the staff of the Ridgewood blog
New Brunswick NJ, Senator Jim Holzapfel and Assemblymen Greg McGuckin and John Catalano today moved to slam the brakes on automatic toll increases like the ones sprung on Garden State drivers last week.
The 10th District lawmakers will be sponsoring legislation that prohibits the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, which operates the state’s two largest toll roads, from implementing automatic toll increases.
“I think everybody who commutes on the Turnpike or Garden State Parkway was blindsided by the announcement that tolls would increase for the second time in a little over a year,” said Holzapfel. “There was no discussion about it, no public hearings, no transparency. This is a tax on driving, and it is a disgrace that in a state with some of the highest taxes in the nation, the bureaucrats at the Turnpike Authority would stoop so low to sneak verbiage in a contract that provides for annual and automatic increases.”
On Sept. 13, 2020, tolls were bumped 36 percent on the Turnpike, 27 percent on the Parkway and 37 percent on the Atlantic City Expressway. At the time, toll revenue had been deflated as Covid restrictions kept drivers off the road.
The increases set to take effect on the Jan. 1, 2022, are baked into a budget plan approved by Turnpike commissioners. The authority’s $2.2 billion budget for next year included this line: “Annual toll rate indexing at 3 percent effective January 1.″
Automatic indexing will also trigger a 3 percent boost on the Atlantic City Expressway.
“The toll hike was a sneak attack on New Jersey drivers at a time when the state’s already high cost of living is soaring under near-record inflation levels,” said McGuckin. “It is an insult to every driver, and an assault on the wallets of working families everywhere, especially those who live in coastal communities to commute to work every day on toll roads.
“The audacity of the commissioners who enacted a plan to pick-pocket drivers to make their jobs easier is astounding,” McGuckin continued. “New Jersey residents deserve more respect and consideration.”
McGuckin and Catalano will introduce an Assembly bill to prevent automatic toll increases in the future and stop the Turnpike Authority from raising rates for three years. Holzapfel will join as sponsor of an identical Senate bill, S-4276.
“Gas prices are through the roof and the inflation rate is 6.8 percent, a 40-year high,” said Catalano. “Now is not the time to saddle commuters with even higher costs. There’s never a good time for an automatic tax increase, and make no mistake – this is a tax increase. But a toll hike that is triggered by the calendar ignores too many other critical factors.”