New Jersey gas tax plan gets bipartisan rebuke

New Jersey Republican Sens. Mike Doherty and Jennifer Beck (center) oppose the plan to increase the state's tax on gas by 23 cents a gallon. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

New Jersey Republican Sens. Mike Doherty and Jennifer Beck (center) oppose the plan to increase the state's tax on gas by 23 cents a gallon. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

A battle is shaping up over a proposal to tie a 23-cent increase in New Jersey’s gas tax with phasing out the estate tax and some other tax reductions.

Proponents want to push it through the Legislature, but some lawmakers don’t like it.

Sen. Mike Doherty, R-Somerset, is one of the opponents.

“My understanding of the constitution says one thing in a bill,” he said. “It’s not that we don’t support those taxes being lowered. Don’t do it in this one confusing shell game of a bill.”

Sen. Jennifer Beck said her constituents are angry about the plan for raising the gas tax.

“The argument that’s being made is we should raise taxes to lower taxes,” said Beck, R-Monmouth. “That’s the definition of insanity.”

Some Democrats also object to the plan.

Wealthy families would benefit at the expense of less fortunate residents, said Sen. Ray Lesniak, D-Union.

“When wealthy families are paying 20 percent of the gas tax increase and receive 80 percent of the tax cuts, that’s not tax fairness,” he said.

And Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman John Wisniewski said phasing out the estate tax would reduce state revenues by half a billion dollars.

“I have hoped in the worst way that we would raise the gas, and my hopes have come true because we are going to do it in the worst way,” said Wisniewski, D-Middlesex.

Agreeiong that the fund for repairing and replacing roads and bridges needs replenishment, Ann Vardeman with New Jersey Citizen Action says the Transportation Trust Fund said eliminating the estate tax is shortsighted.

“What are you going to cut, who are you going to lay off, what bill are you not going to pay with a half billion dollars less in revenue?” she said.

Laurie Ehlbeck, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said 85 percent of her members who were surveyed oppose increasing the gas tax.

“We’ve heard from restaurateurs, transportation companies, and those in the tourism industry about the detrimental effect that doubling the gas tax will have on our small business,” she said.

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