March 17, 2016 3:05 PM, EDT
New Jerseyans Want Roads, Bridges Fixed Without Raising Fuel Taxes

Although 64% of New Jersey residents believe that the state doesn’t spend enough on road and bridge repairs, 56% oppose a gas tax hike which would pay for those, according to a poll released March 17 by Rutgers University’s Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling. The opposition cuts across virtually every demographic.

What’s more, a state Senate bill that cuts estate and inheritance taxes to balance the gas tax increase also was viewed negatively, with 49% opposing the compromise and only 37% supporting it.

“An estate tax compromise is not the kind of ‘tax fairness’ that persuades most New Jerseyans to support a gas tax hike,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center. “Even among the estate tax’s usual opponents, like Republicans and affluent residents, support for a trade-off is lackluster. New Jerseyans have not budged in their opposition to a gas tax hike, no surprise given how unpopular the proposal has been since we first asked about it in the 1980s. While there is less opposition than decades ago, residents nevertheless do not want to pay more at the pump.”

Gail Toth, executive director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, wasn’t surprised by the poll’s results even though the state’s taxes of 17.3 cents on diesel (third-lowest) and 14.5 cents on gas (second-lowest) are near the bottom.

“We pay a lot of other [high] taxes in New Jersey,” Toth said. “It’s the only thing we don’t pay the most for, but most people wouldn’t mind paying more. We’re so low compared to our neighbors [Pennsylvania [65.1 and 50.4 cents], New York [42.1 and 42.6] and Delaware [22 and 23].

"The problem is that people in New Jersey don’t trust where the money’s going to go. We have to change our constitution [to put the Transportation Trust Fund in a lockbox] because when these politicians write stuff, there’s always a loophole. Every time you say, ‘Don’t touch it,’ they seem to find a way to touch it.”

To prove Toth’s point, 54% of those polled want all gas tax revenue to be dedicated to New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund, again with similar responses from most demographics.

The poll surveyed 801 New Jersey adults by phone from Feb. 18-23 and has margin of error of plus or minus 3.9%.