TRENTON, N.J. – Supporters of a constitutional amendment to dedicate gas tax proceeds to transportation funding have put nearly $1.6 million behind the effort, according to new state records released on Wednesday.
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A labor-business group called Forward NJ reported raising $636,000 in support of the question, and treasurer Anthony Attansasio said the cash is going toward cable, mail and social media ads.
"Forward NJ felt it was imperative to make sure voters understood they have the power to protect this revenue," Attanasio said.
The new report comes less than a week before voters go to the poll to decide whether every cent of the state's fuel tax should go only to transportation. Much of the tax is already dedicated, but 3 cents of the state's diesel tax is not.
The Forward NJ fundraising report also comes in addition to nearly $1 million from the Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative, which also favors a yes vote. The Associated Press reported
Question 2 has quickly become one of the state's most closely watched races since Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno came out opposed to the question, using it as a rallying cry against a recent 23-cent-per-gallon gas tax hike.
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The question does not affect the gas tax, but Guadagno argues that a "no" vote would prevent necessary borrowing for transportation projects by denying voter approval of nearly $12 billion in debt. That, she says, would force the Democrat-led Legislature and Gov. Chris Christie — or the next governor who'll take office in 2018 — to reconsider the tax.
But Christie's spokesman and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Senate President Steve Sweeney says she has misunderstood the question and that borrowing can go forward regardless of a "no" vote. They say the effect of such a vote would mean that gas tax proceeds could be used to plug holes in the budget.
A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll released last week, before Guadagno came out opposed to the question, found 46 percent in favor of the amendment compared with 39 percent opposed. The phone survey of 848 registered voters has a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points.
Also released on Wednesday were records showing that a group financed by New York-based casinos has spent an additional $2 million in opposition to a ballot question on expanding casinos to two northern New Jersey locations. That's on top of $11.3 million already spent by Trenton's Bad Bet.
The group's funders include Genting New York, which operates Resorts World Casino in New York and is a subsidiary of Malaysia-based Genting Malaysia Berhad.
A group in favor of expansion, Our Turn NJ, quit its media campaign after internal polling showed the question was likely to fail. That group reported getting a refund of $500,000 in the latest documents. It spent a total of about $8 million in favor of casino expansion.