Sen. Ray Lesniak proposes new gas tax that would raise price 15 cents over 3 years in New Jersey

State Sen. Ray Lesniak is proposing a gas tax hike that would increase 5 cents a gallon every year for three years. (3/18/14)

OAKLAND - State Sen. Ray Lesniak is proposing a gas tax hike that would increase 5 cents a gallon every year for three years.

He says the money would pay for road and bridge repairs, but drivers are skeptical.

"Considering I just spent $400 on a new tire because of a pothole, I think they do need it," says Pia Jacangelo, of Upper Saddle River.

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Right now, New Jersey's gas tax is 14.5 cents per gallon.  Under the proposed plan, the total tax nearly doubles after three years.

"They should focus on getting money somewhere else rather than out of people's pockets," says Ray Hughes, of Oakland. "Maybe a smaller hike, not so rapidly."

Lesniak says the tax hike would generate about $250 million for road and bridge repairs. He says there is a "lock box" provision, that guarantees the money does not go anywhere else.  But drivers don't buy it.

"Every time they do this, they rob Peter to pay Paul," says Paul Sulovski, of Long Valley. "So the money never goes to where they first said it was going to go.  So I don't believe them."

Lesniak estimates about 40 percent of the tax revenue would come from out-of-state drivers who come to the state and buy gas.  

Sammy Ellahi owns a gas station just miles from the New York border and worries how the hike will affect his business.

"It's definitely going to hurt our business," says Ellahi. "We have a lot of people who stop here on their way to upstate New York. They stop here on a regular basis because the price of gas is lower than in New York, and we're going to lose that New York customer."

New Jersey's gas tax is the currently the second lowest in the country, next to Alaska. The tax here has not been raised since 1992.

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