N.J. will ‘almost certainly’ provide some relief as gas prices soar, Murphy says

Published: Apr. 12, 2022

With the average gas price in New Jersey still more than $4 a gallon, Gov. Phil Murphy says the state will “almost certainly” provide some sort of relief for residents.

Murphy said officials are still “trying to figure out” what kind of move will have “the highest bang for the buck” as officials across the nation search for ways to offset gas prices and other effects of high inflation.

“The pain is real,” the governor said during his regular call-in radio show on News 12 New Jersey Monday night. “Gas prices have come down a little bit — tell that to somebody that they’re feeling better because they came down 16 cents over the past couple of weeks. They’re still at astronomical levels.”

“Clearly, we have got to do something to alleviate this pain,” Murphy added. “And you can assume we will. I’m not sure it’s direct to gas, but I’m virtually certain it’s something.”

That’s the most forthcoming the Democratic governor has been about the state providing gas-price relief.

The average price for a gallon of gas in New Jersey was $4.08 as of Monday, according to the American Automobile Association, or AAA. That’s slightly lower than the national average of $4.11.

A handful of other states have suspended their gas taxes to ease the pain. Murphy has said it would be difficult for New Jersey to do the same because, by law, money from its gas tax of 42.4 cents a gallon is dedicated to helping fund major transportation projects in the state.

“Even if we could take a holiday, those projects would be a lot more expensive when we restarted them,” he said Monday. “So we’re trying to figure out some other creative thoughts.”

The governor has said he’s open to the idea of giving residents some sort of rebate, a move proposed by Republican state Sen. Edward Durr of Gloucester County.

Durr’s bill would give a $500 rebate to people who file taxes jointly and make up to $250,000 annually, as well as a $250 rebate to single filers who make up to $125,000. Murphy has called the proposal “worthy of debate.”

“The Democrats have always said they’re there for the little guy, they believe in the people,” Durr told NJ Monitor in a story published Tuesday. “Well, this is money for the little guy. This is literally going to help families who need the money, so why not?.”

The proposal would be costly. Durr told the website the nonpartisan state Office of Legislative Services estimated the price tag at roughly $1.9 billion.

Murphy has also urged the federal government to enact a gas tax holiday — which a number of other governors are also suggesting.

Meanwhile, the governor said Monday he’s intrigued by a program Connecticut is installing to make buses free for three months, starting Friday and running through June 30.

“I like that,” Murphy said.

Once again, though, he was less optimistic about a bipartisan but heavily debated bill that would end New Jersey’s 73-year-old ban on pumping your own gas and allow stations to offer self-serve.

Supporters of the bill say gas stations could drop the price as much as 15 cents a gallon if the measure became law. Opponents say there’s no guarantee stations would pass on the savings.

But state Senate President Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, last month said he does not currently support the bill, making it unlikely he’ll post it for a vote and effectively killing it.

Murphy said Monday the issue “strikes passion” in New Jersey, the last U.S. state with a statewide ban on self-serve gas.

“It’s something that rarely if ever came up when gas prices were back to what they were,” the governor said. “Color me open-minded. I’m not sure how much it would save. I want to make sure whatever we do, we get a big bang for our buck.”

A Monmouth University Poll released Monday found 54% of New Jersey residents are OK with allowing self-serve gas, but only if stations are still required to keep a full-serve option.

The pump-your-own gas bill (A3105) does not force stations to do away with full-service. Those with more than four pumps would be required to keep a full-serve option between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Still, there would be no requirement to keep attendants at smaller stations or during other operating hours.

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-04-13 02:56:35 -0700