TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The days of cheap gas in New Jersey came to an end Tuesday when a 23-cents-per-gallon increase in the state’s gas tax took effect.
New Jersey previously had the nation’s second-lowest gas tax, behind only Alaska. But the boost has catapulted it to the sixth-highest.
“It’s terrible. It’s terrible,” said driver Mindi Patrizio.
“I hate it, it’s horrible,” another driver told 1010 WINS’ John Montone.
The increase came about after the state ran out of money to pay for transportation projects. The boost from 14.5 cents per gallon to 37.5 cents marks the first time the gas tax has been raised since 1988.
The tax boost is part of a deal between Republican Gov. Chris Christie and the state’s Democratic-led Legislature that includes an 8-year, $16 billion transportation trust fund and cuts to the estate and sales taxes.
According to Stephen Rajczyk, with the AAA North Jersey, the hike could save commuters from costly repairs.
“We do nothing and the road conditions crumble and get even worse off,” Rajczyk said.
Rajczyk said the average driver will see an increase of between $5 and $10 a week.
“The more you work, the more you’re using gas,” Hassan Zaouia, a cab driver, told CBS2’s Magdalena Doris. “They’re taxing on us and that is not good for us.”
“I do think the roads are important,” one driver said. “If you blow out your tire and have to spend an extra $200 on a tire, is that better than spending it on the gas?”
Next week, New Jersey residents will have a chance to vote on a ballot question that asks whether every cent of the state’s gasoline tax should be dedicated exclusively to transportation.
Christie and lawmakers, both Republican and Democrat, say vote “yes” on Ballot Question No. 2. Assembly Transportation Committee Chair John Wisniewski voted against the tax increase because he disagree with some of the givebacks, but he said now that it’s passed, the ballot question is essential.
“It’s in the public’s interest to make sure that the money they are paying at the pump is only used for transportation capital purposes. Without a dedication, that money could be theoretically spent anywhere,” he told WCBS 880’s Sean Adams.
Others, including Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, say vote no, otherwise the state will be free to borrow $12 billion with the new tax revenue used as collateral, Adams reported.
“I can tell you standing here as Lieutenant Governor, I can’t tell you where this is going to go — the gas tax is going to go,” Guadagno said in an interview on local radio station New Jersey 101.5.
Residents had other opinions on where their tax dollars should go.
“I think it should be going to schools,” Crystal, a driver, said. “I know there’s something wrong with the roads, but this is crazy.”
The deal passed with bipartisan support, but also faced strong opposition from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Two Republican state senators, Kip Bateman and Mike Doherty, have recently introduced a measure seeking to repeal the increase, saying people were shocked to learn that the 23-cent a gallon increase could rise in the future if revenue targets are not met.
New Jersey drivers are not the only ones affected by the tax hike.
Motorists in neighboring states have long crossed the borders to fill up at the cheaper rates, and that has long provided an economic boon to gas station owners in New Jersey, especially during the summer tourism season.
Industry officials and drivers alike think there are still enough incentives for out-of-staters to travel to New Jersey, though they admit it’s not clear how much of an impact the higher tax rate will have in the coming months and years.
“They’ll still pump it, so I’ll still be here,” Patrizio said.
Also affected are people who use the ride-hailing company Uber. It announced Monday that it will raise fares by 2 cents per mile to help drivers pay for gas.
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)