Responsible gas tax needed

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There will be much discussed in the Republican Primary in Sussex County in relation to lost population, lost taxes, and the overall economic condition of the county, its people, and its companies. There is one issue that must be discussed: the overall condition of our infrastructure, including our highways, bridges, dams, lack of rail, and other means of reliable and safe travel.

Last year, a study showed the state’s infrastructure, including Sussex County needs a $70 billion dollar fix. This infrastructure includes our drinking water and waste water systems, and our aging electric grid. The grades for all are in the “D” or even “F” range for quality.

As a county, Sussex has the longest commute per capita of any county in the state, and the least number of jobs. Many of our citizens earn wages that are far below the national and state averages. These are all reasons for companies not to locate here, and for our children to not stay here. Chrysler recently ran commercials about President Eisenhower building our national highway system, creating markets and jobs. Government at all levels has forgotten the lessons from that era.

With the governor blowing millions in federal transportation funding, our state has no option but to adopt the proposed gasoline tax increase proposed by the NJ State Chamber of Commerce and Senator Ray Lesniak, with the proceeds going to highway upgrades and rail funding for counties like Sussex. The state talks about tourism for Sussex, but doles out pennies. There is little or no money in transportation funds, and the state’s highway system is approaching a crisis. We need to correct the misspending on transportation, and it is time for us to get the light rail service that other counties have.

NJ BIZ noted that, due to legislative cowardice, the gas tax has not been touched in 20 years, even as our infrastructure has fallen apart, and as our state has failed to develop modern transportation approaches. Road construction and rail links can create markets and generate jobs beyond the immediate construction jobs that come with the funding. They will stimulate and sustain commerce. There is no way tourism can work with our current transportation and infrastructure, and, quality jobs will continue to suffer because commuters continue to sit in traffic, day after day, trying to get out of our county.

The bottom line is that this county cannot attract companies, ship or market goods, or even have a stable workforce without rail links and a well-maintained highway system. A highway system featuring more craters than the Moon cost us millions a year in unneeded car repairs. Traffic jams cost us lost time, and also lost health resulting from the stress of commuting out of Sussex. Lack of infrastructure cost the county itself jobs and population. We have a choice. We can pay a small increase in gasoline tax, or continue to pay in all these other ways.

Bill Weightman
Hardyston

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