TRENTON - A Republican state senator unveiled a plan Monday to replenish New Jersey's near-depleted transportation fund without raising the tax on gasoline.
Sen. Jennifer Beck (R., Monmouth) said a combination of economic growth based on conservative revenue projections, scaling back public employees' health benefits as Gov. Christie has called for, and increasing fines on motor vehicle violations such as texting while driving would help provide $1.6 billion annually for seven years to the Transportation Trust Fund.
The fund - which finances road, bridge, and rail maintenance and repairs - is set to run out of money when the fiscal year ends June 30.
Some Democrats, as well as business and advocacy groups, have said the state should increase its 14.5 cents-per-gallon tax on gasoline, which is among the lowest in the nation, to generate revenue for the trust fund.
"This particular tax hurts low-income, working-class people the most," Beck said at a Statehouse news conference. "It is a regressive tax, so if you're barely getting by, and you have to drive to work and they raise the gas tax, it makes it harder for you to get to your job."
Gov. Christie, a Republican running for president, has said he would consider raising the gas tax only if it results in "tax fairness" for New Jerseyans. Lawmakers have suggested phasing out the estate and inheritance taxes.
Among other measures, Beck said she also wanted to merge New Jersey's various transportation authorities, tap some money from the clean energy fund, and issue new bonds.
Beck's approach relies on 3.34 percent annual revenue growth, which she said was the average for the last six budgets.
Joining Beck on Monday was Sen. Mike Doherty (R., Warren), who said Trenton was in a "mad rush" to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund without determining how to spend more efficiently.
Beck also announced that she and Doherty had started a petition on senatenj.com/nogastax to stop a gas tax hike.