Improvements Vs. Cost: New Jerseyans Conflicted Over Infrastructure
The Mineta Transportation Institute, a San Jose-based research agency, surveyed New Jersey residents to get a better understanding of their attitudes toward five proposed tax increases that would help fund infrastructure improvements in the state.
The proposed increases included: a 5 percent gas tax increase, a 1 percent income tax increase, a 1 percent sales tax increase (referred to as the "tax me" options), 1 percent hotel/recreation tax, or 30-year bonds (the "tax others" options).
Jen Kinney reports, "Researchers hypothesized that the recent memory of a major weather disaster would make residents more likely to support such policies. But while 79 percent of respondents said maintaining roads and transit is 'very important,' and 69.7 percent agreed protecting roads and transit from future disasters was 'very important,' all of the 'tax myself' policies were wildly unpopular. Fifty-four percent of respondents strongly disagreed with raising income taxes, 49 percent squirmed at raising the sales tax, and a whopping 61 percent were against adding a 5-cent-per-gallon gas tax."
The researchers had several key findings in this study. First, the study showed that residents were more likely to support a "tax others" strategy than a "tax me" approach to appropriating funds for infrastructure improvements. However, the general attitude to infrastructure maintenance and how to pay for it was notably not regarded as a real priority. Researchers believe that the impacts of Hurricane Sandy had little influence on the residents in terms of supporting any revenue raising strategies to maintain the current infrastructure.
"The study sums it up bluntly: 'Even after the most costly disaster in New Jersey history, the New Jersey public deeply opposes tax increases — especially gasoline taxes — but still wants better infrastructure. Unfortunately, there is no way to have both.'"