Bramnick has a message. Will NJ Republicans follow?

Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick recently released this most excellent video.  Bramnick starts by detailing what Republicans are against

But then, more importantly, Bramnick lays out three solid policy positions that points New Jersey Republicans in the direction of what we should be for

(1) Cap State Spending at 2% (just like local government spending is capped).

(2) Cut the State Income Tax by 10% (make NJ more competitive w. other states).

(3) Full Deduction of Property Taxes on the State Income Tax (a move that takes the property tax issue away from Democrats like Andy Kim, Mikie Sherrill, and Josh Gottheimer).

In the video, Bramnick is engaging, folksy, and compelling.  So finally, here is the core of something to move the Republican Party forward.  So why isn’t everyone banging the same drum? 

Two days after Bramnick’s video went up on Youtube, the NJGOP – the State Republican Party – blasted out its weekly newsletter via email.  There was some very good stuff in there.  Unfortunately, the Assembly Republican Leader’s video was not part of the newsletter.  An oversight that should be corrected at the earliest opportunity. 

On Thursday, the Garden State Initiative – a free-market, pro-business think tank – held a meeting about the state of New Jersey’s economy and how it can be improved.  All the experts present agreed that the business climate went south after the Democrats gained control over the Legislature, nearly two decades ago.

That said, the most prominent plan for recovery featured at the gathering was the one put forward by Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat and so a leader in the party responsible for the downturn in the first place.  As with legislation protecting the Bill of Rights (specifically the 2nd Amendment) and culturally traditionalist social legislation (like the Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Protection Act), the Senate President will always be handicapped in how much he can accomplish by his need to appease the far-Left of his party’s caucus.  In the end, Sweeney will go as far as Leftist Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg allows him to go – and is anyone under the illusion that this Marxist-lite fellow-traveler is pro-business or pro-taxpayer?

In a column published on his Save Jersey news website, Matt Rooney brilliantly dissected the Trenton Democrats last week…  

We hear a lot about the “working class” from Trenton, but each and every policy and budget are designed to put the screws to taxpayers in favor of keeping these rich guys and their power structures chugging right along.

What I’m saying is that Democrats’ lofty rhetoric doesn’t match their reality. On either side of this fight. New Jersey’s true form of government is a blend of socialism and oligarchy (with a sprinkle of kleptocracy for good measure).

So why aren’t pro-business and pro-taxpayer forces pushing the Republican Plan put forward by Bramnick and making its three points the basis of not only the recovery of our party’s fortunes, but those of the state’s taxpayers?  Why aren’t they pulling together behind the Bramnick plan, then building on it, to tackle the obvious divide between the haves (those municipalities who bathe in money, courtesy of the Abbott decision) and the have nots (those who pay the highest property taxes in America)?   

As New Jersey 101.5’s Dennis Malloy recently noted, the public frustration over property taxes and government in the Garden State is stifling:  “Being the state with the highest property taxes in the nation used to be the number one issue in almost any campaign for public office in New Jersey. Lately, (crickets)! Why? …most people have given up hope that it will ever be normal or fair or affordable to most people. There is no one on the horizon with the guts to be honest about it and promise to fix it…” 

And yet, in the midst of this frustration, there are thousands of brave souls who are spending their time and energy – both in and outside social media – to address the oppression of their neighbors and fellow taxpayers.  Too often, they find themselves on their own, without the assistance or direction from the Republican Party, the business community, or even established figures within the state’s conservative movement. 

Take the grassroots effort to Recall Governor Phil Murphy, as an example.  This effort is in the process of training hundreds of volunteers in the basics of one-on-one political outreach that could be harvested in future GOTV operations.  But is anyone providing them with any real assistance?  Listen to this appeal from one of the most effective recall leaders, Bill Hayden of Sussex County:

https://www.facebook.com/raidenhayden/videos/10214053859525724/?notif_id=1557702128406942&notif_t=live_video

In May 1940, the allied armies of France, Great Britain, Belgium, and the Netherlands faced the threat posed by a newly re-armed Germany.  One of the great myths about the Fall of France is that the Germans had more tanks.  They did not.  In numbers, weaponry, and armor-protection, the German tanks were outclassed by those of the French Army and its allies.  So why did the Germans so easily over-power the superior tanks of the French?

The French used their tanks piecemeal and fought actions individually.  Many were not even equipped with radios.  The Germans fought coordinated actions, in which not only individual tanks within a unit fought in support of each other, but entire units worked in concert with other units to achieve a particular goal.  It wasn’t hardware that won the battle, but tactics – how the hardware was used. 

The three major units of New Jersey’s Republican Party – the State Committee (NJGOP), the Senate Republican Majority (SRM), and the Assembly Republican Victory (ARV) – do not work in concert or present a unified message or vision.  From there is gets worse.  Each county, each candidate, each club marches to its own beat.  And the party is barely on speaking terms with the movement conservatives who make up its base and constitute its most loyal voters.  Working together could amplify a message and make it punch through to distracted voters.  But instead of amplification, we have a cacophony of murmurs, each from its own silo.   

Jon Bramnick has offered a simple, three-point way forward.  Everyone should amplify it.  That would make a start at working in concert.

At Thursday’s meeting, Garden State Initiative President Regina Egea said voters should ask every politician how they intend to lower the cost of living and the cost of doing business.  The Bramnick Plan provides the answers.

Regina Egea: Connecticut’s housing crash a warning for NJ

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The Garden State Initiative’s Regina Egea has once again brought home some hard truths that New Jersey’s political class had better embrace.  Egea is one of the smartest thinkers on public policy in New Jersey.  An M.B.A., former AT&T executive, state Treasury Department official, and Governor’s Chief of Staff – Egea also served in local government as a Deputy Mayor and School Board Member.  As President of the Garden State Initiative, she’s been collecting data, studying issues, and coming up with solutions to New Jersey’s most pressing fiscal concerns.

On May 9th you too can be part of the solution.  The Garden State Initiative will be holding its 2nd Annual Economic Policy Forum.  Join policy leaders like Senator Steve Oroho, Senator Declan O’Scanlon, and Senate President Steve Sweeney in a discussion about the future of New Jersey.  The details are below:

Garden State Initiative's 2nd Annual
Economic Policy Forum  
Thursday, May 9th, 4 to 6 pm
Hyatt Regency - New Brunswick

Egea recently wrote:  The Garden State Initiative's first research report in 2017, “Connecticut’s Fiscal Crisis Is a Cautionary Tale for New Jersey”, detailed how our neighbor up I-95, with its struggling economy, saddled with massive public debt and high taxes, served as a ‘canary in the coal mine’ for New Jersey unless we take the necessary measures to get our own fiscal house in order.”

Below are excerpts from Regina Egea’s op-ed published today in the Bergen Record and NorthJersey.com:

A recent Wall Street Journal report, “Wealthy Greenwich Home Sellers Give in to Market Reality,” on Connecticut’s real estate market should concern all New Jersey residents.

The report documents a severe price decline among high-end real estate in the Nutmeg State’s most exclusive areas, notably Greenwich, long a symbol of modern American affluence. Despite America’s booming economy, the report cited numerous reports of owners selling homes for far below what they paid a decade or more ago. 

This was typically preceded by these homeowners' establishing residences in more fiscally attractive states like Florida. (Sound familiar, New Jersey?)

The evidence is staggering. The median home price in Greenwich dropped by 16.7% last year to $1.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to a report by brokerage Douglas Elliman, with early reports showing a 25% decrease in early 2019. In a jarring anecdote, the Journal cited “a stately Colonial-style home on Greenwich, Conn.’s tony Round Hill Road is being sold in a way that was once unthinkable in one of the country’s most affluent communities: It is getting auctioned off. Once asking $3.795 million, the four-bedroom property will be sold … for a reserve price of just $1.8 million.”

…The storm that is currently hitting Connecticut’s real estate market has clouds gathering in New Jersey.

When the wealthy flee a state, sustaining massive losses on their homes in the process, it is unfortunate for the individual but likely devastating for those remaining, particularly if this occurs in New Jersey due to our extraordinary reliance on property tax revenues to sustain local governments and schools. 

The research firm Wealth X reported that New Jersey lost 5,700 people with liquid assets from $1 million to $30 million in 2018 — and that’s before the implications of the state and local tax (SALT) cap on federal taxes were truly felt. Recent reports indicate that New Jersey’s income tax receipts are falling well below projections.

Discussions around yet another tax increase on the wealthy, to fund the nearly $40 billion state budget, will only exacerbate the exodus of wealth. As reference, Connecticut has a top marginal tax rate of 6.99%; last year’s budget agreement increased New Jersey’s to 10.75%. The top 2% of all New Jersey income tax filers (those making $500,000 per year) account for over 40% of all income tax revenue to the state. Since close to 40% of state revenues are from personal income taxes, increasing dependence on this group exacerbates our vulnerability at both the state and local levels. An individual loss in this income category reverberates throughout the state.

The risk now is not just those wealthy fleeing our state. As high-end real estate values deflate, as in Greenwich, the taxes to support our local governments and schools will be redistributed to moderate- and lower-value property owners.

A recent Monmouth University poll illustrates that New Jersey residents’ views of the quality of life in our state are tumbling to an all-time low. The latest poll shows that only 50% of residents are positive, down from the prior result of 54%, and in no surprise, 45% of residents named property taxes as the state’s most pressing issue.

To read the entire article, visit NorthJersey.com

https://www.northjersey.com/story/opinion/2019/04/29/connecticut-housing-crash-predictive-nj/ 

For more information on The Garden State Initiative, visit…

https://www.gardenstateinitiative.org

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.

Regina Egea: Why can’t NJ do what Massachusetts did?

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Regina Egea is one of the smartest thinkers on public policy in New Jersey.  An M.B.A., former AT&T executive, state Treasury Department official, and Governor’s Chief of Staff – Egea also served in local government as a Deputy Mayor and School Board Member.  As President of the Garden State Initiative, she is collecting the data, studying the issues, and coming up with solutions to New Jersey’s most pressing fiscal concerns.

For New Jersey Republicans, she’s a breath of fresh air in a political culture too often dominated by stale thinking.  If the NJGOP wants to seriously contest for power again, it will be folks like Regina Egea who will provide the policy prescriptions that will inform the narrative on why Republicans should be elected.

Egea recently wrote:  “It is clear that we are at our ‘fork in the road’ in New Jersey and there’s a clear path to improve our economy. Massachusetts decided a generation ago to shed its ‘Taxachussetts’ label and cut its taxes by 25% between 1977 and 2014 while growing its economy and maintaining a public school system at the top of national rankings at a lower cost per pupil than New Jersey… we need leadership now willing to make the necessary reforms to reduce spending in Trenton and throughout New Jersey governments before ‘it’s over.’”

Below are excerpts from Regina Egea’s op-ed published yesterday in the Star-Ledger and on NJ.com:

“New Jersey… is losing income tax revenue. Using 2015-16 IRS data, the Bank of America analysis indicates that high tax states – such as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and California – are currently experiencing a net loss of high income earners (defined by the Internal Revenue Service). Florida, which has no state income tax, experienced a net gain of over $17 billion in income between 2015 and 2016… In this same time period, New Jersey experienced a loss of approximately $3 billion.”

“The research firm Wealth X reported New Jersey lost 5,700 people with liquid assets between $1 million-$30 million in 2018 – and that’s before the implications of the state and local tax (SALT) cap on federal taxes have truly been felt.”

“The Bank of America also references a February TheHill.com article citing U.S. Census data that states growing in population are usually ‘the same states with lower tax and regulatory burdens, lower government debt and greater transparency and accountability for government spending.’”

“Ironically, New Jersey is turning being home to a relatively high number of ‘millionaires’ into a strategic vulnerability. The top 2 percent of all N.J. income tax filers (who make more than $500,000 per year) account for over 40 percent of all income tax revenue to the state. Since close to 40 percent of state revenues are from personal income taxes, that means more than a third of all state revenues come from the top 1 percent of residents. Increasing dependence on revenue from this group exacerbates our vulnerability. An individual loss in this income category reverberates throughout the state.”

“Now we’re at New Jersey’s ‘Fork in the Road.’ An example of one alternate path is just up I-95 in Massachusetts, where the highest marginal personal income tax rate is just 5 percent, compared to New Jersey where the rate is 10.75 percent (third-highest in the nation). Our second highest in the nation corporate income tax rate of 11.5 percent will inevitably lead to market share loss to not just Massachusetts’ 8 percent rate but other attractive states like North Carolina’s 2.5 percent rate, which helped to lure Honeywell from New Jersey.”

“Massachusetts solidly outflanks the Garden State when it comes to property taxes ($37 versus $51 per $1,000 of personal income) as well as the size of public workforces: theirs is 8 percent smaller than New Jersey.  And Massachusetts, whose annual K-12 education performance closely rivals New Jersey’s, spends nearly 20 percent less on a per pupil basis.”

To read Regina Egea’s entire op-ed, click the link below:

https://www.nj.com/opinion/2019/04/nj-is-at-a-fork-in-the-road-policy-group-says-its-time-to-take-the-less-taxing-path.html

For more information on the Garden State Initiative, explore their website:

https://www.gardenstateinitiative.org/