Not Again! NJ Drivers Brace For Another Toll Hike
For the fourth time in three years, New Jersey drivers are facing a toll hike on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway.
Turnpike Authority commissioners unanimously approved a $2.62 billion budget on Tuesday that includes a 3% increase in all tolls.
Commissioners justified the toll hikes based on a budget increase of $100 million, which adds dozens of new employees to the payroll.
Drivers will have no say in the increases
In May of 2020, the Turnpike Authority changed to an indexing system that streamlined the process of raising tolls.
While it caps the increase at 3%, it all but guarantees annual increases.
Since the change was made, tolls have gone up 3% every year.
Prior to using the indexing system, public hearings were required before any toll hikes, giving motorists and other concerned groups the chance to have input on the increases.
At the time of the change, commissioners argued the new system would avoid the need for periodic double-digit toll increases.
Legislative opposition to the toll hikes
The top two Democrats in the New Jersey legislature have come out in opposition to the toll hikes.
Senate President Nick Scutari and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin issued a statement urging Gov. Phil Murphy to block the increase.
Murphy has the power to veto part or all of the minutes of the Turnpike Authority's meeting, essentially killing the toll hike.
"Investing in New Jersey's vital transportation infrastructure is critical to our economic growth," Scutari and Coughlin said in a statement, "But as New Jersey families have been struggling with the effects of inflation, we have focused tirelessly on easing their burdens and ensuring affordability."
Murphy has not commented.
Efforts to change the process have been stalled
Despite Scutari and Coughlin saying they are opposed to this latest round of toll hikes, neither has taken steps to change the process or make the toll hikes less of a burden on drivers.
One bill pending in the legislature would give drivers either a tax credit or state income tax deduction for any tolls paid through the E-ZPass system.
Another bill would stop toll indexing for at least three years and roll back the most recent toll increases.
Neither Scutari nor Coughlin have allowed either bill to be heard on their house's transportation committees.
If Gov. Murphy does not block this latest round of toll hikes, the 3% increase will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.
How to get from Monmouth/Ocean to the Holland Tunnel without paying tolls
Gallery Credit: Joe Votruba