NJ Gas Tax: What’s Easy Is Not Always What’s Best

Nobody can deny the fact that New Jersey’s infrastructure is in decrepit condition. I made a video to highlight how damaging a drive on Route 70 can be to a car, and now an advocacy group has released footage showing a larger image of failing and dangerous infrastructure in New Jersey. The group, who is associated with ForwardNJ, shows many crumbling bridges in an attempt to gain support for the gas tax increase proposal, which would raise the State’s gas tax rate by 25 cents in order to better fund the Transportation Trust Fund. The TTF is designed to pay for road and bridge repairs and future projects.

It is true that the current tax rate is remarkably low, so one would assume that a common-sense-fix would be to increase the gas tax rate before the TTF runs out of dough. Assemblyman John Wisniewski predicts that his bill A-3886 would provide $1.25 Billion in additional revenue for the fund by increasing the gas tax rate by 25 cents. It sounds super easy. By the strike of a pen, consumers pay more at the pump and eventually the roads are fixed. Brilliant! But is this the best way to approach this problem?

If $1.25 Billion is the target revenue for replenishing and funding the trust fund, there are other ways to do that without increasing the gas tax at all. Also, we could create many jobs all at the same time. Take a look at Proportions 1 and 2.

Proposal 1 was inspired by Senator Nicholas Scutari’s bill S-1896.

ttf1 001

Now let’s consider Proportion 3, even though this one is not a proportion. It’s more of a legislative proposal, to be honest.

Proportion 3 – Cutting the Poverty Rate in Half

In New Jersey, the State Legislature awards roughly $1.5 Billion a year in municipal aid through formulaic equations. However, New Jersey holds a series of “poverty pockets” which require additional and specially approved  aid in order to prevent these municipalities from going bankrupt. These places typically require $50 Million or more every year in municipal aid. Examples are Trenton, Newark, and Camden. New Jersey also distributes more than $7 Billion in educational aid through a formulaic process, with these same “poverty pockets” requiring $300 million or more in educational aid as well.

Between almost $9 Billion in distributed aid with more than half of each aid type being distributed to a select few concentrated areas of poverty, I can safely estimate that a total of $3 Billion could be saved by cutting the poverty rate in half, thus eliminating the need for the Legislature to send so much specially designated money to so many cities.

If this was to happen, then the TTF would be funded twice every calendar year, and there would be no need to increase the gas tax. None of the politicians would need to worry about the backlash of legalizing marijuana, or the hassle of implementing such a large solar energy program.

BUT WAIT! The politicians would still need to create jobs in order to reduce the poverty rate by half, so that there could be an extra $3 Billion laying around, in order to fund the TTF. That’s when they need to look to Proportions 1 and 2 as beginning points for policy reform and action in order to begin correcting a very complex series of events that contribute to New Jersey continuously running out of money and jail space all at the same time.

A taxed marijuana economy would be a brand new industry that could take advantage of the more populous Northeastern region, and monopolize a brand new source of revenue. This initiative could also decrease incarceration rates, therefore reducing the amount of tax dollars being diverted to the criminal justice system. By converting public offices and schools to solar energy, New Jersey would save a lot of money on energy costs, and also begin to breathe easier. The combination of both initiatives would cause an economic boom in the garden state due to the amount of jobs that would be AVAILABLE TO EVERYBODY within EVERY SKILL LEVEL. By default, New Jersey’s poverty rate could fold in two, thus freeing up enough money each year to fund the TTF and perhaps make some pension payments.

All of this, without any increase to the gas tax.

If everything is supposed to be on the table for funding the TTF, then let’s consider these proposals.

Which scenario would you prefer? 25 cents every time at the pump, or a constructive plan that addresses poverty, climate change, and criminal justice reform all while creating thousands of jobs?

I’d love to know, so tell me. But also, and most importantly, tell your legislator.

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