- Associated Press - Friday, July 29, 2016

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - A new proposal to raise the gas tax by 23 cents while phasing out the estate tax and paying for road and bridge work advanced in the New Jersey Senate on Friday.

It’s the latest attempt by the Democrat-led Legislature to break an impasse between lawmakers and Gov. Chris Christie over transportation funding, which lapsed earlier this month. But the fate of the proposal is unclear since the Republican governor said he would veto the bill.

The proposal passed the Senate Budget Committee with bipartisan support, and chairman Paul Sarlo, a Bergen County Democrat, said the aim is to post the bill for a vote in the full Senate next week. He said the goal is a veto-proof majority in both chambers, a high hurdle that lawmakers have never achieved under Christie.

“Today we took a step in the right direction,” Sarlo said. “I can’t speak for every member … but we’re pretty darn close.”

Still, the legislation faces stiff opposition from some Republican members, and Democratic Sen. Jeff Van Drew opposed the legislation Friday in committee.



“We are one of the highest taxed states in the nation, and the answer is clearly not higher taxes,” said Republican Sen. Jennifer Beck.

The proposal calls for a $2 billion a year transportation trust fund, up from $1.6 billion under the lapsed plan. It also raises the gas tax from 14.5 cents a gallon to 37.5 cents while phasing out the estate tax fully by 2020.

The measure is similar to earlier legislation, but gone is a proposal to establish a charitable tax deduction over uncertainty about how that would affect the budget. In its place, legislators added a $3,000 tax credit for veterans.

The measure is different from one that Christie signed onto and that the Assembly already passed. That legislation raised the gas tax by 23 cents a gallon as well, but instead of cutting the estate tax it would have cut the sales tax to 6 percent from 7 percent over 18 months.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Senate President Steve Sweeney now say they’re both supporting the new plan, but it’s unclear how lawmakers would pay for transportation funding if they fail to reach a veto-proof majority.

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