Should we raise the gas tax?

From the Philly Inquirer:

Raising gas tax can benefit N.J.

After the deadly collapse two months ago of a bridge in Minnesota – a span strikingly like New Jersey’s iconic Pulaski Skyway in its construction – the state Department of Transportation found that more than one-third of New Jersey’s bridges are either “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete.” The price tag to repair or replace them: an estimated $6 billion to $8 billion over the next decade.

Attending to this pressing need will, of necessity, be a high priority for the Corzine administration and the Legislature in the months ahead. And the discussion of how to foot the bill will almost certainly center on the governor’s long-awaited “asset monetization” plan to sell or lease state resources, including the New Jersey Turnpike.

There is another, more immediate revenue source that could be tapped to pay for these essential repairs. In the short term, it’s stable, easy to collect, and may be passed along to large numbers of out-of-state residents. In the longer term, it may also be an instrument for achieving several societal goals, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, promoting energy independence, and curbing suburban sprawl.

It is, of course, the gasoline tax.

On average, New Jersey has the lowest retail gasoline prices in the United States. This is attributable primarily to the fact that New Jersey last raised its gas tax 19 years ago, and now has the third-lowest levy in the nation at 10.5 cents a gallon; only Alaska and Georgia are lower.

Raising the gas tax would have two direct benefits. First, it would provide immediate funds to repair those crumbling bridges. Second, it would, over time, encourage people to drive less.

To make it both fair and politically feasible, the tax would have to be raised incrementally. In the short term, the demand for gasoline is relatively inelastic. A large, immediate tax hike would place a heavy burden on many consumers, who aren’t likely to respond by going out tomorrow and buying hybrid vehicles or moving to a house near a train station. Marginally raising the tax would encourage drivers to do small things to decrease their driving – planning their trips more efficiently, taking care of several errands at once, walking or riding a bike for some short-distance trips.

Any increase in the gas tax is bound to be unpopular. No one likes paying higher taxes, especially for a product that most people use every day. The irony is that we already pay a heavy price for our automobile dependency. Congestion, pollution, sprawl, even obesity can be linked directly to policies that favor driving over other means of transportation. An increased gas tax, phased in over time, can help change that equation and, more immediately, get those bridges fixed.

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12 Responses to Should we raise the gas tax?

  1. Hell_Is_Like_Newark says:

    The transportation trust fund has plenty of $$$ at current levels of taxation. The problem is, the State Govt. raided the fund to pay for general revenues. The fund is now nothing but a bunch of IOU’s. So if we raise gas taxes, whats to stop the State from doing the same thing again?

  2. t c m says:

    i don’t think they should even consider raising one penny of taxes until they fix the current spending problems and corruption they have in this state – and fix the problems with that farmland tax evasion. that article yesterday really opened my eyes!

    if they want to wrap a tax increase in some sanctimonious environmental cover, then give us REAL relief elsewhere.

  3. Ed Sanders says:


  4. jmacdaddio says:

    If I believed gas tax revenues would be spent wisely and encourage folks to take public transit, I’d be all for it. There’s nothing this country needs more than European-style gas taxes to force people out of cars and on to buses and trains. Since this is NJ, the revenue would go to bankrolling politicians’ get rich quick schemes.

  5. Jamey says:

    Yes. Next question.

    Even if the money goes to pay soley for TCM’s rage counseling, it’ll take cars of NJ’s roads and reduce the amount of “greenhouse” gasses and particulate pollution.

  6. RentinginNJ says:


    We should not even consider raising the gas tax until NJ gets its affairs in order. First we need to structurally change how government is run in NJ. We need to realign priorities and see where spending cuts can be made. If we still need to raise revenue, then okay; raise the gas tax.

    Raising the gas tax today, however, would be like throwing a pail of water into the Grand Canyon. It will disappear into a black hole of government spending, pork and sweetheart contracts for the in-crowd. We will be left with all of the same problems we have today, but with more expensive gas.

  7. t c m says:

    #5 – jamey

    you call that rage? wow, you’re funny.

  8. RentinginNJ says:

    #5. It depends.
    Demand for gasoline tends to be highly inelastic. If the tax is severe enough to actually take cars off the road, you will see a negative impact to NJ’s economy & an acceleration of the exodous out of NJ.

    The pollution issue is just an excuse to get buy-in from environmentalists.

  9. Greg says:

    Are they fcking nuts? Crude just touched $94 per barrel. If they need to fix the bridges they should just hire illegals at $7.00/hr to do the work.

  10. Mitchell says:

    Can a state be taxed to the point where you cant afford the gas to leave the state?

    Anyone capable of charting tax increases the average NJ resident pays compared to the rest of the nation especially in the last 7 years? I bet there is an article in there alone instead of just hand picking the gas, property, and income taxes.

  11. Otis Wildflower says:

    Wow, I agree with the Philly Pravda^H^H^H^H^H^HInquirer.. Whodathunkit.. But yeah, boost the gas tax nice and high, high enough so there’s less traffic..

    Seriously though, nickel-and-diming the gas tax really won’t do much to curb oil imports from evil countries. Federal taxes of $4+/gal to offset military spending defending those s–tholes is more like it.

    (and yes, oil is fungible, but reducing demand thru raising taxes reduces the market price (lower demand + constant supply = lower price, according to Econ 101), taking money out of the mouths of sheiks, which is good enough for me).

  12. Angryman says:

    Get out of NJ while you still can. get out. It will not change.. and soon it will be a turd world republic. NJ may just be what the nation will look like in 20yrs.

    You must get out and leave. There is no reason to be here.

    Everytime I go to the state to either go to Manhattan or visit family, I either:

    1. Get a busted alignment on my car
    2. Get stalked by gestappo cops every 3 miles when i enter a new town and a new dept (they did this to blacks in alabama once) for having a PA plate.
    3. Get stuck in perma-construction on 78 or 80
    4. Pay ever higher tolls on the Turnpike and Parkway.
    5. Get cut off by some Tony Soprano, who then drive 10mph UNDER the speed limit for ever.

    F your state. You have snobs in the HILLS and illegal immgrants ghettos and not much in between.

    It is sad, that so many great things came from NJ, but none lately.

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