Raising taxes to pay for road, bridge, and rail projects is the only way to solve a thorny transportation issue, some lawmakers say, and educating voters on why that’s necessary is a key part to finding a solution.
It’s just proving to be a hard sell.
That’s a political reality spelled out last week in a Quinnipiac poll that showed 58 percent of residents oppose raising the gasoline tax while 39 percent support the idea.
“What the poll data does not answer is how do we pay our bills,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who chairs the transportation committee and oversaw four field hearings on the transportation trust fund. “I don’t believe there’s anybody who wants to suggest that we should stop investing in infrastructure, that we don’t need safe bridges, adequate rail and all the other facilities that are part of what we need to do.”
The committee held the hearings to raise awareness about the need for more revenue for capital projects and legislative leaders address the trust fund frequently during public events.
However, despite such pitch jobs, New Jerseyans complain they’re already saddled with the highest property taxes in the nation.
Wisniewski has introduced a measure that would raise money for the fund by hiking a tax on petroleum products, resulting in a cost of nearly $300 a year for drivers, he has said.
He said he worries about the practical possibility of not paying for infrastructure. Residents, though, say they’ve heard similar claims before and they are weary of them.
Bob Morton, of Bordentown, said he is on a fixed income and can’t afford to pay more at the pump, even if it’s for infrastructure.
“The problem is — I’ve lived in this town my whole life — they tell us the same things all the time,” he said, adding that if is elected officials vote to increase taxes, “hopefully we can find different people.”