New Jersey governor-elect changes his tune on fuel taxes

| Tuesday, December 20, 2005

While on the campaign trail for the New Jersey governor’s seat, Sen. Jon Corzine promised he wouldn’t raise the state’s fuel tax.

“There will be no gas tax hike in a Corzine administration,” he told the Asbury Park Press before the election. “There’s no argument about whether we’re going to have a gas tax hike. That’s not the way to fund the Transportation Trust Fund.”

But a month after landing the state’s top job, Corzine has a new outlook. Now that fuel prices have eased and New Jersey’s budget cap has risen to more than $5 billion, he said he’ll reconsider his position on taxes.

Corzine made his new intentions known after Senate Majority Leader Bernard Kenny, D-Hoboken, said he would introduce a bill in the legislative session that begins in January to increase the state’s per gallon tax on gasoline and diesel to replenish the near-bankrupt trust fund that pays for road, rail and bridge projects.

The governor-elect said he would pursue alternatives, which include sending more of the current fuel tax into the trust fund instead of the state’s general budget. But he said boosting the tax might have to be considered.

Seventy percent of mayors around New Jersey said they would back a fuel tax increase under certain circumstances, The Associated Press reported. Mayors want the additional money earmarked for local and county roads.

Lawmakers repeatedly have declined to raise the fuel tax, which is among the lowest in the country. Instead, legislators have opted to use billions in borrowed money to keep the fund afloat. But now, all the money coming into the fund is needed for the transportation trust.

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