More than half of New Jersey residents polled in a recent survey said they oppose Gov. Jon Corzine’s proposal to boost tolls by 50% to help pay down state debt and fund transportation infrastructure.

Monmouth University Polling Institute yesterday released the polling results, just one week after the governor announced his debt restructuring plan. That initiative involves the state forming a public benefit corporation that would sell nearly $37.6 billion of debt backed by toll increases, with the bond proceeds defeasing half of the state’s more than $30 billion of outstanding debt, paying down toll road bonds, and financing transportation infrastructure needs throughout the state.

Monmouth questioned more than 800 adult residents. Of those polled, 89% agree that the state budget is in a “serious financial crisis,” yet 56% oppose paying higher tolls. Another 15% support the plan and 29% said they had no opinion. Of that 29% of undecided residents, more said they lean towards opposing the toll increases, rather than favoring the toll hikes, bringing non-support of the plan to roughly 70%.

“Combining these results with those who register an initial reaction finds that fully 70% of the public are at least somewhat opposed to the plan compared to only 24% who are inclined to support it,” according to the report.

As for the uses of the bond proceeds, 53% said paying down state debt and financing transportation infrastructure is an appropriate use of funds compared to 35% who said the proceeds should be used for other purposes, with school funding and reducing property taxes topping the list of preferred alternative programs.

While yesterday’s poll indicates a majority of New Jersey residents disagree with higher tolls, a Quinnipiac University Polling Institute poll in December showed that in comparing increased tolls to a higher gas tax, residents prefer paying more on tolls rather than at the pump. In the Quinnipiac poll, 70% of residents favor a toll hike while 18% prefer an increase in the gas tax.

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