The GOP's 2017 "gas tax" strategy

They failed to break through in 2009 and 2011.  They were stopped cold in 2013, while their party's gubernatorial candidate won by 20 points.  And then suffered historic loses in a low turnout election that should have favored them in 2015.  You have to pity the Republican's legislative leadership, they are running out of scenarios. 

The latest scenario predicts what will happen in the 2017 elections.  This will be the "gas tax" election, they say.  The year when the GOP makes big inroads in the Legislature because of its opposition to the gas tax increase.  Trust them, they tell us, and ignore the fact that we've been hearing this since 2001, and since 2001,we've been losing.

Will this time be any different?  In voting against the gas tax hike, Republican incumbents will be voting against a half dozen tax cuts -- hurting them with important natural GOP voting groups like seniors, veterans, and small business owners.  Then it will come down to resources and to who can afford to tell their story with more repetition.

The problem with Republicans is that they are inconsistent.  The TTF is broke because the Republican Party uncapped it and set it on a course of wild spending and borrowing -- while it lacked the balls to raise taxes in line with inflation to keep up with all that spending and borrowing.

The gas tax hasn't kept up with inflation.  Since 1988, New Jersey has charged drivers just 14 1/2 cents a gallon of gas to maintain and repair our roads and bridges.  The price hasn't gone up in 28 years.

Other states have raised their prices in line with inflation.  New York charges over 40 cents a gallon and Pennsylvania over 50 cents.  If New Jersey had raised its price little by little, in line with inflation, that 14 1/2 cents would be 29 cents today. 

What happened instead was that TTF spending was uncapped in the 1990's and successive administrations extended the life of the debt so they could borrow and spend more.  They spent and spent but didn't raise the tax to pay for it.   Today it will take all of that 14 1/2 cents and the first 10 1/2 cents of any gas tax increase just to fund the interest on that debt.

That's why the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) is broke and road and bridge maintenance and repair has stopped.  There is simply no money to pay for it.  And now, because of the mistakes made in the past, the gas tax or some other tax will have to be raised or roads and bridges will have to close.

Ignoring this stark reality, Republicans have adopted a religious mantra from the house of Grover Norquist -- no new taxes, no tax increases.  And because of this, we are yesterday's party, a dead party, incapable of tackling one of the most basic requirements of civilization:  Roads and bridges. 

Those who worship at the shrine of the most sacred Grover (blessed be his name) can't even discuss fiscal reform, which might involve changing how something is taxed in order to end the way something else is taxed.  Governor Christie, a Norquist acolyte invokes the name of his holiness the way lesser beings invoke the name of Christie (he who is infallible in all things temporal) has blocked any real ideas coming out of the GOP.  Republicans are allowed to worship, they are just not allowed to think.  We're stuck in the status quo of not touching anything for fear of being labeled a heretic.  It is really very sad.

Allowing Grover Norquist to dictate policy is silly.  Grover is no longer the activist, anti-tax crusader he was in the 1980's.  He is now a member of the Washington, DC, establishment who has collected a trash bag full of shit in the course of his wanderings.  And we don't just mean his role as money-launderer in the Jack Abramoff scandal.  Here is conservative Glenn Beck's take on the most holy one:

Here is the full Beck - Norquist interview:

Here is the presentation by Glenn Beck that prompted the interview:

A totally different critique of Grover worship has it that the huge deficits now threatening to destroy the economic health and future of America were a fault of Grover's anti-tax pledge.  It said not to tax, but said nothing of spending, and so Republicans kept their holy vow not to tax -- while they spent and borrowed and spent and borrowed.  A few, very few, heretics warned against this.  They warned that nothing is for free, that you have to pay for it sometime.  Now where have we heard this before?

New Jersey Republicans are big spenders.  Always have been.  Kean, Whitman... even when they cut taxes they've raised spending.  Governor Christie capped local government spending but failed to do the same for state spending.  As in the case of uncapping the TTF, New Jersey Republicans have never quite understood the balance sheet relationship between revenue and spending.  So they learned to love debt.  More and more debt.  Even a self-proclaimed "taxpayer hero" like Senator Jennifer Beck votes for more spending -- like $7 million more for Planned Parenthood -- while opposing any way to raise the funds to pay for it.

While adamantly opposing tax increases, Beck wants to spend millions on things like alternative energy.  How does that work?

Their inconsistency leaves most GOP legislators outside the tent of Republican nominee Donald Trump.  On free education for illegals, the death penalty, welfare for drug dealers and a host of other issues, many GOP legislative incumbents have enough serious flaws in the weave to turn off even the most understanding populist conservative.  Despite this, the NJGOP has determined a populist strategy that mirrors Trump's -- but without the name ID or resources.

As the TTF funding saga shows, the GOP has become a party content with losing, more comfortable in political tactics than in actual governance. Without Chris Christie to choreograph their every move, the NJGOP and its legislators appear incapable of crafting a strategy of governance.  GOP policy isn't about fixing anything, but rather, about adopting a slogan and repeating it often.  Being against something -- even when your party helped create it -- is all that matters.  Unfortunately for both the party and for voters, that isn't policy, it's just stupid politics.