- Associated Press - Saturday, October 22, 2016

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Voters who are worried that a 23-cent-per-gallon hike in New Jersey’s gas tax won’t go exclusively for transportation projects have a chance to weigh in.

The Nov. 8 ballot includes a question asking whether all money from the state’s gas tax should go only for transportation projects. Election Day comes just one week after the hike from 14.5 cents a gallon to 37.5 cents a gallon goes into effect. Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed the measure into law.

The hike, the first in 28 years, came as part of a deal between Christie and the Democrat-led Legislature that includes an 8-year, $16 billion transportation trust fund and cuts to the estate and sales taxes.

A closer look at what voters will be deciding on Nov. 8:

HOW DID WE GET HERE?

Legislators put the question on the ballot in January, well ahead of the legislation that Christie signed into law last week. That’s because they anticipated that paying for road and bridge work would result in a hike in the gas tax. Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, who sponsored the question, has also said it would be required so voters could trust the tax proceeds wouldn’t be used to plug other budget holes.

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IF APPROVED, WHAT CHANGES?

The state’s gas tax brought in about $750 million in fiscal year 2015, the most recent year with complete data available. Under the new gas tax legislation, about $1.2 billion in revenues are expected per year.

Most of that revenue is already authorized only for transportation use, but two portions of the tax are not constitutionally dedicated. If approved, that would change. About 3 cents of the tax on diesel as well as a 4-cent portion of a wholesale tax on petroleum products would be put into a kind of lockbox.

If the question fails, lawmakers and the governor may still spend the revenue only on transportation, and some legislators have called for that, but there would be no requirement.

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WHAT ARE THE CHANCES?

Polling is scarce on the question, but a Fairleigh Dickinson University survey from July showed the question had approval from 51 percent of respondents. Just 34 percent were opposed. The poll surveyed 712 registered New Jersey voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points. An earlier FDU poll from January showed 49 percent approval for the amendment.

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