Our rebuttal to more of the usual pro-toll arguments.
NJTOLLS.com is a web site developed by a group called Alliance for Action that argues for keeping tolls on the Garden State Parkway. Here is our rebuttal to their arguments. Text in RED are statements taken directly from their web site, followed by our response in BLACK.
NJTOLLS: EVERY NEW JERSEY RESIDENT WILL PAY HIGHER TAXES IF THE TOLLS ON THE GARDEN STATE PARKWAY ARE ELIMINATED!!!
Actually, as a whole, NJ residents would SAVE the hundreds of millions of dollars that is wasted on collecting tolls (see Toll Costs page for what we would not have to pay for). Their argument is meant to scare the majority, those who don't use the Parkway, into not giving those who do the same benefit most of us already get - roads without tolls. Tolls are nothing more than a tax, and one that requires far too many tax collectors.
They also fail to acknowledge that Parkway drivers are taxpayers too, who for nearly 50 years have paid the same taxes as everyone else only to see their fair share of it go to roads they don't use. Shifting the cost to maintain the Parkway to general taxation not only saves money, but is inherently more fair to all taxpayers. Of course, putting tolls on all the other roads and taking them off the tax burden would be equally as fair, as long as everyone doesn't mind more pollution and paying twice as much.
Besides, NJTOLLS is just plain wrong - "EVERY" NJ resident wouldn't pay more. NJ residents who use the Parkway even occasionally would pay less. How much? Well, for example, if we added what it cost to run the Parkway to the gas tax*, an average driver would only pay an extra $18 per year**. But anyone who currently pays a single 35¢ toll per week is paying $18.20 per year in tolls. So, nearly everyone who pays one or more tolls per week would actually save money. How many tolls do you pay? And for those who don't use the Parkway but still don't want to pay for it, maybe we can add tolls to your roads so Parkway drivers don't have to pay for those anymore.
*Please note that CAT does not support a gas tax hike - we believe the money can be found in the existing budget. The gas tax is used only as an example to show costs in real numbers.
**15,000 miles / 25 mpg x 3¢/gal = $18. 3¢ equates to $130 million per year, enough to cover toll revenue less the cost of collecting tolls.
NJTOLLS: STATE REPAYMENT OF PARKWAY BONDS-Estimated cost for each NJ household is $330.00 in taxes a year to start.
Actually, as shown in the previous argument, the worst case is less than $20 per year for an average driver, ..."to start", and that would decrease as the bond debt is paid off. A high bond debt is not essential to maintain the Parkway; but it is essential as an excuse to keep tolls - they're only protecting their own jobs. Collecting nearly $200 million per year, yet never being able to pay off the debt is even more reason to dissolve the New Jersey Highway Authority and turn the Parkway over to the DOT.
But if you do believe the NJTOLL argument that roads cost us that much, then you should also believe that adding tolls to non-toll roads like Rt. 78, 80, 287, 295, etc. would subsequently lower taxes by that much. If the 173 mile Parkway really does cost every household "$330.00 a year to start", then think of how much we could get by adding tolls to the thousands of miles of non-toll highways. Our taxes would be negative. Actually, if the Parkway really does need as much as they say, then maybe we should examine what makes the Parkway so expensive compared to all the other roads. Tolls maybe?
NJTOLLS: THE STATE WILL REALIZE A LOSS OF $45 MILLION IN OUT OF STATE REVENUE.
First, the webmaster doesn't fully believe that 25% of all toll revenue comes from out of state drivers. On the rare occasion that I've used the Parkway, there seems to be FAR more NJ licence plates paying tolls. Actually, the mix doesn't look much different than the non-toll roads I use. Besides, highways like Rt. 78 and 80 are much truer Interstate highways, spanning state line to state line. The Parkway goes down to the shore. Personally, I would like to verify this "$45 million / 25%" number. Parkway users: Please look out of your window when you are at the tollbooth and let me know if 25% of the licence plates are from out of state.
Second, NJTOLLS neglects to mention that out of state drivers still buy gas in NJ, paying both state and federal gas tax, so they too are being doubly taxed like all the NJ residents are. Question to NJTOLLS - should state and federal gas tax be collected on the Parkway?
However, if double taxation isn't illegal and we really want to "get" our neighbors, then why not place a $1 toll only on the state line? This would be the equivalent of almost six 35¢ tolls each time a car enters and exits NJ. And if there really is that many out of staters using the Parkway, this plan might actually bring in MORE than the existing toll revenue. Plus collection costs would plummet since we could abandon all the tollbooths in the middle, and NJ residents will pay nothing (...unless they leave NJ, in which case our neighbors might want to "get us back").
NJTOLLS: CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS WILL BE PAID BY RAISING TAXES. Example: Driscoll Bridge renovation $175 Million
Isn't it amazing how a road that collects $190 million per year and has kept the tolls long after paying off the original bonds in the name of "maintaining the road" can't afford to maintain the road? And isn't it also amazing that they can find the money for new tolls like E-ZPass, which cost more than repairing the Driscoll Bridge? It shows you where their priorities are.
Where should the money for the Driscoll Bridge repairs come from? In 1999 voters approved $500 million for transportation bonds. Parkway taxpayers helped pass and pay for these bonds. Why not use some of that money for the Driscoll Bridge? In other words, why not use the taxes collected from Parkway drivers?
NJTOLLS: TAXPAYERS WOULD HAVE TO PAY $22 MILLION FOR THE NJ STATE POLICE WHICH PATROL THE GARDEN STATE PARKWAY- a bill which is currently reimbursed by the NJ Highway Authority and costs the taxpayers ZERO.
As a NJ citizen, I would like to think my state taxes pay for police protection wherever I am in NJ. Police protection is one of the basic things I expect, and gladly pay taxes for. Yet for some reason, I'm not considered a NJ resident while riding on the Parkway - I must pay for my own police. This is the same argument as paying for the road - Parkway drivers pay the same taxes as non-toll road drivers, part of which pays for police. But since they pay for that service again when riding on the Parkway, they are being doubly taxed.
One more thing - if no NJ tax dollars go to pay for the police on the Parkway, why are they even called "NJ State Police"? Call them Parkway police instead.
NJTOLLS: THE STATE WILL NOT GAIN ADDITIONAL FEDERAL FUNDING
Has any of our elected officials even tried? Considering NJ usually ranks near the bottom of federal tax dollar return list*, maybe not. Maybe our elected officials should be fighting a little harder in Washington instead of fighting to keep tolls in New Jersey.
But whatever NJ gets in federal tax dollars, aren't Parkway taxpayers entitled to a share of it? Parkway gas stations have been collecting a federal gas tax for almost 50 years - why should Rt. 80 drivers get it all?
Besides, the FHWA seems to give out lots of money for pollution reduction programs. They paid for over $200 million for HOV lanes on Rt. 80 & 287 which didn't even work and restrictions were removed. Toll removal should absolutely be considered a pollution reduction program.
* "Jersey ranks 49th among states in return on federal tax dollar". NJ received 69¢ for every dollar paid by state residents in federal taxes during fiscal 1997. (Star Ledger, 9/2/98)
NJTOLLS: THE PARKWAY CURRENTLY SERVES TEN COUNTIES, YET THE TOLL ELIMINATION WILL COST TAXPAYERS IN ALL TWENTY ONE COUNTIES
Route 80 currently serves six counties, yet taxpayers from all 21 counties pay for it. Would NJTOLLS argue for tolls on Rt. 80, or are they hypocrites? Of course, one can simply think of Rt. 80 drives getting a road for their tax dollars. And what do Parkway drivers get for their tax dollars? Rt. 80.
ALL 21 NJ counties have roads, ALL NJ residents need, use, and benefit from roads, and ALL NJ residents pay taxes for them. Why should only 10 counties pay tolls? Shouldn't we all pay equally and fairly for roads? As long as only a small percentage of roads have tolls, that is not fair.
NJTOLLS: MOODY'S BOND RATING SERVICE: Already has labeled the elimination of tolls as "irresponsible". Meaning that the state bond rating could be jeopardized, compelling the State to pay higher interest rates when borrowing money.
The pollution caused by tolls is irresponsible. The billions of dollars wasted collecting tolls is irresponsible. The unfair treatment of a small group of taxpayers is irresponsible. And artificially maintaining a high bond debt solely as an excuse to keep tolls is irresponsible. Besides, the current bond debt will be the same with or without tolls, we just want to find a more responsible way to pay for the road - one that doesn't waste more money than the current bond debt.
NJTOLLS: NO TOLLS MEANS MORE TRAFFIC - People who avoid paying the toll will now use the Parkway, causing more traffic, congestion and pollution.
The obvious way tolls increase traffic, congestion, and pollution is by needlessly stopping millions of cars each day. And NJTOLLS points out the other way here - some people avoid tolls. IF their argument is true, then it must also mean that tolls create more traffic, congestion, and pollution on scores of other roads. And since those people are taking a less direct route and driving more miles, they are further increasing pollution.
So in one sense they may be right - the Parkway might see increased congestion in some areas during peak times. But this is overshadowed by the fact that we will be removing all the artificial traffic jams created by tollbooths. The bottom line is removing the tolls would reduce overall congestion and pollution on the Parkway AND scores of other roads in NJ by not needlessly stopping millions of cars every day AND by taking away an incentive for people to take the longer, slower route.
NJTOLLS: NO TOLLS MEANS MORE ROAD SIDE TRASH, POTHOLES, AND LESS PARK LIKE BEAUTY.
Most of us think the tax-supported roads are just fine. But if NJTOLLS is so worried about trash and potholes, then how about this: give all the toll collectors jobs filling potholes and picking up trash. According to the NJ Highway Authority, collectors salaries are about $37 million. That would cost less than 1¢ added to the gas tax (...or less than the 1.5¢ that is currently siphoned off from it). I would gladly pay an extra penny for several hundred more people fixing potholes and picking up trash all around NJ - THAT is a service, toll collection in not.
NJTOLLS: NO TOLLS MEANS MORE ICE & SNOW COVERED ROADS CAUSING HAZARDOUS WINTER DRIVING.
Snow removal isn't unique to toll roads - ALL roads get plowed. And it still it doesn't change the argument - paying for it via tolls makes it cost twice as much (...the Parkway spends much more on toll collectors than snow removal).
Ana are they saying that all the non-toll roads are unsafe or inadequately maintained? If so, then why aren't they arguing for tolls on those roads? Personally, I've never had a complaint with the snow removal on Rts. 24, 78, 80, and 287. But then, my roads have been getting all the Parkway driver's taxes.
NJTOLLS: ALL THESE FACTORS EQUAL HIGHER TAXES FOR NEW JERSEY!
Tolls are the tax that pay for the Parkway, and this method of taxation wastes billions of dollars, countless man hours, and increases congestion, pollution, and aggravation. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. Question for all NJ citizens: How do YOU want to pay for YOUR roads?
That was every argument on the NJTOLLS home page as of October 2001. NJTOLLS has several other pages, many with charts and graphs to make it look like the Parkway is a special road that needs tolls to exist. It does not - it is simply a road like all the other roads in NJ. Our arguments still stand - tolls are still the worst way to pay for a road. Time permitting, CAT will attempt to continue commenting on the rest of the site. Until then, if you have any questions about their arguments and data, feel free to email the Webmaster.