Rule Change May Allow N.J. Drivers to Fill 'Er Up

Motorists in New Jersey may soon have permission to pump their own gas. Robert Siegel talks with New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine about his proposal to lift the state-wide ban on pumping one's own gas. Corzine says he hopes to initiate a pilot program that will last for three months and apply to stations along the New Jersey turnpike. The goal of the program is to help insulate consumers against the recent hike in gas prices.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

If you live and drive in the northeast, this could come as a shock. The state of New Jersey is considering abandoning a distinction it shares only with Oregon. Those are the two states in the union that to this day ban self-service pumps at gas stations. If a pilot project supported by Governor Jon Corzine takes effect, New Jersey motorists may soon be able to drip gasoline on their shoes just like the rest of us. And they might even have to drive slower, too.

Governor Corzine joins us from Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. Welcome to the program.

Governor JON CORZINE (Democrat, New Jersey): Good afternoon.

SIEGEL: First, as you understand it, why is there still a ban on self-service pumps in New Jersey when they've been the norm nationwide for many years now?

Gov. CORZINE: Well, there's been a legal ban that has been supported by a coalition of labor and a number of senior groups who certainly want the option of being able to be serviced at the gas station as opposed to performing self-service. But if you can save a few cents by offering self-service, and someone wants to take advantage of that, particularly at a time when there's skyrocketing prices of gasoline incumbent because of oil prices, well then I think we ought to give people that choice.

SIEGEL: Well critics say that this is a proposal, first of all, to lay off gas station attendants. And we could add that even with the current added labor costs in New Jersey, the gas stations in your state still charge less than in neighboring states.

Gov. CORZINE: Well there is a reason. We have lower gasoline taxes than most other states. And we made a distinct decision this year when we were refunding our Transportation Trust Fund that maintains our roads and bills out our mass transit system, to not increase that because of the potential for explosive rise in gasoline prices. This would be an added step to try to moderate or dampen those prices, not solve the problem because this isn't going at basic supply and demand. It is just how you pay for the delivery of the service and if we can cut that cost for those that choose to use self-service, why not give the consumer the option?

SIEGEL: How hard a sell is self-service at the gas stations going to be?

Gov. CORZINE: Oh, I think there's a reason that this law hasn't changed while 48 states have. There will be significant resistance I suspect. We've done looks at it over a period of time, not just recently, where it's about a 50/50 tossup among voters if it was polled. On the other hand, you know, people weren't dealing with $3.00 a gallon costs of gasoline either.

SIEGEL: Now I want you to talk about another proposal that I've read that you're considering, and that is reverting to the 55 mile per hour speed limit. You would be doing that, if in fact New Jersey did it, to reduce consumption, not just labor costs at the gas station, but you'd be doing it after Americans have been buying huge, powerful, fast cars for the past several years, that they've been doing 65.

Gov. CORZINE: Well, in most instances around the state of New Jersey, we still have a 55 mile an hour speed limit. It's only on the turnpike and a few of the major thoroughfares that we have 65. And there is a dramatic, dramatic falloff in the miles per gallon consumption when you rise above 60 miles a gallon, 55 miles a gallon. It's really quite telling, at least in the studies I've seen. I'm not actually proposing this until we can have absolute certainty that we could enforce this, but we're going to have to make some choices that do something about the demand for oil that we have in this country and, I think New Jersey ought to be a part of that.

SIEGEL: Well Governor Corzine, thank you very much...

Gov. CORZINE: Sure.

SIEGEL: ...for talking with us. John Corzine, the governor of New Jersey, speaking to us from Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.

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