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Could A Gas Tax Hike Be In New Jersey's Future?

MIDDLESEX COUNTY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – For many in the high-tax, high-cost state of New Jersey, the low price of fuel is something of a point of pride.

"At least the gas prices are lower than the rest of the nation, but that's the only thing really that's lower," Sayreville resident Lisa Payne said.

Cheap gas in the Garden State, a function of the low state gas tax of 14.5 cents per gallon, is the lowest in the region and second lowest in the country.

As CBS 2's Tony Aiello reported, since taking office in 2010, Gov. Christie has never wavered on talk of a proposed gas tax.

"I do not favor and will not sign any increase for a gas tax," Christie said.

But now, the governor says "everything is on the table" as leaders debate how to raise $1.6 billion for the almost-empty Transportation Trust Fund.

"Everybody who drives the roads knows they are in horrible condition," Assemblyman John Wisniewski said.

Wisniewski says New Jersey is out of money for transportation projects because for two decades, politicians have avoided hiking the gas tax.

Every one-cent hike in gas tax brings the state an extra $50 million, Aiello reported, so to raise an extra $1.6 billion, the state would have to raise the gas tax 31 cents.

"The people of New Jersey are smart enough to understand that we can't wish bridges built, we can't hope roads get fixed. We need money," Wisniewski said.

CBS 2 spoke with some residents about their reaction to the possible gas tax increase.

"He's trying to get money out of us that we don't have," one N.J. resident said.

"If they raise it a couple cents more, I'm okay with it," Stacy Murray, of South Amboy, added.

As Aiello reported, it's a debate that will drive action in Trenton over the next few months.

In addition to possibly hiking the gas tax, lawmakers will look at merging N.J.Transit with the Turnpike Authority and the Department of Transportation to save money.

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