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Transportation Fund Shortfall May Lead to Raised Taxes

New Jersey state lawmakers on Thursday grappled with how to manage an expected shortfall in the transportation fund, and at least one Assemblyman said the answer comes down to raising taxes.

The Assembly's Transportation Committee heard from stakeholders, including representatives from higher education, gasoline retailers and the AAA, but has not yet committed to legislation to address the issue.

Chairman John Wisniewski, a Democrat, said he introduced a bill that would raise taxes on petroleum products and is calling on lawmakers to recognize the need for revenue.

"We're going to have to raise taxes," he said. "If we keep tiptoeing around the obvious words, we're going to make it harder for ourselves."

Wisniewski said his measure could cost drivers up to 80 cents a day. The collection of the money would be streamlined, Wisniewski said, because it would come from petroleum wholesalers. A hike in the state's gasoline tax, he noted, would require retailers to collect the money.

The transportation fund is paid for through gas taxes, which are among the lowest in the nation.

Officials say that next year, there likely won't be enough money in the fund to pay the debt on previous road projects.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie has said he's open to all options, but he has generally opposed raising the gas tax.

Thursday's meeting was the third Assembly hearing on the fund. The next hearing will be held Nov. 20 in Atlantic City.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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