Raising the state’s 14.5-cent gasoline tax remains widely unpopular with residents, but opposition may be waning a tad, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton poll.
Six out of 10 New Jerseyans oppose increasing the tax, according to a telephone poll of 750 residents conducted earlier this month.
About 41 percent support a tax increase, up 3 percentage points from October.
David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling, said the poll may be showing a slight uptick in generic support for the idea.
The state gas tax was last changed in 1988, but has been gaining some legislative support recently as a way to pay for repairs to aging roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
After years of tapping the Transportation Trust Fund, New Jersey can only pay the interest on past loans with money the gasoline tax raises.
The current gas tax generates about $540 million a year.
But raising the state’s gasoline tax, which is the third-lowest in the country, has long been a controversial concept.
The Rutgers poll suggests one reason a higher tax to fix roads has seen such opposition is New Jersey residents may think their roads are not too bad.
Fifty-four percent of those polled said state roads — not including the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike — were in good or excellent shape. Thirty-nine percent said local roads were good or excellent.
“If New Jerseyans don’t actually think the roads are that bad, it is going to be a hard sell to convince them to pay more taxes to maintain them,” Redlawsk said. “In fact, not only do they not see the roads as crumbling for the most part, they also don’t think they are getting any worse.”
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