Days of cheap gas com­ing to an end

On Tues­day, New Jer­sey will raise its gaso­line tax by 23 cents a gal­lon

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - 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 Demo­cratic-led 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 se­cond-low­est 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 out-of-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.

While the prices at the pump will go up Tues­day, one big ben­e­fit will re­main: In New Jer­sey, they’ll still pump the gas for you.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ef­fec­tive Tues­day, New Jer­sey’s gaso­line tax will go from 14.5 cents per gal­lon to 37.5 cents, mark­ing the first time it has been raised since 1988.

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