At a legislative leadership forum Tuesday sponsored by the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, State Senate Budget Committee chairman Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) suggested there were enough Democratic votes to phase out the estate tax and lowering income taxes for retirees in exchange for an increase in the gas tax to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund.

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Tuesday night on Townsquare Media’s Ask the Governor program, Gov. Chris Christie scoffed at Sarlo’s idea.

“Oh really? And who’s he? Who elected him? He’s making policy now for the whole state?” asked Christie. "As far as I know, he has no position of authority in the Legislature aside from budget chairman.”

Wednesday, Sarlo did not respond to a request seeking comment on Christie’s statements, but Assembly Transportation Committee chairman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville) was more than willing to chime in on the gas tax debate.

“The tax increase can’t happen if the governor’s not willing to sign it. That’s just the basic constitutional reality of New Jersey, so if every proposal to raise the gas tax, which we need to do to fund the TTF, if every one of those proposals is scoffed at, is demeaned, is diminished, by the governor that’s a pretty good sign that it’s hard to imagine how this is going to happen any time soon,” Wisniewski said.

The assemblyman said Christie also signed a “No Tax Increase” pledge which would allow him to hike taxes only if there are equal and corresponding tax cuts.

“When it comes to replenishing an empty TTF, digging one hole just to fill another just doesn’t work mathematically,” Wisniewski explained. “It’s not that New Jersey is raising revenue for transportation from the wrong place. It’s that we’re not raising revenue at all.”

A long-time proponent of increasing the gas tax to pay for transportation, Wisniewski also said he supported Sarlo’s idea of possibly phasing out the estate tax, but said the TTF had to be replenished first.

“Who are we kidding when we talk about raising one tax and offsetting it with another? It puts us back in the same place we began it,” he said.

Christie has conceded that all TTF funding options are on the table, but only if they come in the context of “tax fairness.”