We have been polling for quite a while now – since the 1980s, in fact – on whether or not residents would support a gas tax hike. The times have changed, but opposition on a hike remains the same. New Jerseyans continue to say no to a gas tax increase, and any estate tax trade-off in the name of tax fairness is not persuading residents to say otherwise.
NEW JERSEYANS CONTINUE TO OPPOSE GAS TAX HIKE; POSSIBLE ESTATE TAX TRADE-OFF DOES LITTLE TO BOOST SUPPORT
Over half favor dedicating all gas tax revenue to the Transportation Trust Fund
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – The Transportation Trust Fund is running on fumes, but replenishing it through a gas tax increase remains a non-starter with New Jerseyans, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Fifty-six percent oppose a gas tax hike, virtually unchanged in the last 18 months; 42 percent support it.
This belies the fact that half of New Jerseyans feel the state is not spending enough money on road, highway and bridge maintenance.
A corresponding cut in estate and inheritance taxes, which is the aim of a bill advancing in the state Senate, does not make a gas tax hike much more appealing to residents. Thirty-seven percent (up six points since last October) would be more likely to support an increase if it were linked to a cut in estate taxes, but 49 percent (up five points) say this compromise would make them less supportive of a higher gas tax. Nine percent say it would make no difference, and 5 percent remain unsure.
“New Jerseyans have not budged in their opposition to a gas tax hike, no surprise given how unpopular the proposal has been since we first asked about it in the 1980s,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “While there is less opposition than decades ago, residents nevertheless do not want to pay more at the pump.”
Despite opposition to a hike, New Jerseyans support dedicating all gas tax revenue to the Transportation Trust Fund – a question that will be on the ballot in November. Fifty-four percent are in favor of using the revenue for this purpose, versus 34 percent who are against it.
Results are from a statewide poll of 801 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 18 to Feb. 23, 2016. The sample has a margin of error of +/-3.9 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.
Few exceptions to majority opposition on hike
A majority of almost every demographic opposes a gas tax increase, with a few exceptions: Democrats (48 percent support to 50 percent oppose), senior citizens (49 percent support to 50 percent oppose), and those in households making between $100,000 and $150,000 (48 percent support to 50 percent oppose) are split down the middle on the issue.
In contrast, Republicans (at 63 percent), millennials (at 62 percent), shore residents (at 62 percent), and those in the lowest income bracket (at 61 percent) are most likely to oppose a hike.
Views differ little by driving habits: those who drive a car almost every day are slightly more likely to oppose an increase than those who drive less often.
But support for a hike is greatly influenced by one’s perception of how much is being spent on road repairs. Residents who believe the state is spending either too much (29 percent support, 71 percent oppose) or just the right amount (30 percent support, 68 percent oppose) are much less likely to support an increase in the gas tax than those who say the state is not spending enough (52 percent support, 46 percent oppose).
Every demographic is more likely to support than oppose giving all gas tax revenue to the Transportation Trust Fund, though to varying degrees. Those who support a hike (72 percent), drive almost daily (56 percent), and believe the state is not spending enough on roads (62 percent) are all especially likely to favor investing gas tax revenue into the Fund.
Minor support for estate tax compromise
The idea of cutting estate and inheritance taxes to balance a gas tax hike is not very popular with any demographic; only residents in the most affluent households are slightly more likely to say an estate tax trade-off would make them more rather than less (46 percent to 44 percent) inclined to support a hike.
Republicans (40 percent more likely), moderates (40 percent), millennials (41 percent), and shore residents (41 percent) are more prone than others to support a gas tax increase with the trade-off, but none reaches a majority.
A bare majority of residents who support a gas tax increase (53 percent) is swayed by a corresponding estate tax decrease, while six in 10 (62 percent) of those who oppose a hike feel just the opposite about the compromise.
“An estate tax compromise is not the kind of ‘tax fairness’ that persuades most New Jerseyans to support a gas tax hike,” said Koning. “Even among the estate tax’s usual opponents, like Republicans and affluent residents, support for a trade-off is lackluster.”
State transportation spending
New Jerseyans across the board feel the state does not spend enough money on roadway repairs, though there is some variation. Republicans are the least likely to feel this way, at 37 percent. Belief that spending is insufficient increases with age yet is lowest among those making under $50,000 compared to more affluent households.
Sixty-four percent of residents who support a gas tax increase feel New Jersey does not spend enough on road and bridge repairs. Even a plurality of gas tax hike opponents (42 percent) says the same.