By Andrew Seidman
Gov. Christie said Monday that he wouldn't consider raising the state's tax on gasoline unless lawmakers pared back other levies, though he didn't endorse a specific plan.
Christie's transportation commissioner has said the state will run out of money for road, bridge, and rail projects in July.
"I will consider any option that's presented to me as long as those options include tax fairness for the people of New Jersey," Christie said Monday morning at a breakfast in Morris County hosted by the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey.
Christie, a Republican presidential candidate who traveled to Iowa later in the day, said the estate and inheritance taxes were forcing residents to leave New Jersey because they can't "afford to die here."
He also said the state's 7 percent sales tax was too high and complained that taxpayers can't deduct charitable contributions from their state income taxes.
"There's a lot of things that we should be talking about to represent tax fairness in this state, but we don't get any of those conversations from Democrats because they only know one thing to do with taxes, and that's to raise them," he said.
Potentially complicating a deal with Democrats is Christie's decision last month to sign the anti-tax group Americans For Tax Reform's pledge to "oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes."
All revenue from the gas tax currently goes toward paying down previously existing debt.
Some Democrats in Trenton have indicated that they would support a proposal to increase the state's 14.5 cent-per-gallon tax on gas and repeal the estate or inheritance taxes.
But some liberals and interest groups say the so-called death taxes are important sources of revenue that support a variety of public services.
"Most people in New Jersey will never pay either of these taxes, but almost everyone in the state benefits from what these taxes pay for, whether that's safe communities, clean water or affordable higher education," said Jon Whiten, deputy director of New Jersey Policy Perspective, a liberal-leaning think tank.
"The fact that this is at the top of legislators' to-do list is bad news for almost all the Garden State's working families," Whiten said.
He authored a report released Monday that showed the taxes are owed by 10 percent of all estates in New Jersey.
New Jersey is one of two states, along with Maryland, to tax both a transfer inheritance and estates.
They're presented as a single line-item in the budget and represent the fourth largest revenue source, behind the income, corporation business, and sales taxes.
State inheritance taxes are projected to generate $750 million this fiscal year. The state's budget is about $34 billion.
The transfer inheritance tax imposes a levy on some beneficiaries of assets provided by a decedent. The estate tax is imposed on estates worth at least $675,000, affecting less than 5 percent of all deaths in New Jersey, according to the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services.
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