Poll: New Jersey Divided on Gas Tax Hike

New Jersey is split down the middle on raising the gas tax to fund transportation projects in the state.  A Monmouth University Poll also found no clear overriding sense of urgency regarding the state of New Jersey’s transportation infrastructure.  While there is no partisan divide on support for a gas tax, many residents feel the state should be able to find other sources of revenue for transportation projects.

New Jersey opinion is divided on raising the gas tax if all the revenue was used to pay for road and bridge improvements: 47% of the state supports such a hike and 52% are opposed.  Those who strongly oppose a gas tax increase (36%) outnumber those who strongly support (23%) it.  There is no significant partisan divide on this question, with 49% of Democrats, 47% of Republicans and 44% of independents registering support for raising the gas tax to fund transportation projects.

“The lack of partisan division on a tax issue speaks to the broad coalition of business leaders who support replenishing the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, as well as the importance of this issue to Gov. Christie,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, N.J.

The state’s Transportation Trust Fund has run out of money for new road and bridge improvements, with the current revenue being used to pay down debt from past projects.  About half (49%) the state is aware of this situation.

Just under half (47%) of state residents think that having no funding for road or bridge projects over the next couple of years would pose a major problem that will harm the state.  Another 37% see this as a minor problem that would inconvenience the state, and 14% say it would not be much of a problem at all.  Among gas tax hike supporters, 60% say the lack of transportation funding would pose a major problem.  Just 36% of gas tax hike opponents feel the same.

Just 26% of Garden State residents say that most state roads are in decent shape.  Half (50%) say that some roads are in decent shape but many are in urgent need of repair.  Another 23% say that most state roads are in urgent need of repair.  Nearly 3-in-10 (28%) New Jerseyans say that a lot of the state’s bridges are in urgent need of repair in order to avoid a structural failure, 36% say some bridges need urgent repair, 22% say just a handful of the state’s bridges are in this condition, and 7% say none of the state’s bridges need urgent repair.  Overall, 1-in-3 New Jerseyans are either very (9%) or somewhat (25%) worried that the bridges they personally drive over on a regular basis are in danger of failing in the next year or so.

Interestingly, gas tax hike opponents are somewhat more likely than supporters to think that most of the state’s roads are in good condition (31% opponents and 20% supporters) and that few if any bridges are in danger of failure (35% opponents and 20% supporters).  Moreover, about 4-in-10 (41%) gas tax hike supporters are worried about the structural soundness of the bridges they regularly cross, while over 1-in-4 (27%) gas tax hike opponents share that concern.

“The difference between support and opposition of a gas tax hike does not appear to fall along traditional political lines, but there are differences related to concern about the seriousness of New Jersey’s infrastructure challenges,” said Murray.  “There is a broader question among gas tax hike supporters and opponents alike as to whether a tax increase is the only way to fund transportation projects.”

Most New Jerseyans (71%) agree that the state should find new revenue sources to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund.  Only 23% feel that the state should not do any road or bridge repairs until the debt for past transportation projects is paid down.  However, just 19% of state residents believe that the state needs to raise taxes in order to find this revenue.  Nearly half (47%) believe that other revenue sources are available.

One proposal would couple a gas tax hike with a decrease in the state’s estate tax.  This trade-off does not seem to generate much public support, even when it is cast as a decrease in “the taxes people pay when they inherit a family home or other property.”  Half (50%) of New Jerseyans say this provision would not affect their opinion on the gas tax, while the remainder are divided: 27% say it would make them more likely to support a gas tax hike and 20% say it would actually make them less likely to support a gas tax hike.  Among current opponents of a gas tax increase, 22% would be more likely to support a hike if it was coupled with an estate tax cut and an identical 22% would be less likely to support that package, with 52% saying an estate tax cut would not change their opinion on raising the gas tax to fund transportation projects.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone with 805 New Jersey adults from January 30 to February 2, 2015.  The total sample has a margin of error of + 3.5 percent.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, New Jersey.

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