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Update, November 9:

Public Question 1, or the “New Jersey Allowance for Casinos in Two Additional Counties Amendment” regarding the allowance of two additional casino was voted down overwhelmingly  by New Jersey voters.    With almost 99% of precincts reporting,  almost 78% of voters, or 2,231,133, voted no.

On the other hand,  Public Question 2, the “New Jersey Dedication of All Gas Tax Revenues to Transportation Amendment,” which dedicates all gas tax revenues for transportation passed by a 54% (1,507,097) to 46% (1,301,192).

Click here for the NJ Spotlight story with more on the two ballot questions.

End of update.

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While the 2016 Presidential election has captured most of the public’s attention, New Jersey’s voters in November will also elect their House Representatives for the next two years and decide the fate of two important statewide ballot initiatives.  The ballot questions regard two timely issues that will impact our property taxpayers.

Public Question 1, or the “New Jersey Allowance for Casinos in Two Additional Counties Amendment” regards the possible expansion of casinos outside of Atlantic City.      Passage of this question would amend Article IV, Section VII, and paragraph 2 of the New Jersey State Constitution.

Casinos were authorized only in Atlantic City via a 1976 public referendum.  In more recent years, faced with the introduction and expansion of casinos in surrounding states, there has been an effort to permit casino gambling in Northern New Jersey.   The end result of that public campaign is Public Question 1.

The question itself is silent on the actual location of the new casino.  If passed, the Legislature would be authorized to permit two casinos, which would be located in different counties, and in municipalities that are at least 72 miles from Atlantic City.   In passing the enabling legislation, the State Legislature would need to address the type of casinos, licensing and taxation of its operations and equipment.

The interpretative statement for the questions reads as follows:

At present, casino gambling is allowed only in Atlantic City in Atlantic County. This amendment would allow the Legislature to pass laws to permit casino gambling to take place in two other counties in this State. Only one casino in each of the two counties would be permitted. Each casino is to be located in a town that is at least 72 miles from Atlantic City. The amendment would allow certain persons to apply first for a casino license. The laws passed by the Legislature would provide for the location and type of casinos and the licensing and taxing of the operation and equipment. The amendment provides that the State’s share of revenue from the operation of the two casinos and of the casinos in Atlantic City would be used for programs and property tax relief for senior citizens and disabled residents. It would also be used for the recovery, stabilization, or improvement of Atlantic City and other purposes as provided by law. Lesser portions would be used to aid the thoroughbred and standardbred horsemen in this State and each town and county in which a casino is located.

Public Question 2, the “New Jersey Dedication of All Gas Tax Revenues to Transportation Amendment,” regards the funding of transportation projects.  Passage of the question would amend Article VIII, Section 11 of the New Jersey State Constitution so to dedicate all revenues generated by the gas tax, regardless if it is raised or not, for transportation projects.

Currently, the $0.105 per gallon tax on unleaded is fully dedicated to transportation projects.    All but $0.03 of the $0.135 tax on diesel is similarly dedicated.     The purpose of the proposed amendment is to assure additional funding to the State’s Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) and to assure the public that all such revenues, including any revenues generated by a possible increase in the gas tax, will be used for these purposes and not diverted.    The passage of this question will not increase the gas tax.   The question of how to fund the TTF and the extent that the gas tax may be raised to now lies before the Legislature and the Administration.    In other words, if this amendment is ratified, regardless of the amount of the tax itself, all gas tax revenues will be constitutionally dedicated for transportation purposes.

The interpretative statement reads:

This amendment would dedicate all of the revenue from the State tax on motor fuels to the Transportation Trust Fund. The current dedication is 10.5 cents per gallon on gasoline and diesel fuel. The amendment would include an additional three cents of the tax on diesel fuel that is not currently dedicated. The total revenue from the tax on motor fuels this fiscal year is estimated to be $541 million. The amendment also dedicates all of the revenue from the tax on gross receipts of the sale of petroleum products to the Transportation Trust Fund. The current minimum dedication is $200 million per year. This fiscal year, the revenue from the tax on gross receipts of the sale of petroleum products is estimated to be $215 million. The amendment does not change the current tax on motor fuels or petroleum products gross receipts. The dedication to the Transportation Trust Fund ensures that the revenue is only used for transportation purposes.

In 2014, we surveyed League members to get their thoughts on a number of Transportation Trust Fund renewal options. One of our questions asked if they would support an amendment to the State Constitution to prevent, as much as possible, future Legislatures and Administrations from using Transportation Trust Fund revenues for anything other than transportation capital projects. Overwhelmingly, they supported the option to constitutionally dedicate TTF revenues for such work. Over 80% registered “Strong” support.  Another 11% were “Somewhat” supportive. And the survey registered only trace opposition of any kind.

Contact:

Michael F. Cerra, Assistant Executive Director, mcerra@njslom.org, 609-695-3481 x120.

 

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