UPDATE: The vote on the gas tax hike has been postponed until Friday due to a procedural hurdle that prevented the start of an emergency session in the state Senate, NJ.com reported.
Ahead of a vote expected to take place Wednesday on a 23 cent gas tax hike, a group of Ocean County legislators said they would all vote against the plan.
Sen. James Holzapfel and Assembly members Dave Wolfe and Greg McGuckin released a joint statement Wednesday morning saying they oppose the plan, which would raise the gas tax by a minimum of 23 cents. The proposed tax increase would fund the now-insolvent Transportation Trust Fund, and is the result of a deal struck last week between Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, and Democratic leaders in the legislature that would eliminate New Jersey’s estate tax and slightly lower (from 7 percent to 6.625 percent) the sales tax.
The group of legislators said a gas tax hike would “disproportionately” affect Ocean County residents.
“There are more than 80,000 EZ Pass users in our legislative district alone,” Holzapfel said. “These drivers are already paying the highest tolls in the nation. They simply cannot afford to pay any more to use New Jersey’s roads and highways. We will not stand silently by and watch as the legislature approves a 23-cent gas tax hike that will impose severe financial hardships on the people we were elected to serve. Taxpayers in Ocean County and across this state deserve better.”
“With little or no access to mass transit, Ocean County residents have no choice but to drive long distances to get to work every day,” said Wolfe. “They won’t benefit from a new light rail line many miles away, and paltry three-eighths percent cut in the sales tax will not offset the hundreds of dollars more a year they will have to pay at the pump.”
McGuckin characterized the increase as a “regressive $2 billion tax hike.”
A vote is expected on the plan sometime Wednesday. It was unclear whether there would be enough legislative support to pass the plan. Taxpayer advocacy groups and some Republicans in the legislature have vehemently opposed it, while labor unions have ran an advertising campaign in support of the hike, which would fund billions in capital projects over the next eight years.