New Jersey lawmaker suggests doubling fuel tax rates

| 11/28/2007

If a key New Jersey lawmaker gets his way, the state will consider increasing fuel tax rates to help pay for transportation work. Gov. Jon Corzine is calling for another revenue enhancer.

The state’s 14.5 cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline and 17.5 cent-per-gallon tax on diesel are among the lowest in the nation.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex, said it might be time to boost the levies. He said it would be a more responsible alternative to the governor’s plan to bridge the transportation funding gap by issuing bonds that would be paid back with higher tolls, The Associated Press reported.

Wisniewski said doubling the tax should generate enough revenue to fix bridges and roads in need of repair without borrowing money. He said it would also guarantee a steady flow of money for many years.

However, the state’s transportation commissioner, Kris Kolluri, disagreed. He said the tax rates would have to increase to about 60 cents per gallon to meet all the transportation needs, The AP reported.

Wisniewski is the chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee. The leadership position will give him a lot of influence over how Corzine’s plan advances in the Assembly.

The governor has not indicated how much tolls might increase, but Kolluri has suggested that a 45 percent increase is needed to foot the bill for improvements on the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway.

At the same time, Corzine continues to refuse requests by Republicans to release an $800,000 consultant’s report analyzing how the state can earn more money from its toll roads. A judge ruled the governor can keep the report private because he hasn’t made a decision about it.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor