New Jersey is now the only state in the United States that fully bans self-service gas stations. (New Jersey Monitor)
A push to allow New Jerseyans to pump their own gas may be dead in the water amid a lack of support from the state’s most powerful legislator.
Senate President Nicholas Scutari told the New Jersey Monitor in a statement he does not support a recently introduced bill that would allow for self-service gas pumps.
“The people of New Jersey are very clear in wanting to keep the system we have now, and there is no data supporting any contention that moving to a self-service model would save residents money at the pump,” said Scutari (D-Union).
Nearly three-quarters of New Jersey adults — 73% — said they prefer having their gas pumped for them, according to a recent Rutgers-Eagleton poll.
Scutari’s lack of support all but kills the bill, which was introduced in the Assembly earlier this month. The Senate president has sole control over what bills reach the floor of his chamber, and his word can keep legislation from being heard in committee.
As gas prices have ascended on their inflation- and conflict-fueled climb, lawmakers and a gas station lobbying group have sought to revive a proposal to end the state’s full-service mandate on gas stations, claiming it would reduce prices at the pump.
The average gas price in the Garden State was $4.21 per gallon on Monday, a few cents shy of the national average of $4.25, according to data from AAA.
The bill, which has not yet been introduced in the Senate, could reach the floor without Scutari’s approval if lawmakers motion to make it the business of the day, but that would require at least five Democratic senators to break with leadership.
The Democratic leader didn’t entirely shut the door on the proposal.
“If the public sentiment changes or there is, in fact, data showing that it would dramatically reduce costs, I would reconsider,” Scutari said.
New Jersey is the only state to entirely ban self-service at its gas stations. Oregon, which used to bar pump-your-own gas, now allows residents to fill their gas tanks in some rural counties.
Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth), a supporter of the bill, praised Scutari for not ruling out support for it entirely, but added, “To be against this is to be against people choosing to save money, to be against people having a choice, and to be for the absolutely illogical arguments against the bill.”
The bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Carol Murphy (D-Burlington), would allow self-service at the customer’s request but would still require gas stations with at least four pumps to offer full service between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
It would bar gas stations from charging more for a full-service fill-up and allow — but would not require — gas stations to offer a discount to residents who fill their own tanks.
Critics of the bill have questioned whether it would lead to lower gas prices. AAA put the average per-gallon gas price in Pennsylvania and New York higher than New Jersey’s average. In Maryland and Delaware, the average price is lower than New Jersey’s.
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