Days of cheap gas com­ing to a sad end as tax hike looms

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - WEATHER - By Bruce Ship­kowski

JACK­SON, N.J. >> The end has come for a long-cel­e­brated tra­di­tion for Penn­syl­va­nia and New York drivers: Start­ing Tues­day, cheap gas in New Jersey is a thing of the past.

Cheap gas has long been the siren that lured drivers in neigh­bor­ing states to New Jersey. And since res­i­dents there pay the high­est prop­erty taxes in the na­tion, drivers have al­ways seen the low fuel prices as one of the ways to keep down the cost of liv­ing in the na­tion’s most densely pop­u­lated state.

But af­ter New Jersey ran out of money to pay for trans­porta­tion projects, Repub­li­can Gov. Chris Christie and the state’s Demo­crat­i­cled Leg­is­la­ture agreed to raise the gas tax by 23 cents. It will go from 14.5 cents per gal­lon to 37.5 cents, mark­ing the first time it has been raised since 1988.

Rather than the sec­ond­low­est gas taxes in the na­tion be­hind Alaska, New Jersey will cat­a­pult to sixth high­est.

For Penn­syl­va­nia drivers like Richard Dworkin, that means the end of sav­ings on the other side of the bridge. He said he en­joys fre­quent trips to visit friends or to eat seafood at the Jersey shore, but ad­mits the best perk of his fre­quent vis­its is the state’s cheap gas.

“You can save 20 to 40 cents (per gal­lon) by fill­ing up there, and that adds up af­ter a while,” the Lower Make­field Town­ship man said. “New Jersey has a lot to of­fer, but those low prices are the best draw for peo­ple like me.”

The steady traf­fic at New Jersey pumps has long pro­vided an eco­nomic boon to gas sta­tion own­ers in New Jersey, es­pe­cially dur­ing the sum­mer tourism sea­son.

In­dus­try of­fi­cials and drivers alike think there are still enough in­cen­tives for out-of-staters to travel to New Jersey, though they ad­mit it’s not clear how much of an im­pact the higher tax rate will have in the com­ing months and years.

Tracy No­ble, spokes­woman for AAA Mid-At­lantic, said a con­tin­ued sav­ings of 10 to 22 cents per gal­lon will con­tinue to drive outof-state res­i­dents to fill up in New Jersey, es­pe­cially those that com­mute in for work. The in­crease also will pro­vide a much needed in­vest­ment in the state’s trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture, mak­ing roads and bridges safe and im­prov­ing those com­mutes. The gas tax in­crease is be­ing sued to re­store the state’s trans­porta­tion trust fund.

“Ob­vi­ously, it was great hav­ing one of the low­est gas taxes in the na­tion for all these years, but I al­ways knew that some­day we would have to pay the piper, and that day is Novem­ber 1,” said Bob Kip­pinger, from Manch­ester, New Jersey, as he filled his tank at a sta­tion in Jack­son. He said he would have pre­ferred the in­crease be phased in, but it’s some­thing that has to be done to stop pass­ing the buck on trans­porta­tion spend­ing.

Sal Risal­vato, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the New Jersey Gaso­line, C-Store and Au­to­mo­tive

As­so­ci­a­tion, said he has been prepar­ing as­so­ci­a­tion mem­bers for the last two years about the in­evitabil­ity of some kind of tax in­crease. But he noted that even with the hike, New Jersey will still have a 13-cents tax ad­van­tage over Penn­syl­va­nia and a 5- to 10-cents ad­van­tage over New York.

“We’ve just re­signed our­selves that this it’s a bit­ter pill for us, but it could have been more,” he said.

The gas tax in­crease is part of a deal be­tween the gover­nor and law­mak­ers that in­cludes an 8-year, $16 bil­lion trans­porta­tion trust fund and cuts to the es­tate and sales taxes. The deal passed with bi­par­ti­san sup­port but also faced strong op­po­si­tion from law­mak­ers on both sides of the aisle. And two Repub­li­can state se­na­tors — Kip Bate­man and Mike Do­herty —

have re­cently in­tro­duced a mea­sure seek­ing to re­peal the in­crease, say­ing peo­ple were shocked to learn the 23-cent a gal­lon in­crease could rise in the fu­ture if rev­enue tar­gets are not met.

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