Senator Steve Oroho is a traditional Reagan conservative: One-hundred percent Pro-Life, a proud NRA member, a Sunday churchgoer, Chairman of New Jersey's American Legislative Exchange Council, a Heritage Foundation supporter, a believer in that old-fashioned conservatism that says avoid borrowing and spend only what you take in. His rural, hill country district isn't a wealthy one, but it is filled with the kind of salt-of-the-earth conservatives who have since 2007 elected and re-elected Steve Oroho with 70 percent of the vote or more.
Senator Oroho is a practical 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. Steve has helped to put companies like Burson Marsteller back on a healthy financial track.
Steve Oroho is considered to be one of the more knowledgeable members of the Senate Budget Committee. He learned the budget process at the grassroots -- as a borough councilman and county freeholder. It has taken decades of experience and thousands of pages of balance sheets to make Senator Oroho what he is today.
The Oroho family is an extended clan that stretches across the state -- from Sussex to Salem County. For the most part, Oroho's only leave New Jersey to fight for their country. Steve Oroho's brother is a decorated U.S. Army combat helicopter pilot, one son served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, another is a U.S. Army Ranger.
As a father and grandfather, Senator Oroho is concerned for the future of New Jersey. He's placed politics aside to take a data-centric, realistic look at what causes New Jersey to be so uncompetitive when it comes to commercial investment and job creation. Steve Oroho has been fighting to lower taxes that prevent businesses from growing here, like the estate tax, which has been dumped by most of the other states we compete with. He's also targeted taxes on retirement income and property taxes -- that break up families by forcing older people to leave the state for financial reasons.
Senator Oroho is especially concerned about the unfunded Transportation Trust Fund (TTF), which has already begun to deny local governments the grant money they need for road and bridge repairs. From his experience in local government, Steve Oroho knows that this will lead to property tax increases to pay for those local repairs. Either that or roads and bridges will be closed for safety reasons and as the transportation infrastructure slowly erodes, so will commerce and inward investment. And he can cite case studies where it has happened.
Steve Oroho wants to see a competitive, thriving New Jersey -- fit for the 21st Century -- not a failed state with a third-world infrastructure. He believes that realistically New Jersey is faced with the binary option of paying for future road and bridge maintenance through a user tax on gasoline or by increasing property taxes. And he makes the point that the user gas tax is fairer, because it allows out-of-state drivers to pay for their use of New Jersey's roads.
Think of it this way, approximately one third of gas tax revenues in New Jersey are paid by out-of-state drivers, while 100% of property taxes are paid by New Jersey residents. Knowing this, which do you think is the best option to pay for roads and bridges, an increase in the state gas tax or an increase in property taxes?
Others disagree. They claim that they can borrow their way out of the crisis or use the revenues from increased ticketing and collections of nuisance fines. All of these proposals need to be examined in detail, to see if they are adequate to address the very real problems that the state will face when there is no more money to maintain a road or repair a bridge.
Then there is the rhetoric. Americans for Prosperity (AFP) -- the old vehicle for Steve Lonegan's numerous campaigns for Governor, Senator, and Congress -- has launched an intensely personal campaign against Senator Oroho. Well, it is what you would expect, the nastiest fights are often within the church choir.
Once upon a time, AFP was very fond of Steve Oroho and often sent out correspondence praising him and his voting record. But AFP is funded by the libertarian Koch Brothers, who make their money off of petroleum products, and who do not like the idea of increasing a tax on their product. Senator Oroho is a more traditional conservative who -- like the Tax Foundation -- believes in the basic fairness of a user tax on gasoline rather than higher property taxes.
So now AFP hates Steve Oroho... and the hate is catching. Yesterday, Steve's wife was greeted by a Facebook post earmarked so that his family couldn't miss it. It featured a bloody, dead pig. The Facebook post was from an AFP supporter who must have just received an email claiming that Senator Oroho wanted to raise the gas tax by 40 cents (which, of course, isn't true). The AFPer called Steve Oroho a porker that "needs to be shot stuck and put in the freezer," adding, "for those offended I am offended at a 40 cents plus new gas tax." Here is the accompanying photograph:
Maybe AFP needs a timeout?