By Dr. Murray Sabrin and Rev. Greg Quinlan
The State Budget put forward by the Democratic Majority in the Legislature is an indication that New Jersey is no longer a representative democracy. Only a handful of insiders benefit from its high taxes, “public-private partnerships” and pay-to-play politics.
New Jersey is caught in an Establishment Continuum. Its elements are high taxation, crony capitalism, political corruption, and an economy that fails its people.
While both established political parties are responsible for New Jersey's plight, because the Democrat Party has controlled the Legislature for over a decade their responsibility is acute. More pointedly, it is the "bosses" who select the pawns who run the Democrat Majority who bear the greatest responsibility. The responsibility of individual legislators depends, more or less, on how they empower these bosses or slavishly follow the leadership selected for them.
With this Budget, the Democrat Majority has again failed to tackle the important issues of high property taxes and a low job growth economy. Instead, this Budget feeds the appetite for power of party bosses like George Norcross by wresting control over a vital community service from a non-political vendor and handing it to one controlled by Norcross. A more blatant example of a process for hire would be hard to find.
New Jersey has a lot of problems -- from being the last place in America where you would want to start a business to having the highest property taxes in the country. Because the Democrat Majority can't seem to get out of the way, our economy has not reached its full potential. As a result we suffer from high unemployment, more dependency, unmanageable debt, and widespread foreclosure.
Whether on purpose or just plain stupidity, the Democrat Majority can't figure out how to allow businesses to create jobs in New Jersey. And because of this the Democrats' harvest is record poverty and growing numbers of children who must depend on government for the basic necessities of life.
Ignoring the needs of people, the political bosses who run the Democrat Majority have turned New Jersey into a kleptocracy. Special interest legislation -- like the bill turning a birth certificate into a kind of vanity license plate -- go to the front of the line based on the wealth and power of the interested. And what gets pushed to the back of the line are all those things that matter to most people, like reducing the barriers to job creation and property tax relief.
New Jersey has had the highest property taxes in America for so long that the Democrat Majority no longer offers even "make-pretend" attempts at doing something about it. Who would believe them?
A solution has existed for several years now in Senator Mike Doherty's Fair School Funding bill. But instead this budget takes millions in taxpayers' money that should go towards the education of children throughout the state and hands it to urban machine bosses as a form of "mad money" to play with it as they like. Why should seniors on fixed incomes pay higher property taxes to subsidize those of rich professionals and corporate cronies in Hoboken and Jersey City? It isn't fair, and it doesn't make sense. Maybe it is time to think about repealing the income tax altogether? The voters who passed it were lied to. The state's political establishment -- in the form of the unelected Supreme Court -- pulled off a bait and switch rip-off worthy of American Greed.
The Democrat Majority has failed to honestly discuss the gasoline tax. Although our gas tax is lower than in neighboring states, we often pay more for gas at the pump here even though we have worse roads and more tolls than most states. That is because New Jersey’s higher property and business taxes and costs of doing business here offset the lower gasoline tax.
Currently the gas tax raises $1.6 billion each year—more than enough to build and repair our roads and bridges. But to fund crony projects, Trenton borrowed $15.6 billion against future gas tax collections for 30 years. This is not a binding debt because it did not receive voter approval as required by the state constitution. Why should we double the gasoline tax to bail out Wall Street again?
The entire New Jersey Assembly is up for election this November. Now is the time to fully and openly discuss these issues.
Dr. Murray Sabrin, a libertarian author and lecturer, is professor of finance in the Anisfield School of Business, Ramapo College of New Jersey.
Rev. Greg Quinlan, a social conservative leader, is with the New Jersey Family Policy Council.