GSI report: Gas Tax fails to deliver infrastructure improvements

By Emily Bader
New Jersey | Jul 14, 2020 at 12:07 pm

As New Jersey reopens and residents return back to work, many more are on the roads utilizing their personal vehicles or public transportation to get to where they need to go.

However, Garden State Initiative on Tuesday said many of the state’s roads and bridges are in disrepair, and in turn, is asking leaders in Trenton what to expect from the Gas Tax and why residents should keep paying into it without better results?

“An examination of publicly available meeting minutes and financial data shows that the Murphy Administration has failed to fully utilize our Gas Tax funds to deliver infrastructure improvements,” Regina M. Egea, president of the Garden State Initiative, said.

“Gov. (Phil) Murphy should immediately suspend the 27.3 cents per gallon in Gas Taxes collected from motorists, and rule-out any further tax increase this summer.”

In February, GSI said, the Transportation Trust Fund Authority reported that the Department of Transportation and New Jersey Transit were running behind on their obligation to improve infrastructure in the state.

Egea said that until they prove to the public a plan to “catch up” on what’s already been funded, there’s no reason to continue collections, let alone ask for billions of more dollars to deposit into the state’s bank accounts.

“In the new reality of our COVID economy, motorists should be able to keep that money to pay their bills and provide essentials for their families,” she said.

GSI said it expected more details on the improvements in March, but due to COVID-19, information was delayed. However, based on a TTFA, NJDOT and NJ Transit meeting in May, results have still not improved.

Robert A. Briant Jr., CEO of the Utility and Transportation Contractors Association and member of the TTFA board, said something that particularly stood out to GSI during the meeting: The Transportation Trust Fund was reauthorized in 2016 as a $16 billion program for over an eight-year period and the Authority has only used $2 billion of its bonding authority over the last four years.

Noting this is the kind of work residents would welcome, GSI said for every $1 billion in transportation investment, 13,750 jobs (or $740 million in wages) are created with an additional 12,500 support services job.

“This administration’s failure to execute is at the root of why New Jersey’s roads and bridges continue to show near imperceptible improvement, and why thousands of jobs have not been created,” Egea said.  “This begs the question: Why should taxpayers pay any more when NJDOT and NJ Transit cannot keep pace with spending what they already have?”

According to law, if the Gas Tax does not generate $1.2 billion each year for the TTF, the treasurer can increase it to make up the deficit. They also can reduce the tax. The virtual shutdown of traffic by the pandemic resulted in Gas Tax revenues down 58.8% year-over-year in May.

Emily Bader | ebader@roi-nj.com | @emilybader