New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a transportation funding bill that increases the state’s gasoline tax by 23 cents a gallon effective Nov. 1. Aviation fuel taxes were spared when industry organizations registered strong opposition.
Advocacy by AOPA and other organizations headed off a proposed increase in aviation fuel taxes that originated in the legislature, where the proceeds had been eyed for diversion to finance road projects and other upgrades of nonaviation infrastructure.
Christie signed the bill Oct. 14, simultaneously lifting an executive order that had halted more than 1,000 transportation projects during a three-month stalemate over the state’s transportation funding, according to news reports.
The compromise between the Republican governor and legislative Democrats effectively ended the targeting of aviation fuel taxes as a source of road-improvement money—leaving the avgas Gross Receipts Tax in New Jersey at 4 cents per gallon, Collins said. A 12.5-cents-per-gallon petroleum products tax brings the total state tax per gallon of avgas to 16.5 cents.
AOPA pointed out during the bill’s consideration that an increase in the tax would have had the adverse effect on state revenue of giving many New Jersey pilots an incentive to save hundreds of dollars annually by refueling in bordering states.
“Aircraft are mobile assets. Pilots often fly to fuel up where savings can be realized,” Collins said. “Unwarranted tax increases ultimately only hurt airports because larger aircraft such as turbine aircraft, that were the target of sound bites during this debate, can ‘tanker’ fuel purchased elsewhere, leaving New Jersey aviation fuel retailers with fewer sales and leaving the state and its aviation trust fund with less revenue.”
Jared Esselman, AOPA director of state government affairs, made general aviation’s case in Senate testimony, flying a GA aircraft to Trenton, the capital, to appear before the Transportation Committee and demonstrating that GA is a practical tool, not the luxury it was depicted to be in media portrayals.
During the effort AOPA issued a call to action to approximately 1,700 of the association’s members in New Jersey to urge them to contact their legislators and state their opposition to the tax increase.
AOPA’s opposition to the tax increase was part of an allied effort by AOPA, Airlines For America, the National Business Aviation Association, the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Coalition, and other aviation organizations.