Tax us! 50 percent of N.J. voters are ready to raise the gas tax
By Matt Friedman | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
on April 21, 2015 at 6:30 AM, updated April 21, 2015 at 11:55 AM
TRENTON - For years, New Jersey voters have made it clear that they don't like the idea of raising the gas tax.
A poll released Tuesday morning indicates that's beginning to change.
The Quinnipiac University poll of 1,428 registered voters found them split on whether to raise the gas tax to fund road improvements and mass transit, with 50 percent saying they would and 47 percent saying they wouldn't. The difference is just outside the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.
That's a big increase from January, when just 37 percent favored raising the tax it and 62 percent opposed it. It's also the highest support for raising the tax that Quinnipiac has ever measured. The lowest recorded was in December 2007, when 24 percent favored hiking it and 74 percent opposed it.
"All the talk of fiscal doom seems to have sunk in," said Maurice Carroll, Quinnipiac's assistant poll director. "The perennial no-no of New Jersey politics - a gasoline tax hike - is reversed by a margin thinner than the yellow line on the highway."
New Jersey has the second lowest gas tax in the nation, and it hasn't been increased since 1988. Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) has led the charge to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund - something he said would involve a gas tax hike. A coalition of business and labor groups has also started a major PR campaign to replenish the fund, while Gov. Chris Chrsitie's transportation commissioner, Jamie Fox, has also called for an increase.
But talks on replenishing the fund by the next budget deadline on June 30 have stalled as Gov. Chris Christie has put off the emergency by one year through calling in a $241 million loan repayment from NJ Transit.
Among voters' concerns is the deteriorating, century-old rail tunnel between New Jersey and New York City. Eighty-nine percent say it is either very or somewhat important to fix it, while 68 percent said the same for building a new tunnel.
"The deterioration of the rail tunnel to New York — requiring a multi-multi-million dollar fix — is a big problem, especially for the 11 percent of New Jersey voters who commute to New York," Carroll said.
The poll was conducted from April 9—14.