Like in 1991, the NJGOP needs to hold a convention.

Take yourself back to September 1991.  The legislative midterm elections were less than two months away.  New Jersey was in the second year of a Democrat Governor, following eight Republican years.  The State Senate had not been in GOP hands for 18 years.  The Assembly was last Republican in 1989. 

1,032 delegates from across New Jersey attended the State Republican Convention that year.  They were exhorted by former Governor Tom Kean, who reminded them “that they must do more than criticize Florio and Democratic lawmakers” to wrest control of the Statehouse in the November elections: “People want to know what you're for, not just what you're against,” he said. “Attacking the present administration is not enough.”

The delegates discussed and debated issues… adopted a state party platform… and defined who they were.  In November, Republicans won a landslide victory and took control of both chambers of the Legislature.  Two years later, they took the Governor’s office too.

In contrast to last month’s gathering of the GOP in Atlantic City, the 1991 convention at Rutgers University was about policy, message, and people – it had a grassroots feel to it.  While the current state party operation is dominated by Trenton-centered professional operatives and consultants, in 1991 the party was still one of stakeholders – people with networks in their communities and districts.

New Jersey Republicans are suffering a crisis of identity.  And it’s not just the old controversies over social issues.  The current “favorite” for Governor in 2021 – former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli – called Donald Trump a “charlatan” who is “out of step with the Party of Lincoln” and an “embarrassment to the nation.”

The NJGOP can’t seem to make up its mind on something as basic as the tax restructuring package – championed by former Governor Chris Christie – that ended the Estate Tax, cut a bevy of other taxes, prevented a huge property tax hike, and provided enough property tax relief to enable places like Warren County to actually cut property taxes.  Some Republicans seem determined to run against one of Governor Christie’s hallmark accomplishments.  Let’s hash this thing out once and for all.  

Legalizing the sale and use of recreational marijuana is another issue.  Although both Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean Jr. and Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick have done admirable jobs of holding their delegations together on this – there are all these lobbyists occupying party office who are nibbling away at the resolve of individual legislators and there is no formal party position on this or any other issue of substance.

A convention could be just the thing to resolve these conflicts, to pull everyone together around what we agree on, our principles and objectives, to create a message, and build that message out with a platform of policies – which could then be fleshed out by people like Regina Egea and her Garden State Initiative.  Thus far, the only prescriptions offered by the NJGOP have been which consultant a candidate should hire or new “game changing” technology to employ.  These do not take the place of having an actual message to run on – as the past few election cycles have shown. 

Once upon a time, New Jersey Republicans knew how to tell their story.  Now it seems they’ve lost the art – or at least the plot.  Nothing like a gathering to bring everyone together to remember who they are, put it down on paper… and then go out and sell it.

How Steve Oroho finished what Jay Webber started

In the Legislature, you can be a conservative in one of two ways... broadly speaking.  One way is to be a conscience, sit above it all, and vote accordingly.  You could not find a more perfect example of this than Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, who negotiates the prickly halls of Trenton with a Zen assuredness.  He always knows the right thing to do... and he always does it.  Instead of the wilting figure of John McCann, the YR's and CR's could do no better than to adopt Assemblyman Carroll as their Sensei.

The other way is to wade into the muck in an attempt to climb aboard the ship of state and steer it in a more desirable direction.  Sometimes the engine isn't even working and you might need to get down into the boiler room -- knee deep in waste -- and grapple with the machinery of government, just to get it sputtering in some direction.

Assemblyman Jay Webber takes this course... to a point.  He seems well enough suited to steer, but when it comes to the engine room, he doesn't want to get his hands dirty.  That's where he differs from Senator Steve Oroho.  Oroho accepts that he will have to endure the heat and muck in order to get the machine running -- and he doesn't mind busting a knuckle or two while grabbling with a boiler wrench.

A prime example are their differing approaches to preventing the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) from going bankrupt and ending the Estate Tax.  Two very conservative causes.  The TTF, funded by a gas tax, was right out of the Reagan mantra of using user taxes to fund public infrastructure.  Those who use the roads should pay for them, said Reagan, no free rides!  While the death tax -- which is what an Estate Tax is -- has been identified by conservatives for years as the destroyer of small businesses and the ruination of family farms.

Jay Webber waded into the issue assuredly enough.  On October 14, 2014, the Star-Ledger published a column by the Assemblyman.  It's title was "Fixing transportation and taxes together."  Webber was writing about how to raise the gas tax to re-fund the nearly bankrupt TTF, 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..."

Taking Webber's lead, Senator Steve Oroho got to work and began the painstakingly long process of negotiation with the majority Democrats.  Oroho was animated by the basic unfairness that New Jersey taxpayers were under-writing out-of-state drivers to the tune of a half-billion dollars a year.  He understood that if the TTF went bankrupt, the cost would flip to county and local governments... resulting in an average $500 property tax increase.  Oroho went to battle to prevent this disaster and even had to stand up to Governor Chris Christie, who wanted to end negotiations too soon and accept a weaker deal from the Democrats.

Unfortunately, Assemblyman Webber didn't stick with it.  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 started attacking those who did what he advocated doing only a short time before. 

Remember that it was Webber who wrote these words in that column more than three 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." Jay Webber wrote those words, setting the direction.  Steve Oroho was left on his own to get the job done -- to do the negotiating.  The helmsman had abandoned the engineer. 

Webber said at the time that he believed the bipartisan tax restructuring package worked out by the legislative leaders (minus Senator Tom Kean Jr.) and the Governor would result in a net tax increase.  Oroho and others disagreed with him.  Webber is by all accounts a good lawyer, but Oroho is the 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.  It was this knowledge that enabled him to fashion the compromise that he did -- one that turned out to be the largest tax cut in New Jersey's history.

In the end, the Democrats' 40-cent increase on the gas tax was paired down to 23-cents.  The gas tax, the proceeds from which funds the TTF, had not been adjusted for inflation in 28 years, had not provided enough funding to cover annual operations in 25 years, and wasn't even bringing in enough money to pay the interest on the borrowing that was done to keep operations going (in 2015, the state collected just $750 million from the gas tax while incurring an annual debt cost of $1.1 billion).  Even so, Senator Oroho knew exactly where to draw the line... at the minimalist 23 cents and not the 40 cents the Democrats plausibly argued for.

In the end, the engineer got the job done.  Senator Steve Oroho emerged from the boiler room triumphant.  He ended the Estate Tax and secured tax cuts for retirees, veterans, small businesses, farmers, consumers, and low-income workers.  He secured property tax relief by doubling the TTF's local financial aid to towns and counties -- and prevented a $500 per household property tax hike.  He made out-of-state drivers pay for using New Jersey's roads -- and ensured that New Jerseyans will continue to have safe roads and bridges to drive on.

Oroho's tax cuts were praised by conservative groups like Americans for Tax Reform and conservative publications like Forbes, which called his tax cuts "one of the 5 best state and local tax policy changes in 2016 nationwide." 

That's getting something done.   

Murphy wants to raise taxes. Pity there's not enough GOP legislators to stop him.

And whose fault is that?

The NJGOP Establishment's second blog (both appeared during the Christie Project, the New Jersey Globe being the latest incarnation of the project's first one) decided to prate a bit over Governor Phil Murphy's threat to undo part of the compromise reached in 2016 and raise the state sales tax to 7 percent.  The NJGOP Establishment's blog thinks this an "I told you so" moment when, as anyone with even a little gray matter should know, Governor Murphy was not part of the 2016 compromise, as he did not take office until January of 2018.

In fact, the compromise is working very well for New Jersey.  The state's infrastructure is being repaired, restored, and improved upon.  Out-of-state drivers who use our roads have assumed more of the responsibility for paying for them.  More infrastructure funding is flowing to counties and municipalities, with the result that property taxes are being held in check or -- in some cases -- actually reduced.  And revenues from state taxes -- in particular, the state income tax -- are increasing above projections.  Now the Democrats who control the Legislature (some of whom participated in the 2016 compromise) might wish to jeopardize this in order to fulfill the election promises made by candidate Murphy, or they might not.  Time will tell.

The Establishment blog makes an argument against legislative compromise, calling it "unadulterated BS."  Of course, the writer cannot be so stupid as to fail to see that the Founders of our Republic fashioned a system to ensure such compromise.  Indeed, compromise has been the working necessity of every representative democracy since the beginning of Western history. 

Now compromise is quite different than surrender.  Compromise is when you give something and get something back in return.  Like re-funding the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) through an increase in the gas tax for doing away with the Estate Tax, plus four other taxes, while doubling the flow of money to counties and municipalities for property tax relief. 

This is different from what the NJGOP normally does.  Because what the NJGOP normally does is to provide votes for far-left Democrat legislation for free -- for NOTHING in return.  Yes, they just give it away.  Like they did on legislation to end the death penalty, impose the Highlands Act, fund Planned Parenthood, give tax money to illegal immigrants, pass the original sales tax increase, and gut the Second Amendment.  Heck, the other day, legislators in the NJGOP leadership cast their votes to allow people to re-write their own birth certificates and pretend that they were born one way, when they (as a matter of genetic science) were born another.  It seems science only matters when we're talking climate change. 

They gave away all this for free... and got back NOTHING in return.  And our Establishment blog criticized it not a word.

The Establishment blog complains bitterly about the lack of leadership from the NJGOP.  We agree.  The Establishment blog claims that the "gas tax increase" could have been "weaponized" for the 2017 elections.  It could have been, but that would have meant NJGOP leadership -- up front.  Instead, the GOP Senate Leader gave encouragement to both Pro and Anti compromise leaders, never actually choosing a side until it didn't matter.  In the Assembly, it was no different, waiting for word from the Governor.  As for the state party, well only a fool would have looked to them for leadership.

You cannot blame people for not following, when you will not lead!

Having no principles or platform beyond that which bellowed from a single man (apart from those placed into his head by a small coterie of handlers) the NJGOP was NEVER going to "weaponize" the gas tax or indeed anything else.  Ha!  The NJGOP failed to "weaponize" the twenty-point election landslide of a sitting Republican Governor!!!

As for Kim Guadagno.  She did a dance all right.  She literally danced with the LGBT Left and the Pro-Aborts until realizing too late that they already had a perfectly fine candidate to vote for in Phil Murphy (and he's a DEMOCRAT too!)  When Guadagno's campaign team finally decided it was time to motivate the base, it was just weeks before Election Day and way too late.  The 2017 Guadagno campaign team (the same moes who managed to lose an incumbent Republican Congressman in 2016) have been rewarded by getting to run Bob Hugin's campaign for U.S. Senate this year.  Hey, it's the NJGOP, and nothing gets you promoted quicker than a crushing defeat -- the more, the better.

And that's the heart of the matter, isn't it?  The NJGOP are losers.  They are content to lose.  After eight years of having all resources directed at one entity and everyone else being told they had to lose rather than disrespect some scumbag deal with some disreputable Democrat, the NJGOP has adjusted to losing.  That's why so many of its "leaders" are "lobbyists" -- eels feeding off the bloated carcass that once held a majority in both Chambers and the Governor's office.  The NJGOP's leaders are literally in business with the Democrats.

Don't expect any of this to change any time soon.  There are still crumbs to be gathered, still bits of the carcass to eat off.  Only yesterday, the "mastermind" of Christie project visited a legislative caucus to bask in the praise of NJGOP leaders (reminiscent of the video below).  Under this "mastermind" the NJGOP lost ground in EVERY election cycle, even as "love" for the entity grew.  Christie was elected with legislative control a very real prospect... and left with a hollowed out party and legislative numbers so low that you have to go back to the period just after Watergate.

For his next act... the "mastermind" wants to de-conservative the NJGOP.  Get rid of all those folks who persist in having principles or who continue thinking in terms of the RNC platform.  They gotta go.  What needs to replace them are Republican candidates with the principles of... LOBBYISTS. 

Before the NJGOP Establishment thinks about providing us with another lecture, it should put these few things in place first:

(1) Get Republican leaders who aren't conflicted by having business dealings with Democrats.  Make sure they support the RNC platform.  Otherwise, it's like having a Roman Catholic leader who doesn't believe in Transubstantiation. 

(2) Sell Republican principles, ideas, solutions.  Lead.  Recruit candidates accordingly.  Build the party up by recruiting and sustaining believers. 

(3) Hire people who win elections.  Don't expect someone who has never tasted victory to find it.  That's like asking the wrong dog to sniff out a hamburger stand.  What you'll end up at is a truck stop shithouse.

You have to hand it to this Senator, she has balls

She loudly campaigned against the tax reform package, proposed an alternative plan that scrapped every tax cut, vilified everyone who supported Tax Reform as the worst sorts of human beings, became a media darling by dumping on her fellow Republicans, voted against Tax Reform with its Estate Tax phase out and tax cut for retirees -- and then turned around and took credit for the very tax cuts she opposed.  That's some balls.

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Much like those heroes at AFP who put out a fundraising appeal that took credit for passing the Estate Tax phase out and four other tax cuts worth $1.4 billion to taxpayers but failed to mention that AFP opposed the legislation that was painstaking negotiated to achieve those tax cuts.  AFP wants credit for the work others did and instead of helping, AFP pissed on the people who did the work while they were doing it.  Then AFP memorialize it by taking a dump on them with its screw card.  Real scumbag behavior. 

So why is Senator Tom Kean Jr. celebrating with AFP on April 24th? 

Bankrupting the TTF is a Pyrrhic victory

"A Pyrrhic victory is a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat. Someone who wins a Pyrrhic victory has been victorious in some way. However, the heavy toll negates any sense of achievement or profit.  The phrase Pyrrhic victory is named after king Pyrrhus of Epirus, whose army suffered irreplaceable casualties in defeating the Romans at Heraclea in 280 BC and Asculum in 279 BC during the Pyrrhic War."  Pyrrhus said of his victory at Heraclea, "one more such victory and I will be utterly undone."

It is beginning to look as if elements of the GOP, the talk radio wing of the populist movement, and the petroleum industry (including AFP) have got their way so that in 16 short months we will see an increase in the tax on gasoline without any accompanying tax cuts.  The phase out of the Estate Tax -- long a conservative dream, long a priority of groups like AFP -- which was so close, will be gone, perhaps for a decade or two or forever. 

Economists will continue to advise people to take their money and flee New Jersey upon reaching retirement age -- so the flight of wealth, which could have been checked by the elimination of the tax on retirement income, will continue unabated.  Instead of making their donations to New Jersey charities, those donations will go to charities in states like Florida and North Carolina.

Early in 2018, the Transportation Trust Fund will finally be funded -- but low income working people and commuters and seniors and military veterans will not get their tax cuts.  They will be off the table -- and if they find their way back into legislation, the Republicans will have nothing to do with it.  It will be a gift, in whole, from the Democrats.

The crisis brought by willfully bankrupting the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) is already causing county and local governments to consider raising property taxes to cover the shortfall in road and bridge repair funding that had been provided by the TTF.  The bill will come due next year -- when the whole Legislature and the Governor's office is up before the voters.  If a 23 cents per gallon increase in the tax on gasoline had been passed in June, the decline in the retail price per gallon since would have made up for that 23 cents and more.  The increase in property taxes brought on by the bankruptcy of the TTF will not be so painless. 

But still, there are some in the GOP who look on the "no gas tax" message as the gimmick they need to at least hang on to what they have in the Legislature.  It is easy to chant, so that even the very stupid can understand it.  It is to be the GOP version of "Black Lives Matter" -- and is meant to be just as angry and misdirected and violent.  For hatred of "the police", substitute "Trenton" and you have it in a nutshell (or case).

In fact, what the NJGOP needs are well-thought-out, adult, fully-fledged policies -- policies that are informed by principles.  Once you have these, any old advertising executive can figure out how to message it, package it, sell it.  The problem with the NJGOP is that they have nothing to sell.  So it ends up selling mistrust, anger, and even hate.  That's not a product to be proud of.

The conservative movement has found itself here before.  In the 1970's there were two competing brands -- the angry, emotional, populist "conservatism" of George Wallace (a Southern Democrat); and the optimistic, ideas-driven, ideological conservatism of Ronald Reagan (a California Republican).  Happily Reagan's ideas won out over Wallace's anger.  Today, it sometimes seems like it's anger on steroids.

The dearth of principle is such and the anger so keen that there are those out there who have turned a rather pedestrian decision about how to fund road and bridge maintenance (a users' tax on gasoline vs. property taxes vs. the general fund and so on) into a question as serious as "when does life begin"  or "does the state have the right to impose the death penalty"?  These are roads we are talking about -- there's nothing metaphysical about a road -- presumably we all agree that we need roads and we assume there's nobody out there who thinks they get built and maintained for free by the Keebler elves.

But the hatred -- both fringe and corporate -- has been astounding.  President Reagan himself believed in users' taxes as a fair form of taxation and raised the tax on gasoline as the fairest way to fund transportation projects.  But that hasn't stopped fringe folk like tea partier Mark Quick and NJ101.5's Bill Spadea from cranking up the hate.  They make it sound like a debate over transubstantiation. 

The world is going to hell and these people are making the means to fund road and bridge maintenance an article of faith.  How intellectually bankrupt must they be?

America is under an intense and sustained threat from abroad and elements of that threat are possibly slipping undetected through our borders.  Our economy has turned grey -- with unemployment and underemployment, foreclosure and poverty, as its major features.  Our culture is being frog-marched in a direction chosen, not at the ballot box, not by the people, but by elites in (of all things) the entertainment industry and their corporate and judicial fellow-travelers.  Nothing democratic about it.  In the history of this Republic, have people of faith ever been less fashionable and more under threat? 

Instead of standing up for freedom of conscience, what calls itself "Republican" now, what calls itself "conservative", the best they can muster is an appeal to a gimme.  The cost per gallon hasn't kept up with inflation, hasn't gone up in 28 years, states like Pennsylvania pay over 50 cents a gallon for their roads while we pay just 14 1/2 cents, but I don't care I want mine and I want it cheap, and I don't care if my daughter has to shower with a sex offender or if my church is closed down because its practice offends the ruling fashion.  I want cheap gas!

Well, for the next 16 months, you will.  While every other problem ignored gets worse.  This is what we are now.