A group of Ocean County state legislators have proposed a bill that would allow commuters to claim a tax credit if they spend $1,000 or more on highway tolls per year.
Sen. Jim Holzapfel and Assemblymen Dave Wolfe and Greg McGuckin (all R-10) proposed the bill in their respective chambers Tuesday. If it becomes law, commuters would be able to receive a $1,000 state income tax credit if their E-ZPass toll accounts register $1,000 or more in toll payments in a given year.
Holzapfel said the law is aimed at providing relief for commuters who have seen "relentless" toll increases in recent years.
"By providing commuters with a means to offset a portion of their commuting costs, our bill recognizes that these taxpayers are paying more than their fair share for transportation and economic development projects, while encouraging commuters to use E-ZPass," Holzapfel said in a statement.
Toll prices on the state's highways have risen approximately 90 percent since 2008, when the New Jersey Turnpike Authority adopted a two-phase rate hike plan. The plan was approved, and the first phase implemented, by the administration of former Gov. Jon Corzine. The most recent phase was implemented Jan. 1, 2012, under the administration of Gov. Chris Christie, sparking a debate between Republicans and Democrats over who was to blame for the increase.
Wolfe said he opposed the plan in 2008, and ever since then, highway maintenance funds generated by tolls have been diverted from the Shore area to transportation and development projects in other parts of New Jersey.
"Our constituents... who make up a large portion of toll-paying commuters in the state, deserve tax relief for shouldering the burden of funding transportation projects across New Jersey," he said.
The average passenger toll on the New Jersey Turnpike now stands at $3.30, with the average Garden State Parkway toll adding up to $1.05.