JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Just in time for the busy travel holiday, the state of New Jersey has made it clear that motorists in the Garden State will pay more at the pump soon, due to a required gas tax increase. Its revenue is earmarked solely for roadway improvements, but that’s no consolation for many drivers who expressed their opinions — and frustrations — on Friday.
“You have to pay for parking in New York, you have to pay for gas,” said Suzanne Murch, a New Yorker who said she typically fills up her SUV in New Jersey on her regular trips to see family in Maryland. “It's too much."
Lillian Almeida, who lives in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and who PIX11 News encountered filling up in Newark, echoed Murch’s sentiment. “It’s not fair,” she said. “Why does it have to go up?”
The reason, according to the state transportation commissioner, is that the New Jersey legislature, along with then-governor Chris Christie, passed a bill in 2016 raising gas taxes for the first time in 23 years. The new law dictated that the revenue raised had to pay for roadway improvements in a program called the Transportation Trust Fund, or TTF.
The law mandated that TTF raise $16 billion over eight years, with the revenues based on projected numbers of drivers buying a projected amount of gas, and paying taxes on it. The projections of drivers appear to have been made too high initially, resulting in a $43 million deficit last fiscal year, and a $125 million deficit for the fiscal year that just ended in July.
The TTF law requires that deficit to be made up with a gas tax hike. It will be about four cents per gallon, with the money going, once again, to roadway improvements.
“What roadway?” asked car owner Jean Baker, who said that she saw no evidence of road and roadway improvements where she drives in New Jersey. “Oh my gosh, my poor car,” she said.
The state tranportation department said that one high profile example of major work funded by TTF is Highway 495, the roadway and helix leading into the Lincoln Tunnel. State road crews have shut down lanes there, and have begun replacing sections of the elevated highway in a significant infrastructure work project.
That did not impress Delroy Strachan, a New York livery cab driver who often fills up in New Jersey because of the lower price.
However, he told PIX11 News, the new tax increase will likely alter his routine.
“I’m going to change my ways,” he said, “[I’ll] start to fill up in New York.”
“Sometimes,” he added, “it's [already] a little bit cheaper in New York than in Jersey City,” where PIX11 encountered him on Friday, getting a fill-up.
On average, however, drivers in New Jersey's neighboring states pay more, due to even higher taxes there. In Pennsylvania, the tax per gallon is about 57 cents. In New York, the rate is around 45 cents.
In New Jersey, even with the new tax increase, drivers will pay about 41 cents per gallon. That lower rate, said Jeff Colman, who regularly drives from New York to Philadelphia, still leaves him incentive to get gas in the Garden State.
“If you're coming here, [driving] across [the state] anyways,” he said, “run your tank all the way down, and come to New Jersey to fill it up.”