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NJ, the nation’s tax innovator, hitting people hard with auto-increases

NJ, the nation’s tax innovator, hitting people hard with auto-increases

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New Jersey politicians can’t take a break after saddling residents and businesses with the nation’s heaviest tax burden. They’ve got more work to do — borrowing to balance their budget, finding and imposing new taxes, and making sure their ever-increasing spending benefits themselves, fellow government workers, political supporters and connected people.

They don’t have time to keep going back and considering whether an existing tax should be increased. So they’ve invented the automatically increasing tax.

No need to ask the public whether paying more is worth it. No more difficult votes for legislators, no need to try to explain why the already crushing tax burden isn’t enough. Politicians can just sit back while the people and their businesses pay more and more.

This tax innovation will bite hard next month when another big rise in the gasoline tax piles on top this week’s massive increases in the tolls on the major New Jersey highways. As usual, working families will be hit hardest by these regressive taxes that take disproportionately from those with lower incomes.

The gasoline tax is set to increase as needed to ensure the state’s Transportation Trust Fund is fully funded. N.J. motorists can drive less or use more fuel efficient cars, it doesn’t matter. The tax will automatically increase to yield as much or more.

So on Oct. 1, the gas tax will rise by 9 cents to 51 cents a gallon. The gas tax has more than doubled just since 2016. The diesel fuel tax will jump to 58 cents a gallon.

On Sunday, drivers using the Atlantic City Expressway will start paying 37% higher tolls. At the toll plaza outside Atlantic City, they’ll pay 66% more.

These highway taxes, used for many things besides the roads, will increase 27% on the Garden State Parkway and 36% on the New Jersey Turnpike.

These too have been put on the perpetual automatic increase plan by the state authorities that rushed through the toll hikes in the early days of the pandemic shutdown. With no public input or further action, tolls can go up much faster than the rate of inflation.

New Jersey drivers don’t seem to be getting what they should for the many billions in ever-rising taxes and tolls they pay. The state is ranked 38th for transportation infrastructure by U.S. News and World Report — only a dozen other states are in worse shape.

Already the administration of Gov. Phil Murphy is using the innovation of automatic tax increases to claim that he and fellow politicians can’t do anything about it.

Message to the people: You can’t do anything about it either. You’ve already been silenced about the increases. Just keep paying them.

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