Heard on the Hill

Even congressmen can’t pump their own gas in New Jersey

Gottheimer manned the squeegee at recent ‘Josh on the Job’ tour

New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer washes windshields as part of his “Josh on the Job” tour at a gas station over recess. (Courtesy Gottheimer’s office.)

Even a congressman can’t pump gas in New Jersey — the last state in the country where drivers can’t fuel up their own vehicles. 

Although the advisory for Rep. Josh Gottheimer’s March 16 “Josh on the Job” event at a Rochelle Park Amoco station said he’d be pumping gas for Jersey drivers, the sophomore Democrat was resigned to squeegeeing windshields.

Pumping gas in the Garden State requires a full day of apprenticeship training, with the attendant’s proficiency to be documented by a certificate signed by the retail dealer who operates the station. Anyone who violates the state law can be fined between $50 and $250 for their first offense. Repeat self-pumpers can be fined up to $500 for each subsequent offense.

Clad in a yellow worker’s vest, Gottheimer still got to mix it up with the attendants. He introduced himself to motorists before cleaning their windows and talking about infrastructure and the Gateway Tunnel.

“Besides making sure I didn’t streak their windshield, what was consistent from everybody is just how sick and tired they are,” Gottheimer said of drivers’ frustration with potholes that damage their vehicles. 

One thing they’re not frustrated with? Full-service gas stations. 

“When I talked to people about that, they’re pretty clear: They want someone pumping their gas,” Gottheimer said. 

Flashback: Gottheimer wishes DC had more diners like New Jersey’s

Up until two years ago, Oregonians couldn’t pump their own gas either. But a new law in the Beaver State allows residents of counties with fewer than 40,000 people to wield the nozzle. 

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who took office last year, signaled he wouldn’t be doing anything to change the state’s laws. “The way gasoline is delivered in this state is part of our fabric,” the Democrat told NJ Advance Media in 2018. An overwhelming majority of Garden State residents support full-service stations, according to a 2015 Rutgers-Eagleton poll. 

“That’s New Jersey — we’ve got great pizza, great bagels and don’t have to pump your own gas,” Gottheimer said.

Gottheimer admits it’s a personal preference, but it’s one he shares. “Yeah, of course, I don’t have to get out of my car.” Plus, he added, it creates jobs. 

The congressman’s tour of local workplaces is not unlike the “Cheri on Shift” tour that Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos, the chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has pioneered in her district. He’s worked at a Subway, McDonald’s, Home Depot and Dunkin’. He’s wrapped Christmas presents and scooped ice cream. And now he’s squeegeed. 

Does he have a favorite job?

“I’m not picking that — it’s all great — no way,” Gottheimer said. 

Herb Jackson contributed to this report. 

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