Assemblyman Jay Webber looks the part of a statesman. Central casting, send us a Governor! But looks are not always reality.
On October 14, 2014, the Star-Ledger published a column by Assemblyman Webber. Its title was "Fixing transportation and taxes together." Jay Webber was writing about how to raise the gas tax, while offsetting that tax increase with cuts to other taxes. He zeroed in on the estate tax:
"NEW JERSEY leaders are grappling with three major problems: First, New Jersey has the worst tax burden in the nation. Two, New Jersey's economy suffers from sluggish growth. And third, our state's Transportation Trust Fund is out of money. There is a potential principled compromise that can help solve all of them.
Of the three problems, the Transportation Trust Fund has been getting the most attention lately, and for good reason: It's broke. There is just no money in it to maintain and improve our vital infrastructure. Without finding a solution, we risk watching our roads and bridges grow unsafe and unusable and hinder movement of people and goods throughout the state. That, of course, will exacerbate our state's slow economic growth.
...we should insist that if any tax is raised to restore the TTF, it be coupled with the elimination of a tax that is one of our state's biggest obstacles to economic growth: the death tax. By any measure, New Jersey is the most extreme outlier on the death tax, with worst-in-the-nation status...
New Jersey's death tax is not a concern for the wealthy alone, as many misperceive. We are one of only two states with both an estate and inheritance tax. New Jersey's estate-tax threshold of $675,000, combined with a tax rate as high as 16 percent, means that middle-class families with average-sized homes and small retirement savings are hit hard by the tax.
It also means the tax affects small businesses or family farms of virtually any size, discouraging investment and growth among our private-sector job creators. Compounding the inequity is that government already has taxed the assets subject to the death tax when the money was earned. Because of our onerous estate and inheritance taxes, Forbes magazine lists New Jersey as a place "Not to Die" in 2014.
That's a problem, and it's one our sister states are trying hard not to duplicate. A recent study by Connecticut determined that states with no estate tax created twice as many jobs and saw their economies grow 50 percent more than states with estate taxes. That research prompted Connecticut and many states to reform their death taxes. New York just lowered its death tax, and several other states have eliminated theirs.
The good news is that New Jersey's leaders finally are realizing that our confiscatory death tax is a big deal. A bipartisan coalition of legislators has shown its support for reforming New Jersey's death tax..."
Unfortunately, when the time came for Jay Webber to be counted as part of that bipartisan coalition, he couldn't be counted on. Jay got scared off by the lobbyist arm of the petroleum industry and what's worse is that he's now attacking those who did what he advocated doing only a short time ago. And it only makes it worse that he's so darn pompous about it.
It was the same way back when Jay Webber was NJGOP chairman and he didn't have it in him to stand up to Governor Christie over the state party adopting the national Republican Party platform. Not only did Jay fail to stand up for the principles of our party, he failed to defend those who did, and even attacked those who wouldn't sell out.
There's a lot more too, but this isn't about bashing Jay Webber, this is about a request for some humility. Look, we all understand that sometimes people can't do what they said others should do -- but that doesn't mean that you kick at them and play holier-than-thou when they follow your advice and do it.
Now in fairness to Jay he did write these words in that column two years ago: "Any gas-tax increase should be accompanied by measures that will help alleviate, or at least not increase, the overall tax burden on New Jerseyans." And it is these words on which Jay is basing his current bout of ill temper.
Jay Webber thinks the bipartisan tax restructuring package worked out by the legislative leaders (minus Senator Kean Jr.) and the Governor will result in a net tax increase. Others, like Senator Steve Oroho, disagree with him. Now Jay is a lawyer and by all accounts a good lawyer. Steve is a numbers man. He's a certified financial planner and CPA. Before beginning his career of public service, Steve Oroho was a senior financial officer for S&P 500 companies like W. R. Grace and Young & Rubicam. Now you take your advice from whom you think best.
There is one word you won't find in Jay Webber's 730-word column. That word is debt. Yep... D-E-B-T. Because there are a whole lot of Republicans who don't think on that word too much. To their minds we can spend and spend and leave it for another generation to pay.
We hope that Jay Webber isn't one of these Debt & Spend Republicans. There sure is a lot of it going around. They think that never voting to raise a tax makes you a conservative, but that's just silly. Conservatives, real conservatives, balance their expenditures with their revenue. They enter into debt for long term projects only when they have a plan and the means to pay it back. Real conservatives don't starve revenue for political points while piling debt upon debt. That's not being conservative, that's being bankrupt.
If Assemblyman Webber is truly determined to take on what he describes as New Jersey's "worst tax burden in the nation," he's going to need to focus on the state's highest in the nation property taxes. It is the state's property taxes that gives it the highest foreclosure rate in America.
To do that, New Jersey is going to have to take a step that Jay Webber, as a lawyer, might find distasteful. New Jersey is going to have to elect its State Supreme Court. It was the unelected Supreme Court that seized the Legislature's power nearly 40 years ago and with it the people's income tax revenue. It is the unelected Supreme Court that to this day uses that money to its ends and not for the ends promised to the people, namely property tax relief. And because this money is wasted, New Jersey must have the highest property taxes in America to pay for the education of its children.
Until you wrest away that money by voting them out of office, you will never have a low tax, low debt, and prosperous state.