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Gas Prices May Increase with Gas Tax Hike

7-10-12

Now that the summer has officially begun, New Jersey’s highways are even more congested with vacationers, especially along the Jersey Shore. But some residents don’t mind the trip down the Parkway this season as prices seem more reasonable than last year. But others are still frustrated with feeling pain at the pump.

The state’s average regular gas price today is $3.31. But it’s too high for Avon-by-the Sea resident David Henderson. “When I first started driving, gas was 79 cents a gallon for regular,” he said. “They haven’t gone down enough. I think they should go down much more.”

Today’s gas prices have gone down, more than 20 cents from the same day last year. But prices once again are on the rise, jumping more than 5 cents per gallon in the past week.

“Gas prices are moving higher now because crude oil prices have bounced back by $10 a barrel, demand is high in July and because there’s the fear that there might be some problems with hurricanes in the summer and with Iran,” said Chief Oil Analyst Tom Kloza of Oil Price Information Service.

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New Jersey residents may notice the recent uptick in prices at the pump, but it’s a welcome relief to Maine resident Marilyn Eccles who’s vacationing in Asbury Park. “The lower they go, the further we’ll go.”

New Jersey hasn’t had a gasoline tax increase in more than 20 years. The state’s gas tax is 10.5 cents per gallon for regular and 13.5 cents for diesel. That generated more than $535 million in 2010, more than $524 million in 2011 and it’s predicted that it will generate $535 million for the state this year.

Assemblyman Albert Coutinho is sponsoring a gas tax proposal that he says will provide a reliable revenue source for the Transportation Trust Fund and ultimately make the TTF self-sustaining. The measure calls for an annual increase of 8 cents per gallon over three years. Coutinho says at the end of the third year the money raised from the tax would be enough to pay off the Transportation Trust Fund’s old debt. He argues it doesn’t make sense to borrow money to repair and maintain the state’s roads and highways. Gov. Chris Christie’s plan includes borrowing an additional $260 million for transportation projects in the upcoming year.

“I would probably argue that we live in one of the most congested states, and if there’s any state that should have a higher gasoline tax, it might be New Jersey,” Kloza said.

Experts say New Jerseyans can expect gas prices to rise a bit throughout the summer, but prices will drop right after Labor Day.

Lauren Wanko reports from Wall.