DEMAREST: Christie takes correct steps with new gas tax
Opinions Column: Tax and Turmoil
Over the past few months Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) has been right in the middle of the hot-debated $0.23 per-gallon tax increase for gasoline sales in New Jersey.
On Friday the Republican Governor officially announced that he would agree to the increase due to not only costly, traumatic events that recently took place at a train station in Hoboken, but also to mend the process of replenishment for a necessary public fund that has been traditionally ignored.
The New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund is a reserve the state has for repairs and expansion for the infrastructure of rails, roads, bridges, etc. As a student who just interned in the finance and budgets department at the New Jersey Turnpike Authority this past summer, I have nothing but optimism about the governor’s recent decision. To put things simply, the budget process for state entities is complicated, bureaucratic, elongated and highly inefficient because of the nature of government processes. Not only that, but the current state of the governing authority that oversees all highway operations for the state of New Jersey is not optimal or opportune under any kind of reasonable thinking.
I obviously cannot speak to specifics of the decisions made by the executives within the authority, but the metrics within the revenue and expense statements that I personally got the opportunity to perform audits of are not promising in terms of financial performance. But the state of the NJTA’s finances is not the only reason I am pleased with Christie’s decision, but the multiple political aspects of the issues that can lead to a more promising and less divided future for the state’s political climate.
This is the first time in my adult life that legislators and executives from both major parties are coming to rational compromise on a tax issue. This could be a huge step for fostering a more reasonable and sustainable decision-making environment in Trenton.
Next I’d like to talk about how the tax code is the best possible way for the government to discourage certain behaviors, and a heftier tax on gasoline is definitely going to cause some people to take more factors into consideration when buying gas-guzzling vehicles. This is great way for the state to take an indirect approach to being strict on carbon emissions, and in my belief when costs get high enough Americans will change their behavior.
The only thing I really see as negative in this announcement is the public’s opinion. New Jersey citizens, as long as I have lived here, take on this constant rhetoric of already paying too much, though in some circumstances the public may have some justification for their outrage considering how New Jersey uses it’s money, but this is not one of those circumstances.
The state has a funding issue and New Jersey elected officials from both sides of the aisle are taking action on how to fix said issue. Only a person with an agenda beyond actually fixing livable circumstances for the people would be upset with decision makers actually following through on making decisions.
The ecological, economic and political environments of our state and local communities can benefit from this decision. Those who are going to be outraged with this are fueled by political ideology and unrealistic expectations for functionality of our government. Taxes of any kind have been described as the price we pay to live in an organized society, and opposing to pay that price is legally and ethically reprehensible.
Not only that, but it would be short-sighted of anyone to view pay $0.23 more per gallon out of pocket as a attack on the wallets of the citizens when it has been clearly outlined that this entire compromised will result in a net tax decrease by 2018. This would mean that we as a body of people in this state have lower obligation to live in an organized fashion than we previously did.
I can conclude that New Jersey has its kinks to work out of the current financing arrangements, but our leaders are trying and they are trying in unity. As citizens that elected these officials we have something to form optimism from about our state government’s actions on infrastructure, the environment and our economy.
Nicholas Demarest is a Rutgers Business School senior majoring in accounting. His column, “Tax and Turmoil,” runs on alternating Mondays.
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