Vote on gas tax hike in N.J. delayed

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney answers a question as he stands in the Senate chamber of the New Jersey Statehouse Wednesday in Trenton. After New Jersey lawmakers postponed a vote on Wednesday to raise the nation's second lowest gas tax by 23 cents a gallon

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney answers a question as he stands in the Senate chamber of the New Jersey Statehouse Wednesday in Trenton. After New Jersey lawmakers postponed a vote on Wednesday to raise the nation's second lowest gas tax by 23 cents a gallon

A vote on legislation to raise New Jersey’s gas tax 23 cents to renew the Transportation Trust Fund has been delayed until Friday.

Senate President Steve Sweeney said Wednesday the delay is due to the Legislature’s rules.

“The way the process here works, when you amend a bill, it has to wait a calendar day before you can vote on it unless you get an emergency,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester. “There wasn’t the 30 votes, which is three-fourths of the Senate, to do it. So without the emergency, you just come back on Friday.”

Sen. Paul Sarlo, one of the bill’s sponsors, said he believes the agreement reached by Gov. Chris  Christie and legislative leaders will be approved later this week.

“We’re confident on Friday there will enough votes to pass this to put it on the governor’s desk, which he has indicated to everyone publicly that he would sign,” said Sarlo, D-Bergen.

Sen. Jen Beck, who opposes the gas tax hike, said she believes the delay in voting on it is a victory for residents.

“I think there’s a real chance to stop it. Legislators paused,” said Beck, R-Monmouth. “They were a little taken back by the way the general public responded to the idea of a billion-dollar tax increase in the state.”

Sen. Ray Lesniak said the delay could affect the outcome of the vote.

“That gives us two days to rally the public through Facebook, Twitter, emails, telephone calls,” said Lesniak, D-Union. “We’re trying to give the public an opportunity to be heard and if the public is heard, this bill will not be passed.”

The legislation also calls for some tax cuts, including the elimination of the estate tax and excluding a higher amount of retirement income from the state income tax.

New Jersey Chamber of Commerce President Tom Bracken said he is not overly concerned about the delay in voting on it.

“We’ve been waiting a long time for the TTF resolution. The estate tax and all the other tax benefits we’re talking about are going to be great for the state,” he said. “So it would have been nice to have it done today, but if it gets done Friday it’ll be well worth the wait.”

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