Republican Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday touted an anti-tax crusader's endorsement of his 23 cent per gallon gasoline tax hike along with a sales tax cut, and all but dared lawmakers not to act on his plan.
Christie spoke Wednesday during a statehouse news conference after the Assembly early Tuesday passed the plan to pay for a $2 billion a year transportation trust fund for eight years.
The fund runs out of borrowing authority on July 1, and Christie's last-minute proposal resulted in the Democrat-led Assembly scrapping a vote on their own plan.
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Christie said lawmakers have been complaining for months that he wasn't engaged enough on the issue, but now he is and they don't like his proposal. He called on them to approve his plan during Thursday's session.
The increase would send New Jersey's current gas tax of 14.5 cents per gallon from second-lowest in the country behind Alaska to roughly equal that of Connecticut, which has the sixth-highest at 37.51 cents, according to the Tax Foundation, an independent tax policy research organization
Christie, who ran a failed presidential campaign and now supports Donald Trump, signed a pledge not to raise taxes sponsored by Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform group. The organization endorsed Christie's proposal on Wednesday in a statement released just as Christie's news conference began.
Christie said the group backed the Assembly bill ``saying that it represented tax fairness as well.''
He said the sales tax cut from 7 percent to 6 percent and phased in over 2017 and 2018 will cost about $1.3 billion, while the gas tax hike is estimated to bring in roughly the same amount, thus resulting in a net neutral tax on residents. Legislative estimates, however, suggest the state could lose up to nearly $2 billion a year.
The state Senate is expected take up the issue Thursday. But Democratic State Senate President Steve Sweeny said he was in the dark about it and other senators are speaking out against the plan.