TRENTON — A poll released today shows more than half of New Jersey's registered voters support a wage freeze for state workers to rein in the state budget, while an even larger share oppose raising the gasoline tax.
The Quinnipiac University poll, which surveyed 1,356 voters from April 2-7, also showed that 87 percent of voters said the state's Jersey's budget problems were "very serious" or "somewhat serious."
Gov. Chris Christie in February presented a $34.4 billion state budget proposal to the state Legislature for the fiscal year 2015 beginning July 1, with $2.5 billion going toward the pension system.
Christie, a Republican, has called for a further reduction in pensions and health insurance benefit, while Democratic lawmakers, who control the Legislature, are opposed.
As for the notion of raising New Jersey's gas tax — which is the third-lowest in the nation — state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) has called for a 15-cent increase over three years to pay for repairs to the state's crumbling highways and bridges.
The poll, which presented voters with several options to help balance the budget, also found:
- Respondents disapprove of a gas tax increase, 65 to 33 percent.
- They support freezing the wage of state workers, 53 to 42 percent.
- They would rather cut services than raise taxes 57 to 32 percent.
- They are against laying off state workers, 57 to 38 percent.
- They favor reducing pension benefits for new state workers, 55 to 40 percent.
"While the George Washington Bridge scandal dominates the headlines, voters are starting to recognize that the budget squeeze is a big problem and they're prepared to look at cuts in public-employee pensions," Maurice Carroll, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said.
He added: "Sure, it's a labor-friendly state, but voters would consider limiting benefits for public employees. Layoffs? No. Furloughs? It's close. And a bit more than half of voters would support a wage freeze."
The poll also showed that a majority of Democrats (56 percent) and Republicans (77 percent) are opposed to a gas tax increase, while 42 percent of Democrats and 21 percent of Republicans favor an increase.
"One thing that unites all voters in this most partisan state is opposition to a gas tax hike," Carroll said. "We're all against it."
In an open-ended question, 26 percent of voters said taxes should be the top priority of Christie and the Legislature. Eighteen percent of respondents said jobs and the economy should be the priority, while 16 percent said education, and 5 percent said the state budget, or spending, should be.
The poll's margin of error was plus-or-minus 2.7 percentage points.