "If they push through a gas tax the cover is the calendar.”
There is a long time between now and 2017 when all 120 seats in the Legislature and the governor’s office are up for grabs. Carroll said if the gas tax was increased soon, voters could forget about by 2017.
“If there’s a gas tax hike, will they (voters) punish the legislators who vote for it? Well, I don’t know. We’ll see. Maybe they’ll wipe them all out, but the legislators have an awful long time to let voters forget,” Carroll said.
Another veteran New Jersey political pundit agreed with Carroll and tacked on some additional reasons why if there is going to be a gas tax hike, doing it sooner rather than later was the politically savvy move.
“It’s always good to make a decision like raising taxes as far from the next election as possible,” said Peter Woolley, a professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University. “People do forget sometimes, but not always.”
There’s also an economic reason for considering a gas tax increase in the near future.
“Right now people are less sensitive to the price of gas. The price of gas has come down. People are willing to waste a little gas. It’s very difficult to raise that tax in a time when gas prices are rising or have spiked,” Woolley said.
Democrats control both houses of the Legislature and want to retake the governor's office in 2017. Woolley said that was another reason that from a political viewpoint, if they’re going to do it, Democrats will want to hike the gas tax soon.
“Get it done before the election for governor so that this issue is off the table for whoever is their nominee,” he explained. “They don’t really want to send a nominee into the gubernatorial election arguing about whether we should raise the gas tax or not. That would just be a bonus for the Republican challenger.”