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College of Arts and Sciences

Navigating Sustainability, Equity and New Jersey Roads

Headshot of Professor Matthew Hale.

Professor Matthew Hale.

Matthew Hale, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Affairs drives across his point as a guest columnist for’s opinion section with a policy analysis of the ins-and-outs of the state budget, financial costs associated with vehicle ownership, electric vehicles, sustainability, equity, and transforming the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF). He navigates his course, explaining the experience of shopping for a new vehicle to replace his 2013 Honda CR-V with over 250,000 miles on it. The guest column, "EVs tear up N.J. roads. They should pay their share to fix them," can be viewed here.

Hale explains:

"What I really want is a truck, not a little truck either, a big one. Something like a Ford F-150. I have no reason to get a truck. Two of my three kids are in college, so there is no need to pile hockey and lacrosse gear into the same vehicle. I don’t haul pipes or lumber. I don’t have a farm. I don’t install air conditioners or refrigerators. I don’t tow anything. So, I don’t need a truck. I just want one. My electric car-driving colleagues say it is emotional, and I suppose they are right."

Comparing finances associated with electric cars vs. gas powered cars, Hale said, "While the difference in gross vehicle weight might be small, it is important. Heavier vehicles are tougher on roads and bridges. And the owners of those heavier electric cars don’t pay their fair share of the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF), the giant pot of money that finances the construction and repair of our roads and bridges and public transit system."

Looking at NJ Governor Phil Murphy’s recent budget address and proposed changes to the sales tax waiver for electric vehicles, he reflects:

The TTF is currently funded by gas taxes and by issuing bonds against those gas taxes. It pays for long-term transportation infrastructure like roads and bridges. It is up for renewal and reauthorization in 2024. This is a separate funding line from the regular state budget. The corporate transit tax that Governor Murphy proposed this week doesn’t go to the TTF. It goes to NJ Transit’s operations budget. Different things, different buckets. Different arguments.

Estimates suggest that getting rid of the sales tax exemption for electric vehicles would eventually raise an additional $70 million dollars a year that would go towards funding the TTF. Not a bad start, but not enough. Recently, two South Jersey Senators (Paul Moriarty and John Burzichelli) joined five Democratic Assembly colleagues in calling for a 33% cut in the gas tax. Doing that would leave an additional hole of about $150 million in the TTF.

Hale suggests a registration tax on electric vehicles would be balanced by the assortment of state and federation incentives for electric vehicles. He mentions another potential benefit. "Over time, the more electric cars we have on the road, the less the gas tax would need to be. That means that if by some act of God miracles happens and New Jersey actually becomes all-electric by 2035, we will have transitioned the TTF to a sustainable and more equitable funding source," he explains.

Making his final points, he writes:

But for people who actually haul pipe and lumber, work a farm, install refrigerators, and tow stuff, a powerful truck is not an emotional purchase, it is a required one. The gas tax hurts these folks and hurts them a lot. It also hurts people who can only afford used cars and people who learned to fix their own cars because it was a necessity, not a hobby. Unless we shift the balance between the gas tax and electric vehicle taxes in TTF funding, we will be using a regressive tax on working people to push a progressive value of rich people. That is not "stronger or fairer" for anyone. It doesn’t "make life more affordable for more families by decreasing costs." It is just wrong.

A regular media commentator on New Jersey politics, Hale’s columns have appeared in the Star-Ledger, Bergen Record, Asbury Park Press, Home News as well as influential New Jersey political newsletters like He has served as president of the Nonprofit Academic Centers Council (NACC) and as the chair of the Nonprofit Section of NASPAA as well as a board member. He teaches numerous courses in the College of Arts and Sciences including New Jersey Politics and Government, Political and Public Sector Leadership, Public Policy Analysis, and Strategic Management and Governance. In 2022, Hale was co-editor of the Routledge Press Book Preparing Leaders in Nonprofit Organizations: Contemporary Perspectives. He is currently working on a text book about New Jersey politics and government.  

To learn more about the Transportation Trust Fund, visit here.

To read the Star-Ledger/ opinion piece, visit EVs tear up N.J. roads. They should pay their share to fix them.

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