From the Star Ledger:
New Jersey is poised to lose its claim to the second-lowest gas taxes in the nation.
The state Legislature on Friday passed legislation raising the tax on gasoline sold in New Jersey by 23 cents a gallon, the centerpiece of a controversial tax package that also includes $1.4 billion in tax cuts.
As part of the deal, lawmakers voted to give a tax break for people with pension and retirement income, low-income workers and veterans. In addition, they voted to eliminate the estate tax over the next 15 months and roll back the sales tax slightly.
The most recent iteration of the tax bills never got a public hearing. The deal was struck last Friday afternoon by Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson).
The 23-cent increase to 37.5 cents a gallon will drive the state’s gas tax from second-lowest to seventh-highest, though still below neighboring Pennsylvania and New York. The tax has not been raised since 1988.
The Senate passed the tax package 24-14, with 19 Democrats and five Republicans in favor, and the Assembly, 44-27, with 37 Democrats and seven Republicans in favor, sending it to Christie’s desk.
It will go into effect Nov. 1 or two weeks after it is signed by the governor, whichever is later.
Lawmakers say the increase will finance an eight-year, $16 billion Transportation Trust Fund, which pays for road, bridge and rail projects across the state.
“Today, that difficult vote will allow us to make a significant investment in a crumbling infrastructure,” said Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen), a bill sponsor. “Our state is ranked at the bottom when it comes to investment in our roads, our bridges, our utilities. We are at the bottom. For a state that has so much promise, so much wealth to be ranked at the bottom … is not a good position to be.”
The compromise tax package comes after years of growing concern about the future of funding for a declining transportation network and after months of political wrangling.