Thursday, February 21, 2008

N.J. toll increases will only shift debt

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine recently released a draft of his plan to increase tolls on the state’s three major toll roads to refinance other forms of state debt. It will require legislative approval to proceed.

Corzine intends to increase tolls by 50 percent every four years from 2010 to 2022 on the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway, and Atlantic City Expressway.

What people need to know is that the state debts incurred over the years are not necessarily related to transportation, yet Corzine intends to use toll revenue to pay them off.

With other states looking on, Corzine is saying that it is okay to run up state debts as long as the state has toll roads to pawn.

This is an inherently unwise policy, in my opinion, because it shifts more debt to transportation and trucking.

Regardless of how the state got into this mess, implementing a massive tax increase is not the answer. Tolls are taxes.

Highway user groups, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, strongly believe that revenue generated through tolls needs to be spent on transportation and not other things.

Responsible spending in the first place would have kept New Jersey out of the situation, but unfortunately that hasn’t been the practice.

As far as answers go, there aren’t any easy ones. Many voters and lawmakers oppose other types of tax increases, including increases to fuel taxes.

For truckers, a tax increase is a tax increase, except that New Jersey’s proposed 800-percent toll increase doesn’t do much for transportation.