Editorial: On Transit Crisis, Voters Are as Bad as the Politicians

From the Star-Ledger, October 21, 2015:

Americans love to trash politicians, and for good reason. Every new day seems to churn up fresh evidence of their dishonesty, incompetence and greed.

But for a change of pace, let’s turn the table and look at ourselves, We the People.

A poll released Tuesday by Rutgers University shows that New Jersey voters overwhelmingly believe more money is needed to upgrade the state’s decrepit roads and rails. It also shows that they overwhelmingly oppose an increase in the gas tax.

So voters, basically, want stuff for free.

It is true that the gas tax is regressive, and that the Legislature has shown zero interest in compensating low-wage workers for a hike in the gas tax. New Jersey Policy Perspective, a liberal think tank, has proposed expanding tax credits for the working poor as part of a package, with the gas tax hike.

But the gas tax is the only realistic way to finance an increase in transit spending. Because the rest of the budget is in crisis, too, and our gas tax is among the lowest in the nation. Labor and business groups don’t agree on much, but on that, they do.

The only answer is for leaders in both parties to hold hands and face the public wrath together. Which means our roads and rails are in for a tough stretch ahead.