By Matt Rooney
New Jersey’s gas tax — once among the nation’s lowest — rose again on October 1st. Garden State gas, for commercial and non-commercial vehicles alike, is cheap no more.
This week, legislation (A128) to exempt school buses from New Jersey’s ever-rising gasoline tax made it out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee unanimously, Save Jerseyans.
Planes, tractors, commercial fishing boats, and all species of emergency vehicles were already exempt. A128 aims to add student-use transport buses to the exempt list along with “school buses” used by religious, charitable, AND government institutions.
“Since school budgets drive property taxes, there’s tremendous pressure on districts to cut costs,” said Assemblyman Parker Space (R-Sussex), the measure’s sponsor. “Sometimes we need to think outside the box. This exemption is one way to lessen the burden on property taxpayers.”
Probably not. And it’s nothing against Assemblyman Space who voted against the original October 2016 bill. It’s just logic.
Remember: the most insidious part about the October 2016 gas tax are the automatic increases TIED TO CONSUMPTION. If gas tax revenue fails to hit a pre-ordained, totally arbitrary annual dollar amount? It goes up again. And again. And again. Forever.
The 2016 gas tax hike package REMAINS the perfect trap.
What did the Office of Legislative Services (OLS) conclude upon analyzing this new proposal’s fiscal impact? Not much: “…while the OLS notes that providing the fuel tax exemptions to school bus contractors would reduce the pool of taxpayers who pay the fuel taxes, the OLS is unable to estimate the amount of fuel tax revenues that will be forgone to the State as a result of the exemptions.”
Said another way, exempting tens of thousands (or more) of gas-chugging church, school, and other-use buses from the gas tax will save institutions at the pump, and possibly help some school districts more than others depending upon the size and nature of their respective fleets, but the new exemptions will ultimately help lower overall taxed consumption, too.
Well-intentioned or not, this measure increases the risk of ANOTHER upward gas tax adjustment. So the idea that we’re helping taxpayers by exempting some of the biggest gas guzzling vehicles on our residential highways and byways is less-than-accurate or being more generous, far from certain.
Republicans should avoid tinkering around the edges of this monstrous law and focus 100% of their energies on a REPEAL effort, starting with the 2019 legislative elections. Half-measures are likely to succeed only in making things worse for America’s most over-taxed citizens of all 50 states. They’re guaranteed to not make anything better.
MATT ROONEY is the founder and blogger-in-chief of SaveJersey.com. He’s also a panelist for ‘Chasing News’ with Bill Spadea, a frequent guest commentator on television and radio, and a practicing New Jersey attorney.