Christie poised to sign N.J. measure increasing gas tax by 23 cents [updated]

(AP file photo)

(AP file photo)

Legislation to renew New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund is now awaiting Governor Christie’s signature.

After months of bickering and delays, both houses of the Legislature approved the bill to raise the gas tax 23 cents. It also calls for eliminating the estate tax, reducing the sales tax, and excluding a higher amount of retirement income from state income tax.

But Sen. Jennifer Beck said Friday after the vote that many residents are insulted lawmakers passed the gas tax hike despite public opposition.

“Don’t underestimate the rage that people will have as they go day by day, week by week, trying to support their families and filling up their gas tanks and knowing that we ignored their plea,” said Beck, R-Monmouth.

Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto, who said he’s aware of all the opposition to the gas tax increase, said it’s needed to pay for road and bridge repairs and other transportation projects.

“Tell me somebody that would love to have their taxes raised — especially in the state of New Jersey. You’re not going to find that person,” he said. “I know people don’t want to pay more at the pump, but this is a public safety issue.”

Sen. Joe Kyrillos said the tax restructuring compromise, which is expected to generate $2 billion annually, is a good deal for New Jersey residents.

“It’s one that’s urgently needed to ensure safety and modernization of our roads, our bridges, our mass transit systems and to ensure tax relief to retirees and others who are fleeing from New Jersey to Florida and other states,” said Kyrillos, R-Monmouth.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski predicted the tax cuts will reduce state revenues by $12 billion over the next decade.

“We agreed today to essentially forestall any hope of addressing our pension obligations, fully funding education, funding health care,” said Wisniewski, D-Middlesex.

Senate President Steve Sweeney doubts that will happen.

“We feel there will be significant economic growth and we think that will cover it,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester.

The gas tax increase won’t take effect until November. It’s not clear when Christie might lift his executive order that shut down transportation projects because of the funding dispute.

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