Bucco bashes more new taxes from Trenton

by Michael Symons

The price to park in Newark, including at the airport, and other cities and townships in New Jersey could be increased to help improve pedestrian access to mass transit, under a bill endorsed Thursday by an Assembly committee.

Democrats voted to advance the bill, A5070, while Republicans were opposed.

“Our residents struggle every day in New Jersey to be able to go to work, to make a living. And we just seem to make it more difficult for them all the time by raising a tax here, raising a tax there,” said Assemblyman Anthony Bucco, R-Morris.

Some cities can already charge a 15 percent tax on parking, as well as a 7 percent surcharge for special events. The new bill would allow some to add an extra 3.5 percent surcharge, to pay for the construction of things like bridges, platforms and elevators for pedestrians to access mass transit.

Bucco said that while the intended use of the funds is a good purpose, it should be paid for through the regular state budget “because all this is going to do is make people have second thoughts about traveling to some of these cities.”

“While it may not be a huge tax increase, it certainly is another burden that we’re going to place on commuters, that we’re going to place on people that go to these places for tourism,” Bucco said.

“A lot of us utilize Metropark, and that’s a great place to go and park and get on the train,” said Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce, R-Morris. “But it means all these fees and costs are going to go up. It’s going to cost a lot more money to park there.”

Assemblyman Dan Benson, D-Mercer, the chairman of the Assembly transportation committee, indicated the bill wouldn’t necessarily mean higher taxes at Metropark, which is in the Iselin section of Woodbridge Township.

“It is permissive by each municipality whether to do it or not, so it may not end up in every place that meets the requirements here,” Benson said.

The bill would allow the new parking tax to be charged in any municipalities with a population of 100,000 or more, according to the most recent American Community Survey 5-year estimate by the Census Bureau.

There are six: Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Elizabeth, Edison and Woodbridge. Lakewood will probably cross the threshold soon, as its population is estimated at 99,467.

The existing parking taxes can be imposed by cities with at least 200,000 residents (Newark and Jersey City, as of the 2010 census), neighbors of those cities with a population between 100,000 and 125,000 (Elizabeth, though its population is now estimated at 129,363) and any municipality in Bergen, Essex or Hudson counties with a population density over 10,000 per square mile (there are 23, not including Newark and Jersey City).

Assemblyman Tom Giblin, D-Essex, said the improvements that would result could help reduce the numbers of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents.

They have averaged around 175 a year for the past five years, about 30 percent of all fatalities in the state. It’s even higher in Giblin’s home county of Essex, accounting for five of seven fatalities so far this year and 25 of 45 fatalities last year.

“If we can save several lives in the process, it’s money well invested,” Giblin said.

Municipalities that are already eligible to levy a parking tax would become eligible to establish an 8 percent discount on parking fees for their residents.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded.