Poll finds uphill battle for Corzine

January 30, 2008 12:23:04 PM PST
New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine still has a long way to go to persuade voters to back significantly increasing highway tolls to pay state debt and fund transportation, according to a new poll. The Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll finds 95 percent of voters have heard about Corzine's plan to increase tolls, with 59 percent opposed. Thirty-three percent support it and 8 percent are undecided.

The Democratic governor unveiled his proposal on Jan. 8 and has held five of 21 planned public meetings on it to explain it to residents.

"This could be a long uphill slog for the governor," said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and the poll director. "Whatever the marketing plan was for this proposal, it has not gotten the governor out of the gate very quickly."

Corzine never said it would be easy.

"Anytime you talk about tough medicine or tough problems I don't think that is necessarily going to be embraced immediately," Corzine said on Wednesday.

Corzine wants to pay off at least half of $32 billion in state debt and fund transportation projects for 75 years.

To do so, he wants to increase tolls 50 percent in 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022. Those increases would include inflation adjustments and, after 2022, tolls would increase every four years until 2085 to reflect inflation.

The Atlantic City Expressway, Garden State Parkway, New Jersey Turnpike and Route 440 would be affected.

He also wants to limit state spending and require voters approve state borrowing.

"It is more than just a toll plan," Corzine said. "It is a financial restructuring."

The poll indicated the opposition is widespread, with 58 percent of public employees, 59 percent of nonpublic employees, 61 percent of parkway and turnpike commuters and 58 percent of those who don't use toll roads regularly opposed to the plan.

The poll found 51 percent of Democrats, 62 percent of independents and 68 percent of Republicans opposed.

Meanwhile, Corzine's job approval is slipping, the poll found.

It found 41 percent approve and 39 percent disapprove of his job performance, compared to a 44-36 percent margin in a FDU poll released last week and a 48-32 percent margin in a FDU poll released Jan. 7.

"It's not a matter of winning," Corzine said. "I don't look at this as a horse race. I look at this as making certain that as broad a number of folks in the state understand that we have a very serious financial emergency on our hands."

The telephone poll of 906 registered voters statewide was conducted from Jan. 21-27 and has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.


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