NJ.com-The state Legislature on Monday voted overwhelmingly to ask New Jersey voters to constitutionally dedicate all revenue from gas taxes to transportation projects.
Most gas tax revenue is already constitutionally dedicated to transportation projects, but state Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto's legislation addresses the roughly $40 million that is not — as well as any revenue from a future gas tax increase.
Late last week, it appeared the state Senate wouldn't vote on the measure. It was one of two proposed constitutional amendments endangered by disagreements between Prieto and Senate President Stephen Sweeney.
The resolution (ACR1) passed 75-0 in the Assembly and 35-2 in the Senate, earning a place on the fall ballot.
The ballot question sets the stage for a possible increase in the gas tax as lawmakers look for a new source of funding for the beleaguered Transportation Trust Fund. Prieto (D-Hudson) said drivers first need reassurance their tax dollars are being spent appropriately.
The 10.5 cent per gallon tax on the sale of unleaded gasoline and 10.5 cents of the 13.5 cent per gallon tax on the sale of diesel fuel are already dedicated to the trust fund. The remaining 3 cent diesel tax, which generates about $25 million a year, is required to be spent on transportation by law but not under the constitution.
Another $15 million collected through the petroleum products gross tax receipts that is also not dedicated would be included. And perhaps most importantly, the constitutional amendment would direct any new dollars from a gas tax increase to the trust fund.
Prieto said on the Assembly floor Monday that the constitutional dedication, to him, is so important he designated it ACR1, "because it should be our No. 1 priority."
The Transportation Trust Fund will run out of money for new projects this summer, with existing revenue swallowed by debt payments. Efforts raise taxes on gas to fund it will likely be far more contentious than the proposed constitutional amendment.
The proposed ballot measure reads: "Do you approve amending the constitution to dedicate all revenue from the state motor fuels tax and petroleum products gross receipts tax to the Transportation Trust Fund? The dedication includes three cents of the existing motor fuels tax on diesel fuel not already dedicated. The dedication also includes any petroleum products gross receipts tax revenue that is not already dedicated. The amendment would dedicate all revenue from the state motor fuels tax and petroleum products gross receipts tax to the Transportation Trust Fund. The current minimum dedication is $200 million per year. This fiscal year, the revenue from the tax on gross receipts of the sale of petroleum products is estimated to be $215 million. The amendment does not increase the state motor fuels tax or petroleum products gross receipts tax. This change increases the dedication of revenues from current taxes. If the tax is increased in the future, the amendment dedicates the increased revenues that would result from the tax increase."