The NJGOP is broadening its base under Steinhardt

In last week’s column comparing the state fiscal rescue plan put forward by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-03) with the tax-cut plan backed by Republican Assembly Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21), we wrote :  “This situation might be different if New Jersey Republicans had taken the time to build a base of small dollar donors and activists.  But as fundraiser Ali Steinstra noted at the March NJGOP Leadership Summit, broad-based Republican fundraising can only be accomplished by appeals to the party’s conservative base.   

The GOP establishment in New Jersey is barely on speaking terms with its base, so the ground has not been prepared.  We have no equivalent to what the NJEA and the Norcross super PACs will throw against us, so pissing on a hornet’s nest probably isn’t a good idea.  At this moment in time, it is more likely to motivate the kind of turnout that will cost us another four or more seats in November.

Assembly Leader Bramnick has a sensible, Republican plan that addresses the problem of spending and taxation.  It avoids drawing fire from well-organized, well-funded interest groups.  Those on the ballot this year have a choice to make.”

Apparently we had failed to notice that under the leadership of Chairman Doug Steinhardt, the Republican State Committee (NJGOP) has been pioneering new methods of grassroots fundraising, including the use of “investor reports” to set goals and inspire donors.  The idea of investor reports was summed up by Chairman Steinhardt:  “You don’t invest in a business without a prospectus or something else that lets you know it’s a good investment. We created these with the same idea in mind. It’s been very successful.”

 Some highlights of the NJGOP’s success:
- There were just 68 active donors when Chairman Steinhardt took over.
- As of March 30th, there were more than 1800 active donors. 
- Of these 79% were small dollar donors (under $200).
- There has been a 29% increase in new donors in 2019.
- 2019 had the best first quarter fundraising since 2015 (accomplished without a Governor in office and after the set-backs of 2018).
- The NJGOP team of 3 full and 2 part time employees have logged 20,000 miles to grass roots events as of April 30 vs 25,000 in all of 2018.

Chairman Steinhardt noted that that the NJGOP was “reconnecting with Republicans and it’s showing.”  Kudos to the Chairman and his team.

Bramnick vs. Sweeney: The politics of competing plans

Good for Jim Florio… at least he remembers who he is.

When asked whether or not he would endorse law partner Doug Steinhardt for Governor, the former Governor put it very simply:  “He’s not the right party as far as I’m concerned.  I would not vote for him.  I’m a Democratic voter.”

Doug is the Chairman of the Republican State Committee.  The two are partners at Florio Perrucci Steinhardt & Cappelli.  This insight came courtesy of that doyen of bloggers… David Wildstein. 

But hey, Florio gets it.  Party means something.

It is the job of the leader of every legislative party caucus – the Speaker, the Senate President, and the minority leaders – to defend and expand their caucus at the expense of the other side.  Those are the rules.  It is first and foremost.  We all understand this.

Last week, Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick rolled out his plan for addressing New Jersey’s fiscal crisis.  It was a direct appeal to elect more Republicans to the Assembly and centered on what they would do if elected.

Bramnick did exactly what he needed to do.  After pointing out the fiscal evils perpetrated by legislative Democrats, 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 a political sense, the Assembly Republican Leader’s plan does not demonize any organized, well-funded interest groups – it simply starves government for the benefit of taxpayers.  Bramnick makes war on spending, not people.  And that is good politics.    

Bramnick avoids the mistake made in 2015 by then Governor Chris Christie and his Republican Party.  Christie’s pension/health benefits commission called for many changes but he went further and directly confronted the unions and their members, demonizing them in the process.  Christie inadvertently created well-organized, well-financed cells of opposition in every Republican district in the state. 

Like this year, 2015 was a low-turnout election with the Assembly at the top of the ticket.  Public employee unions targeted Republicans and Democrat super PACs – including those controlled by George Norcross – poured money into the campaigns of Democrat challengers.  Republicans lost four seats – four friends by the names of Donna, Caroline, Mary Pat, and Sam.

Yesterday, Senate President Steve Sweeney announced his “bi-partisan” plan that targets many of the same people that Governor Christie pissed off in 2015.  It should be noted that Sweeney’s plan was formally rolled out after the filing deadline for the Democrat primary.  Unfortunately for Republicans… it is some months until the November election.

This is not about the merits of the “bi-partisan plan” but rather, it is about the politics and timing of the plan.   

Are Republicans in danger of repeating 2015 again? 

Will the super PACS’s controlled by Sweeney allies like George Norcross back up every Republican legislator on the ballot this year?  Or will they stay true to form and support their Democrat challengers?  Will the Republicans on the ballot this year end up getting it from both ends?

This situation might be different if New Jersey Republicans had taken the time to build a base of small dollar donors and activists.  But as fundraiser Ali Steinstra noted at the March NJGOP Leadership Summit, broad-based Republican fundraising can only be accomplished by appeals to the party’s conservative base.   

The GOP establishment in New Jersey is barely on speaking terms with its base, so the ground has not been prepared.  We have no equivalent to what the NJEA and the Norcross super PACs will throw against us, so pissing on a hornet’s nest probably isn’t a good idea.  At this moment in time, it is more likely to motivate the kind of turnout that will cost us another four or more seats in November.

Assembly Leader Bramnick has a sensible, Republican plan that addresses the problem of spending and taxation.  It avoids drawing fire from well-organized, well-funded interest groups.  Those on the ballot this year have a choice to make.

Matt Rooney calls out the Democrats on their hypocrisy

This is a must read from Matt Rooney – one of New Jersey brightest Republican stars (and, hopefully, a future candidate for public office).  Rooney is a South Jersey attorney and editor of the Save Jersey news website.  He often teams up with NJ 101.5’s Bill Spadea both on radio and on Fox’s Chasing News program.

Rooney’s latest column is titled, As rich white guys battle for control, N.J. Democrats’ rhetoric doesn’t match their reality.  In it, Rooney makes these important points:  

For all the progressive/woke/social justice warrior BS we hear from New Jersey Democrats these days, their party’s power structure is remarkably simple and boils down to two mega rich white guys (Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive and Norcross, a labor leader turned insurance industry titan) battling over the Garden State’s Iron Throne.

Power, money, tax credits, crony capitalism, special legislation… even loyalty oaths.

…My issue here is one of intellectual integrity. The public sector unions are powerful, you bet, but the NJEA couldn’t touch Steve Sweeney (the Senate President and the Norcross-led machine’s top elected asset) in the 2017 election.

Diversity gets a lot of lip service from the Left in this state, but New Jersey’s most powerful Democrat decision-makers (Murphy, Sweeney, Norcross, Assembly Speaker Coughlin) are all older white dudes. 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).

They may disagree with one another on tax credits and a small handful of other issues, but Leftist economic policies supported by both sides of the Murphy-Norcross divide haven’t helped the Middle Class in this state. New Jersey’s women, minority communities, and millennials are being left out of the economic BOOM sweeping the rest of the country as a direct result of the aforementioned bad decision and sometimes self-serving business decisions of the Democrat power elite which has dominated the legislature (and therefore Trenton) for almost two full decades.

Helping the Middle Class = lowering property taxes. None of these guys are talking about that. Ever wonder why?

Yes, why indeed?

You can read Matt Rooney’s entire column here…

https://savejersey.com/2019/05/as-rich-white-guys-battle-for-control-n-j-democrats-rhetoric-doesnt-match-their-reality/

The people who teach our children are shilling for a human trafficker. Yes, the world is a bad place.

Throughout the confirmation process of Brett Kavanaugh, we heard a lot from the Democrats and their allies – from newcomers like Antifa and the Women’s March to usual suspects like NOW and the NJEA.  We heard them shout in unison about “accusations” and “FBI investigations” – and how these things are enough to block someone from high office.  Well, there were enough allegations against Senator Bob Menendez, for President Obama’s Justice Department to indict him on federal corruption charges and to take him to trial.  It ended in a mistrial.  Out of that came a formal admonishment by the Senate Ethics Committee in April of this year.

What came out of the FBI investigation was that Senator Menendez was helping to bring young women into the United States for his friend and donor, Salomon Melgen to use as sexual objects.  It is our opinion that these women were being trafficked for sexual purposes and the FBI investigation appears to have led to the same conclusion. 

As was reported in the national and New York media, the FBI investigation came up with “corroborating evidence” concerning uncharged allegations of underage prostitution.  Specifically, prosecutors claim that the Senator and his donor friend traveled to the Dominican Republic to have sex with prostitutes, some of whom would have been underaged. 

If, in the era of #MeTooism, allegations are enough – as we were endlessly told by the Democrats and their Antifa allies – then why are Democrats and groups like the NJEA supporting Bob Menendez?  Why are they allowing RealPolitik to trump #MeTooism?

There is a lot more evidence of #MeTooism with Senator Menendez than ever existed in the case of Brett Kavanaugh.  And yet we still hear the self-serving dribble from the likes of Democrat congressional candidates Mikie Sherrill, Tom Malinowski, and Andy Kim.  Not to mention Senator Cory Booker – who wants to turn Israel, or what would remain of it after he removed their defensive wall, into a vast Yugoslav-style rape camp.  Does anyone doubt what would happen to the Israeli population – particularly its women and children – if they were ever turned over to the tender mercies of Hamas, Hezbollah, or even the garden variety governments of its “neighbors”?

In addition to their hypocritical support of Menendez and opposition to Kavanaugh, the indictments against these three candidates are as follows:

Mikie Sherrill worked with far-left radical elements allied with Antifa and the Jihadist Linda Sarsour (a racist allied with Louis Farrakhan) to drive out a moderate, bi-partisan member of Congress, who had served in-country during the Vietnam War.  They knew he was elderly and in failing health, but they worked on him until he had to give up.

Tom Malinowski turned a career as a human rights advocate on its head when he joined Obama’s Clinton-Kerry State Department and promptly became an apologist for those who use slave labor and who engage in human trafficking and the exploitation of women and children.  Far from standing up to dictators and authoritarian governments, he made excuses for them.

Andy Kim is one of the founders of “The Resistance.”  And he has lied about his record from the first – at one point even describing himself or allowing himself to be described as a “veteran” when he has never served in the military.  Now he’s running on a ticket that includes – not only Senator Menendez – but a Freeholder candidate who has been arrested for domestic violence and who had stalking complaints filed against him. 

These candidates are not pro-women or pro-anything, they are Democrat Party politicians looking for votes, and they will do anything or say anything to get them.  They are committed to getting power so that they can take away YOUR freedom.

So now we know how far they’ll go.  What are we going to do to stop them?  How determined are we?  Are we determined enough to tell our neighbors about their hypocrisy?  Are we determined enough to stand up after the church social and put it out there?  Are we determined enough to let everyone we know on Facebook where we stand and what the stakes are?  Or are we too pussy to do any of that?

Republicans who want to stay pussies are not going to make this fight any easier.

Don’t be pussies.  There’s too much at stake.  At the very least, think of those young women – the trafficked and the sexually exploited – those women the NJEA and Mikie Sherrill, Tom Malinowski, and Andy Kim conveniently forgot about.

Now go to it and motivate your friends, family, and neighbors to vote for reform.  Go to it like you really mean it… and don’t be afraid if the coddlers of human traffickers and sexual exploitation call you names.  Suck it up.  Embrace it.

Why are NJ property taxes the nation’s highest?

By: William Eames

For many years, the Tax Foundation has listed New Jersey as having the nation’s highest property taxes.

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 [1]  Why are they so high?  And why do most folks believe they are powerless to do anything about it?

      First, is it true?  NJ property taxes are higher, per capita, than others.  The Tax Foundation’s ratings[2] rank New Jersey #1 in the nation (highest property taxes per capita) for each of the past five years.

  • 2018:  NJ ranks #1 (highest) in property taxes; #50 (worst) in overall tax climate. (data from 2016)  For reference, in property taxes, California ranks 34th!

  • 2017:  NJ ranked #1 (data from 2015)[3]; In overall taxes, NJ Ranked 50th (worst).

  • 2016:  NJ ranked #1 (highest property taxes per capita)(data from 2014)[4]

  • 2015: NJ ranked #1 (highest property taxes per capita)(data from 2013)[5]

  • 2014:  NJ ranked #1 (highest property taxes per capita)(data from 2012)[6]

Seven Key Reasons

      Most folks tend to blame our high property taxes on schools or the “Mount Laurel” school funding decisions by the courts.  But there are other causes.  Susan Livio of NJ Advance Media, writing last year for NJ.com[7], listed these:

  1. Our population density – of the states, NJ has the highest population density.[8]

  2. High labor costs – in the Industrial Era, it was demand that produced high labor costs, but during the Progressive Era and beyond, labor rules and guaranteed benefits have put us near the top.

  3. Generally high cost of living – The population density, proximity to both New York and Philadelphia, and demand for housing, utilities, high quality medical services … all boost costs.

  4. Property taxes pay most of the costs – While New Jersey taxes just about everything imaginable, it has historically grouped municipal operations, county operations, the lower courts, jails, and schools under the “property tax” umbrella.  In other states, some of those costs are paid by sales taxes or local income taxes.

  5. Home rule – This is a point of debate.  Some argue having 565 municipalities, 21 counties and 605 school districts increases costs; others argue that having decision makers close to the taxpayers (“we know where you live”) helps hold spending down. 

  6. Public worker pensions & health care costs – This is not in dispute.  The public policy decisions in the 1930s and 1940s to allow governments to offer defined benefit pensions and lifetime health benefits to public employees … and often keep those costs off budget … are now wreaking financial havoc.  Those policies allowed governments to skip putting money into pensions and health funds paycheck by paycheck, and allowed them to pass costs forward, only paying once folks retired.  Kick the can down the road.  This is changing slowly, but the damage of under-funding these programs may result in fiscal insolvency in the next decade.

  7. Education costs – New Jersey has good schools, based on the reports.  But it costs a lot to get those results, and decisions in the 1970s to significantly boost starting salaries boosted costs significantly.

A Deeper Look

      But if we take a deeper look, our position as one of the original colonies, as a center for the Industrial Revolution, and our dubious reputation for hosting several of the world’s most progressive liberals (think Woodrow Wilson) all play a role.  Consider:

  • In 1875, the 1844 NJ Constitution was amended by adding the infamous “thorough and efficient” clause:  “The [NJ] Legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of free public schools for the instruction of all the children in this State between the ages of five and eighteen years.”  This obligation was carried forward, verbatim, into the 1947 rewrite of the NJ Constitution.  The intent was an outgrowth of this colony’s Quaker origins, and a recognition of the importance (as observed by Alexis de Tocqueville) of enabling each citizen to read.  At the time, the verbalized intent was for the State to pay education costs.  But almost immediately, the State began pushing those costs to towns.

  • New Jersey’s own Woodrow Wilson, - as president of Princeton University, then as governor of NJ, 1911-1913, then as President – brought us Progressive policies and liberal labor benefits.  (Including but not limited to labor agreements as policy, like project labor agreements and arbitration, creation of the NJEA and other ‘mandated fee’ associations.)

  • In 1947, New Jersey’s Constitution was radically revised.[9]  The process was steered by self-admitted progressives within the legal and court system, who openly bragged of their desire for independence for the Courts and of their Progressive leadership and insight.  Chief among the revisions was a complete reorganization of the judicial branch, abolishing the state’s former judicial system and its replacement with an entirely new and independent judicial structure.  Heavily influenced by a well-known and politically powerful attorney named Arthur Vanderbilt, by 1950 the NJ Supreme Court had proclaimed itself as having the exclusive authority to control its own affairs, to interpret the NJ Constitution and to exercise unprecedented new rule-making powers “not subject to overriding legislation.”

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  As Chief Justice, Vanderbilt wrote more than 200 opinions, always advocating for a living/breathing judicial system not bound by past precedent or “old” legal doctrines, but one that was responsive to society’s contemporary needs.  That legacy includes court rule-making such as the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) and the Abbott school district funding issues.

  • In 1972, a group of enterprising attorneys, urban school districts and cities sued the State and Gov. Cahill[10], alleging that the State’s system of funding free public schools was unconstitutional, namely, whether the equal protection and education clauses of the State Constitution were being violated by New Jersey's statutory financing scheme.[11]  According to the court, the argument was that the then-current system of financing public education in New Jersey relied heavily on local property taxes, producing wide disparities in educational expenditures.  The plaintiffs contended that public school education is a state function which must be afforded to all pupils on equal terms. But the state was funding districts on a formula basis that was not “full” funding – forcing each town to tax property to make up the difference (sometimes nearly 80% of the school budget). Thus, actual spending per pupil varied significantly, which they argued violated the “thorough and efficient” clause, as well as the “equal protection” clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment. The Court used statistics to document “a distinct pattern in every county in the State. In most cases, rich districts spend more money per pupil than poor districts,” and argued that “most of the poorer communities must serve people of greater need because they have large numbers of dependent minorities.” The Court ruled that “The Education Clause was intended to do what it says, that is, to make it a state legislative obligation to provide a thorough education for all pupils wherever located.” 

    In the 1975 Robinson v. Cahill decision, New Jersey’s Supreme Court began to exercise “the unprecedented new rule-making powers not subject to overriding legislation” that it had given itself through interpretation of the 1947 Constitution. The Court said, “each child in the State has the right to an educational program geared to the highest level he is capable of achieving, permitting him to realize his highest potential as a productive member of society.” It also said, “that pupils of low socio-economic status need compensatory education [greater funding than others] to offset the natural disadvantages of their environment.” … “Providing free education for all is a state function. It must be accorded to all on equal terms,” the Court said.

   The conclusion was, “The State must finance a "thorough and efficient" system of education out of state revenues raised by levies imposed uniformly on taxpayers of the same class.”  The Legislature and Governor were directed to come up with a new tax plan to equally fund the education of every student.  They didn’t.

  • By 1985, the inequities had not been resolved, and a new lawsuit was filed, “Abbott v. Burke”.  This time, the Court named 28 specific school districts (commonly called “Abbott districts”[12]) “that were provided remedies [by the court] to ensure that their students receive public education in accordance with the state constitution.”

  • In 1990, another lawsuit was filed which became known as “Abbott II”.  The Court ordered the state to fund the (then) 28 Abbott districts at the average level of the state's wealthiest districts.

A Wikipedia article[13] summarizes in this way: 

Abbott districts are school districts in New Jersey covered by a series of New Jersey Supreme Court rulings, begun in 1985, that found that the education provided to school children in poor communities was inadequate and unconstitutional and mandated that state funding for these districts be equal to that spent in the wealthiest districts in the state.

The Court, in Abbott II and in subsequent rulings, ordered the State to assure that these children receive an adequate education through implementation of certain reforms, including standards-based education supported by parity funding. It added various supplemental programs and school facilities improvements, including to Head Start and early education programs.

      In the time since these decisions, many structural changes have been made, and vast amounts of public money have been spent.  But property taxes remain the highest in the nation, most funding from schools is still from the property tax, and school funding is anything but “equal.”

      Finally, Federal tax policy that favored a few “high cost” states, allowing them to write off property taxes against federal income tax obligations, allowed a few states including New Jersey to skirt responsibility for their spending.  There are arguments on both sides of the recent tax changes that took this write-off away, but while it lasted, it gave New Jersey towns the ability to spend more while lessening the threat of taxpayer revolt.

Why do most folks believe they are powerless to do anything about high property taxes?

      Many citizens say they’re not actively engaging in policy issues because they’re too busy and stressed from all the obligations of living in such an intense part of the country.  While we’re all stressed, in my experience, it would be more accurate to say the obstacle is that they’ve never gotten involved.  That’s not a criticism, but an observation.  When we run orientations, or take “newbies” to a public meeting or to a legislative hearing, they often report that it wasn’t intimidating at all. 

      Many volunteer to go to another, or to several, because the “live action” beats television any day of the week … and there are no commercials.

      This, however, is very serious business, with very serious consequences for Christians, Jews, and ordinary citizens.  That’s because those who can gain from the favors of legislators work every day to assure their future economic benefit.  More often, these days, their efforts also restrict our freedoms.

      Want some fun?  Research the origin of this quote:  “If not us, who?; If not now, when?”  But it deserves some really serious consideration.  “Politics” is the civil side of policy.  You can be absolutely certain of another quote by Edmund Burke:  “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  You can rest assured that evil men are active.

      The Center for Garden State Families is a starting point.  But a few active citizens isn’t enough.  Emails to legislators are good, but they’re not enough.  A check for $25 is good, but it isn’t enough.

      Get involved.  No experience necessary.

      God Bless.

# # #

[1] The Tax Foundation, Tax Foundation

[2] The Tax Foundation, 2018 Facts & Figures

[3] The Tax Foundation, 2017 Facts & Figures

[4] The Tax Foundation, 2016 Facts & Figures

[5] The Tax Foundation, 2015 Facts & Figures

[6] The Tax Foundation, 2014 Facts & Figures

[7]see http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/02/7_reasons_why_njs_property_taxes_are_highest_in_us.html

[8] see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_territories_by_population_density

[9] see https://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/courts/supreme/vm/vanderbilt.html

[10] Robinson v. Cahill litigation

[11] see https://law.justia.com/cases/new-jersey/appellate-division-published/1972/118-n-j-super-223-0.html

[12] see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbott_district

[13] see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbott_district

*Mr. Eames has worked as an instructor for the Center for Self Governance and has been a candidate for NJ Senate, LD 27.  He has served as CEO of the New Jersey Tooling & Manufacturing Association and the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce.