Christie Pans Democratic Proposal to Double N.J.’s Fuel Tax

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  • New Jersey governor says transportation plan not fair enough
  • Second-term Republican speaks to business leaders about plan

Governor Chris Christie said Democratic lawmakers’ $20 billion roadwork-funding proposal, which would more than double New Jersey’s levy on gasoline while phasing out the estate tax, doesn’t go far enough to create “tax fairness.”

The second-term Republican told a group of business leaders in Whippany on Monday that lawmakers “have got work to do” and he will negotiate with them. Majority Democrats in the Senate on Friday offered him a 10-year plan to replenish the transportation trust fund, which runs dry in less than three weeks.

The Senate legislation would raise the 14.5-cents-per-gallon levy by 23 cents, while repealing the estate tax in 2019, establishing an income-tax reduction for charitable contributions and increasing exemptions for retirement income. The offsets to the gasoline-tax increase “are not nearly enough for my taste,” Christie said in his first public comments on details of the proposal.

“This is a discussion we will be having in Trenton over the next three weeks," he said. "I will not sign a gas-tax increase unless it represents tax fairness for the people of New Jersey.”

Lawmakers intend to introduce the legislation June 16, Senator Paul Sarlo, a Democrat from Wood-Ridge and sponsor, told reporters at a news conference in Trenton attended by business lobbyists and construction union leaders. Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat from West Deptford, said that if Christie is displeased, “he should offer up a plan.”

“We’re not playing politics,” said Sweeney, who added that he had the support of three Republican senators. “We’ve put forward a plan that we think is the best that we can do at this time.”

The state’s gasoline tax is the second-lowest in the U.S.; only Alaska pays less.