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Opinion: For Many N.J. Residents, Gas Tax Hike Will Be a Final Nail in the Coffin

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Pumping gas. (Credit: futureatlas.com/Flickr)
Pumping gas. (Credit: futureatlas.com/Flickr)

New Jerseyans called their local legislators this week by the thousands, begging and pleading that a proposed 23 cent increase in the state’s gas tax be voted down.

The lawmakers, instead, voted in favor of the tax hike. The governor is expected to approve it.

While our local members of the state Senate and General Assembly from Ocean County did not vote to raise the gas tax, a majority of their colleagues did, doubtlessly setting into motion a chain of events that will make life more difficult for struggling families statewide, add to the crushing burden of New Jersey’s taxation and sky-high cost-of-living, and further accelerate the exodus of the middle class from the Garden State.

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It is no secret that while the state’s population is relatively stable, those who produce tax revenue are leaving at a higher rate, year after year. A recent study showed that millennials are now outpacing their Baby Boomer parents as the largest group to exit New Jersey en masse. For some, it is out of frustration, as the business-unfriendly climate and astronomical cost of living has delayed their opportunity to achieve the American dream. For others, it is out of necessity – if they want to live in New Jersey, they must sacrifice medicine, food or child care to do so. Forget about the pipe dream of owning a home. The gas tax hike – and the resulting trickle-down of higher prices for goods and services – will accelerate the outbound traffic for those who claim membership in both of these groups.

Raising taxes on residents of the most-taxed state in America is shameful. It will rip apart families, prevent businesses from becoming successful and be the nail in the coffin – the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back – for families living paycheck-to-paycheck without a cent – much less 23 of them per gallon – to spare. Shore residents, who have little access to public transportation and who must drive in order to work, will be hit hardest, since the commutes are longer and most highways in the region contain tolls. Moving north, for many, is not an option – homes there are priced too high to afford, and tax bills start in the five-figure range.

Adding insult to injury, the $2 billion tax hike does nothing to address why the state found itself in such a fiscal hole in the first place. The tax hike bill contained no mention of reform to the prevailing wage law – which inflates the cost of public projects to prescribed union-style wages even if contractors could complete jobs for far less – and didn’t even include measures that would combine the design and construction of projects into a single bid. After all, why lessen two sources of multi-million dollar contributors (professional firms and organized labor) in one fell swoop. The taxpayers are just an afterthought, if they merit a thought at all.

Even worse, the entire increase will only fund road and transit improvements for eight years, and then we will be back where we started.

As a business owner and a young person in our state, it is getting increasingly difficult to justify remaining here. While I’m lucky enough that I can, in theory, afford the gas tax hike, I know it will not end there. Property tax bills will eclipse an average of $10,000 soon, and it should not take anyone by surprise that a future governor may weaken the cap on property tax increases and move state obligations onto the municipalities and school districts, letting property taxpayers foot the bill.

Perhaps if there was a light at the end of the tunnel – something to point to as an example of how we’re digging ourselves out of this mess and reforming this disaster of a state – I would plan a life here. After collectively slapping the face of every overtaxed New Jerseyan, I’m seriously contemplating whether this, for me, might be that proverbial final nail in the coffin.


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  • Surfrider

    The only option left now is make them listen at the polls by voting them out….C’mon everyone, you cannot let these gangsters rule our state any longer, this is unprecedented them not listening to us! The balls on these legislators is outrageous! They get so many perks for a part time job to begin with…..VOTE THEM OUT…….GRIP !!!! IT DOES NOT MATTER WHICH SIDE OF THE ISLE YOU ARE ON, VOTE OUT THE ONES THAT VOTED FOR THE TAX!!!

    • NativeAmerican

      Democrats will blame republicans and republicans will blame democrats.
      These two parties are both to blame.
      The fix is in and most elections are rigged by crooked political parties.

      • KaayC

        Absolutely.

  • Surfrider

    and for you christie….i voted for you twice in hopes you were the one that would do something your whole tenor in trenton……well, you make Benedict Arnold look like a choir boy! What a turncoat you are if you sign this legislation…….Both YOU and TRUMP are imploding !!

    • KaayC

      He’s too busy eating meatball subs.

  • Mike Gant

    Agreed we need to vote them all out every one of them. Get all new people in there and tell them you have one term. If you don’t represent what the people want your gone too.

  • Flyboys75

    Liberalism is a severe mental disorder!

    DONALD J TRUMP 2016!!!

    • Rich W

      Take your meds.

  • Ray Pell

    Daniel, thanks for calling attention to the fraud in the government’s bidding process. This needs to be an issue in the next election. Simply saying “no more taxes” does not address the issue. I also don’t understand what is served by raising gas taxes while eliminating estate taxes. What I am about to say is coming from someone who came from nothing, and may actually have something to leave my kids. This is the one source of income that should be taxed the highest. We should be taxed less on our hard work. My kids did nothing to earn what my wife and I leave them when we are gone. Like you, I will be able to absorb this gas increase. However, many won’t. Many businesses that rely on transportation won’t. Breaking the backs of the living so that the rich can protect the inheritances of their most likely ungrateful children just seems ignorant to me.

    • KaayC

      So aptly thought out and stated!

  • J W

    Stop with the hysterics. The sales tax is going down and that estate you all hate for no good reason is going away. If 23 cents is enough to make you all pack up and leave, well, good luck to you. Florida awaits, with its ample gun crime, child murderers, psycho rednecks, hurricanes, baby eating gators, and other assorted idiots. If this measly *revenue-neutral* tax shift upsets you, I never want to hear anybody complain about potholes on their street or the lack of access to public transportation. Somewhere long ago, some rich idiot convinced the middle class of this country that they didn’t need to pay taxes for a working government so they could shift attention away from the fact that the plutocracy (ya know, like Trump) isn’t paying anything in taxes. That’s where this problem begins and ends, not with the imaginary boogeyman of overpaid construction workers.

    • KaayC

      Where is the mass transit? What mass transit? In Ocean County? Surely you jest.

      • Mac

        When one lives in Ocean County, mass transit is often referred to by our Freeholders as ‘a magic carpet ride.’

      • KaayC

        Yes, Magic if you maje it to any destination in less than a day!

      • J W

        I take it 5 days a week. 137 to the PABT. It exists if you look for it.

      • KaayC

        So you work an additional two days a week commuting – God bless you. You have no real pony in this particular race. The tax will not affect you in any large measure. Not all employed in the big Apple, making the hodge podge smattering of unrapid transit a joke. I would gladly pay this tax were it going to rapid transit. The people have spoken and their voices fell upon deaf ears. I am up out of here. Counting the months.

      • J W

        I looked in to living in Brooklyn or somewhere else and the commutes all worked out to be about the same as getting from here to Midtown. Strange how the works. And I do have a horse in the race because, ya know, I still gotta drive around this sprawly town. And you know what else? Since Governor Tub-o-lard took over, that trip to the PABT has more than doubled, and no more round trip discounts. Even the monthly pass is about twice what it was around 2008. I sure ain’t making twice as much.

        If you’re so hard up for 23 cents, good luck finding it better in crappy Florida. Taxes might be lower, but the job market sucks and wages are about as close to minimum as possible. The whole South is like that and always has been since it was founded on cheap labor and all. I could’ve left this place for there, Georgia or South Carolina years ago and I didn’t because they’re all dumps. I don’t know what people around here see in them. I think people like the racist undertones- it’s always the Archie Bunker types that like the idea of those places.

        You aren’t saving on taxes down there anyway. Gas taxes are higher, you have to pay for private garbage collection, they’re putting up toll roads left and right down there, schools are so bad private is the only option, property crime is high so you need a security system or gated neighborhood and the cops are all like Sheriff Rosco P Coltrane except they hunt us black folks like the trained lynch mobs they are. Adios amigo!

      • KaayC

        I am not hard up. I am delighted to report I am no longer on the hamster wheel and am glad to be off! I drive minimally – really only when I want to, as compared to my former seventy-five miles a day, and so will not be as impacted by this as many. I do however feel for the middle class and working poor who will be hit by this and do not consider them “hard up” merely screwed by the spending pigs in Trenton.

    • Beach N8iv

      The sales tax is going down? You failed math, didn’t you?

  • NativeAmerican

    The crioked politicians have to pay fir their friends and family pensions and cadillac health benefits for life.
    Raise the tax on working people.

  • Beach N8iv

    I have to run some numbers but, for the first time EVER, I’m considering selling my house and moving OUT of New Jersey. It’s only getting worse here, not better.

    • KaayC

      You will be joining a mass exodus. New Jersey has NO growth. Many are fleeing to warmer climes and less tax. The raiding of the pension funds and the Transportation Trust Fund while Governor Lord Fauntleroy fed his insatiable appetites for helicopter rides, Giants games and feasting at the trough are his legacy. This tax will hit the middle income and working poor the hardest. The corruption and thievery are enough to make a cynic of the most ardent optimist.

  • Mac

    With some responsible leadership, this 23-cent gas tax wouldn’t be necessary, much less an item. The problem is clearly the voters. They will complain loudly and profusely about how corrupt and irresponsible their elected officials are again and again, but will then dutifully go to the polls annually and religiously reelect every incumbent running because the opposing candidates running (if there even are any) are considered untrustworthy and probably represent another political party with the same corrupt opportunity-seeking party bosses of ill repute.
    One thing has been well-established in America, while being perfected in NJ. With the citizens having the valued opportunity to vote by secret ballot, they will always reelect, time and time again, those candidates that represent their personal values and morals the most. And when it comes to NJ, well, what is left to be said. You are well represented by your real and/or adopted family members, through and through. What NJ needs the most is for someone to tear down that wall that keeps fresh blood from entering our state to save us with some fresh air to inhale.

  • Surfrider

    Yup!

  • KaayC

    Thousands called and thousands were ignored. Stay home when you can and stop spending. Talk with your wallet where possible. AGAIN the middle class loses.

  • Ortley guy

    Dan, very well done article. Appreciate your thoughtfulness.
    No tax increase should ever be passed without accompanying cuts in expenses. With the costs of building roads in NJ one of the highest in the nation, there was no excuse not to do so. Shame on Christie and the NJ Senate and House.

  • Goodgrief

    Yesterday another publication ran a list of how each individual NJ elected official voted and I totaled the voting numbers,

    Senate
    yes votes 19 Dem and 5 Rep
    No votes 4 Dem and 10 Rep
    Abstain 1 Dem and 1 Rep

    Assembly
    Yes votes 37 Dem and 7 Rep
    No votes 9 Dem and 18 Rep
    Abstain 6 Dem and 3 Rep

    Total: 56 Democrat yes votes and 12 Republican yes votes.

  • Jerseygal

    My family has roots in NJ going back to 1753, my husbands family came over from Ireland in the 1840’s after the potato famine, so our roots run real deep here. But we simply cant go on, it is getting harder each year to make ends meet. I feel that our age we should be so much further ahead financially than what we actually are, both of us work and live modestly. He has six years to go before retirement and we are planning on leaving then, not sure exactly where, am open to suggestions where housing and taxes are cheaper for seniors. This tax was the last straw, we are leaving.

  • Rich W

    Pennsylvania’s gas tax is 52 cents, and the schools suck.

  • Frank Rizzo

    Once your kids get the school system in and done then jet…..nothing here anymore…the collapse of the country I pray for each day so we can start a new goverment with common sense and term limits and age limits and round up these people who have stolen from us our money and our security in our retirement

  • Jay Mase

    New Jersey has the highest property taxes in the nation. You get screwed either way you have to pay tolls to leave the state now more gas taxes. Nothing but typical government waste. Every township has its own police mayor and etc. stop electing these same old crooks. They only wanna line there pockets.