TRENTON, N.J. -- New Jersey will “never” allow self-service fueling if one influential state lawmaker has his way.
State Senate president Stephen Sweeney (D), who also may run for governor in 2017, said he would “never” let legislation lifting New Jersey’s self-serve fueling ban advance as long as he is in charge.
“I’ve never been a supporter of self-serve,” Sweeney said at a recent meeting with the editorial board of Asbury Park Press. “The retailers are controlling the numbers. All you’re doing is increasing their profit. You won’t see the savings because it just disappears.”
An analysis by the New Jersey Gasoline-C-Store-Automotive Association found that lifting the self-service fueling ban would result in an average discount of at least 10 cents per gallon (CPG). Until recently, the association had opposed lifting the ban, but changed its position because “it’s getting harder and harder to hire employees willing to pump gas,” said Sal Risalvato, executive director. According to the state Department of Labor statistics, New Jersey has about 10,000 gas-station attendants, with an average wage of $9.05 an hour.
New Jersey is one of only two states that bans self-service fueling, although the other—Oregon—recently allowed limited self-service fueling in some areas.
Sweeney and Democratic legislators have been battling Gov. Chris Christie (R) over a proposal to increase the state gasoline tax to raise money for New Jersey’s ailing transportation trust fund (TTF). Christie had supported raising the gas tax if lawmakers would agree to cut the state sales tax, but Democratic legislators were opposed to that idea.
Because of the worsening state of the TTF, Christie recently had halted all nonessential transportation projects, a move that angered Sweeney.
“People aren’t working when there is work they could be doing,” Sweeney said. “I never dreamed we’d be at this point without having the TTF done. Because of how the state refused to address this in the past, a lot of our options have been taken away. There are no rabbits we can pull out a hat.”
Democratic legislators have proposed a 14.5-CPG increase in the state gas tax to 37.5 CPG. Meanwhile, New Jersey voters will be deciding this November on a proposed constitutional amendment that would require all gas-tax revenue to go toward supporting the TTF. A June survey by Fairleigh Dickinson University found that 51% of registered New Jersey voters said they would support the amendment, while 34% were opposed.