Corzine: Possible Gas Tax Hike, On The Way

13 10 2009

jhon corzineTrenton-Governor Corzine said Monday he’ll consider raising the state’s gas tax during a second term or diverting money from other programs to keep the fund that pays for transportation projects afloat.

The second option, however, would force the state find the money for road and mass transit projects that cost billions of dollars all while it tries to deal with a budget that could be as much as $8 billion short next year, Corzine said.

“I’m more than happy to do either one of them, not because I like doing it, but because it’s going to be necessary,” Corzine said during a meeting with The Record’s editorial board.

The governor’s position marks a change from statements he made last year when he called raising the 14.5-cent-per-gallon gas tax “a very, very last resort.” The tax rate is the fourth lowest in the nation.

Corzine, however, faces a tough re-election fight as he considers ways of replenishing New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund, which could run out of money by mid-2011.

At that point, the toll and gas tax revenue that pays for the program will be required to pay the interest on previously borrowed money.

The Corzine administration borrowed $6 billion in 2006 to extend the trust fund for five years. But the governor and his leading campaign opponents, Chris Christie and Chris Daggett, have been cool to the idea of borrowing more.

The trust fund will help pay for an $8.7 billion commuter rail tunnel to New York City and widening the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, which will cost more than $2 billion.

Christie has said he prefers a pay-as-you-go approach to the fund, while Daggett said he would also consider hiking the gas tax, and possibly establishing new toll roads.

Corzine said whatever decision he makes may be “unpopular” now, but will prove to be the right decision.

“Fifty years from now, when the trains are going under the Hudson River, people will say somebody was willing to make an unpopular decision to do something,” he said.

Corzine discussed the looming trust fund headache along with several other problems Monday, including high property taxes and a possible $8 billion budget deficit in 2010.

Corzine identified funding at-risk preschool education and other education needs, along with health care programs, as priorities.

But the governor said his best argument for reelection is that he has the “knowhow” to get New Jersey out of the recession faster, and with less damage, than his opponents.

“I can’t roll back the realities of how we got here in an economic recession, but I think we’ve taken more aggressive steps to make it shallower and prepare ourselves to exit,” Corzine said. “And I think I’ve demonstrated I’m prepared to take on tough problems even though that makes you unpopular, but fundamental challenges that have been longstanding in New Jersey are getting addressed and I will continue to do that.

(News Source: North




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