In the second Star Wars movie (Episode V actually) there’s a scene where Darth Vader explains to Lando Calrissian that he’s altered the original deal and he should pray he doesn’t alter it any further…
Kinda how it felt when Senator Steve Oroho came into our NJ 101.5 studio and explained that the people of New Jersey should understand that in order to create lower taxes overall they would have to accept higher taxes on gas. Hmm. I was skeptical of course but heard him out. Turns out at the time of the interview last week, the increase in the per gallon gas tax on NJ commuters would be $0.23. After some digging and analysis of the actual plan two things happened between last week’s interview and today. First the gas tax increase may be as high as $0.375 per gallon AND the income tax deduction that would’ve helped offset the higher cost of working families disappeared.
So you may be stuck with a total NJ gas tax of $0.52 per gallon plus the federal tax of $0.18 bringing the governments take on your gallon of fuel to $0.70. Let’s take out the fed portion and just deal with NJ’s take…that’s $5 for every 10 gallons of gas. If you’ve got a 15 gallon tank and you fill up twice a week like I did for 14 years at my last job, it’ll cost you an extra $15 a week…$60 a month or more than $700 a year. If you’ve got a 20 gallon tank the costs will be closer to $1000 a year.
Perhaps the biggest issue is the fact that there is no longer a tax deduction for working families and no guarantee that the new revenue will be allocated toward the roads! Add in the serious concerns and objections from the airlines because the tax impacts jet fuel and you’ve got a serious potential for a huge negative impact on our local economy. Remember, NJ Transit is in line to get an additional subsidy so there’s no way all the money will be used for the intended purpose.
Funny thing about the gas tax is that over the past ten years the government revenue has actually dropped because people are driving more fuel efficient cars and moving closer to urban areas using public transit. We still haven’t even discussed the fact that the tax even at projected revenues in the plan isn’t enough to cover the costs of repairs to our aging infrastructure.
Worse still is that no one in NJ government knows exactly what the cost will be to fix the roads and bridges. The estimates range from $183,000 from a recent Rutgers study to $27.5 million per mile from the recent project on Route 35 in Monmouth County.
So with no dedication of the funds, historically falling revenue, no accountability on construction costs, potential damage to the airline industry, an immediate impact on working and middleclass commuting costs and no offsetting tax deduction, this may be one of the worst ideas to come out of Trenton in recent memory. Oh, right, they do want to eliminate the Estate Tax…that’s good, but with an impact to less than 5% of New Jersey families compared to 100% impact on NJ commuters, that seems a tad unfair at best.