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.

Phil Garber and the NJ Democrats' Fake News machine

Phil Garber is a small-time editor of a weekly newspaper operating out of Mount Olive, in Morris County.  Garber has never heard of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the oldest association of writers and editors in the United States, and if he had heard of them, his actions over the years confirm that he's never read the Code of Ethics of the SPJ. 

truth_pravda.jpg

In a recent headline, Garber reported that Mount Olive is getting $292,500 from the state for a repaving project.  Garber noted that the funds were possible because of the recent gas tax increase that has more than doubled the amount of funds for local road and bridge safety improvement projects.

Of course, Garber had pissed all over the Republican who led the fight to prevent the bankruptcy of the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF), from which those funds were drawn.  That was in 2016.  The Tax Restructuring Package that cut five taxes and re-funded the TTF through a 23-cents a gallon increase on gasoline was passed in 2016 and signed into law by Republican Governor Chris Christie on October 14, 2016.

But that did not stop Editor Garber from making this the first sentence of his story:  "The first fruits of the new administration of Gov. Phil Murphy have been harvested in terms of a grant of $292,500 for the first phase of repaving International Drive North."

No shit.  Phil "the swallower" Garber wants us to swallow this.  The "first fruits" of an administration that didn't take office until January 16, 2018.  How did that work?

Garber works for a newspaper that is owned by the wife of Mark Magyar, one of Senate President Steve Sweeney's top aides.  In December of 2014, Magyar was hired as the Democrat's new Director of Policy and Communications.  Magyar had been a statehouse reporter for the Asbury Park Press and the Bergen Record, as well as the editor of the New Jersey Spotlight.

The corporate and political empire of Democrat Party boss George Norcross -- the political machine of which the Senate President is a part -- has a history of co-opting or attempting to co-opt local and regional newspapers in that part of New Jersey where his authoritarian rule is almost uncontested.  The machine is in the process of solidifying its rule in its southern New Jersey base, while expanding its power across the state -- and beyond.  The machine is allied with powerful lawyer-lobbyists like former Governor Jim Florio and Camden County Freeholder Director Lou Cappelli, who are expanding into neighboring states.  And while the machine's first such foray ended in prosecution and tumult, it might well be successful, and could usher in a period of sustained, anti-democratic ruthlessness, unique in the experience of post-Prohibition America.

Mark Magyar is the spouse of Elizabeth K. Parker, Co-publisher and Executive Editor the New Jersey Hills Media Group.  The group is controlled by the Recorder Publishing Company, a privately held entity in Bernardsville, that owns and publishes 17 local newspapers in Republican Morris County, Somerset County, and Hunterdon County -- and in Republican towns in Essex County.  Their readership comes from towns that usually get the short end of the sick from the Democrats in Trenton.

Elizabeth Parker owns Recorder Publishing with her brother, Co-publisher and Business Manager Stephen W. Parker.  He oversees the print and on-line advertising operations.  The company also sells other services, including website development, search engine optimization, "Reputation Management", and "Social Media Management".

Some of the newspapers they control have been around for more than a century -- like the Hunterdon Review, established in 1868; the Bernardsville News, 1897; Madison Eagle, 1880; and The Progress, 1911.  Recorder Publishing was started by the late Cortlandt Parker, who founded the Morris Observer in 1955.  His company expanded to its current size with the acquisition of the Eagle-Courier Group in 1991. 

Cortlandt Parker, who died in 2002, had residences in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, and Boston, Massachusetts.  His New York Times obituary describes him as having progressive positions on "social issues" and cites as an example his refusal to accept cigarette advertising in his newspapers "before it was common to do so."

While taking a position against the generally working class pleasure of tobacco, Mr. Parker was an advocate of that upper class pleasure -- wine.  He founded the Greenvale Vineyards in Rhode Island and published several magazines about the wine industry in the Finger Lakes region of New York, New England, Long Island, and Virginia.  The New England Wine Gazette is published by Recorder Publishing, at its Bernardsville operation.

Newspapers were never as pure or disinterested as their cheerleaders would have us believe, but at least -- once upon a time/ just yesterday -- they did constitute a locus of power independent of political machines.  Not necessarily of their corporate advertisers (per Herman and Chomsky), but certainly of base political machines.  Those days are drawing to a close. 

New Jersey is unique in its forms and ways of political corruption -- especially of systemic corruption -- in that it rides the wave just ahead of the rest of America.  Sadly, it appears that what we once called journalism is on a rapid descent into the realms of propaganda and in future will be little more than coarse party broadsheets -- advertisements using histrionics worthy of Pravda or the Völkischer Beobachter.

AC women's event fails to mention Dem accused of stalking

Apparently it is "Democrat comes first" with women like Colleen Mahr, the Democrat Mayor of Fanwood, and Bernadette McPherson, the Democrat LD36 District Chair.  Ms. Mahr comes from Joe Cryan country... ouch!

True to form, while hosting a forum on "the importance of women in politics" at the Irish Pub in Atlantic City, the two never brought up the status of this sitting Assembly Democrat...

Oh, and by coincidence, the alleged stalking happened in Fanwood.

Meanwhile, back in Sussex County, the focus of the Democrats' ire this year -- Assemblyman Parker Space -- is sharing in the enjoyment of a clean sweep by the GOP in that county, after pundits,  prognosticators, and assorted moe-moes had been predicting trouble for Space and the Republicans there.  Last year, Senator Steve Oroho was warned by GOP Senate operatives of his impending demise should he become associated with the tax restructuring deal that refunded the state's Transportation Trust Fund (TTF).  He went ahead and became a central figure in the deal and ended up needing to tear down and rebuild his local party in order to be re-elected.  But he did and was -- easily in both the primary and general elections.  In addition to Space, some county Republicans and a great many out of county "observers" forecast a Democrat pick-up in the county Freeholder contest.  Instead, it was a beat down by the GOP.  Lessons can be learned from these pugnacious mountain men.

In the meantime, it looks like the NJGOP needs a new theme song, so here is our suggestion:

Hank Lyon: I lied, I didn't move from my parents' house

Freeholder Hank Lyon recently found himself before a judge again, accused -- once again -- of violating New Jersey election law.  Lyon, who is a candidate for the state Legislature in next week's Republican primary election, could face serious ethical and legal issues in the weeks and months ahead -- and could endanger the seat (even handing it over to a liberal Democrat) if a court finds that, as in 2011, he violated the law.

At issue is Freeholder Lyon's residency and the honesty and integrity of the voting process itself.

We all remember how Hank Lyon won a seat on the Morris County Freeholder Board in 2011.  A late infusion of cash from a corporation controlled by his father -- an infusion allowed only because of an election law loophole that says if a candidate still lives at home with his parents, their money is treated as if it was the candidate's own money.

D. Use of Personal Funds  Use of a candidate’s personal funds on behalf of his or her campaign must be deposited into the campaign depository and must be reported as either contributions or loans to the campaign in the same manner as all other contributions or loans. If the candidate intends to be reimbursed fully or partially for personal funds used on behalf of his or her campaign, then the funds must be reported both as a loan and as an outstanding obligation to the campaign if still outstanding at the end of the reporting period. Once a candidate’s personal funds are reported as contributions, the funds cannot be later characterized as loans and be repaid to the candidate. There is no limit to the amount of personal funds a candidate may contribute or lend to his or her own campaign (except for publicly funded gubernatorial candidates). See Gubernatorial Public Financing Program Manual for more information.  Also, a corporation, of which one hundred percent of the stock is owned by the candidate, or by the candidate’s spouse, child, parent, or sibling residing in the candidate’s household, may make contributions without limit to a candidate committee established by that candidate, or to a joint candidates committee established by that candidate.

That infusion of corporate cash was improperly reported.  A judge overturned a close election, a lawsuit followed, another judge overturned the first decision, while an appeal wasn't pursued after the opposing candidate received a gubernatorial appointment.   Lyon's campaign still owes a huge amount of money to this corporation -- $75,966.66 -- according to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (NJELEC).

Per the NJ election law loophole, this large infusion of corporate cash is only legal while Freeholder Hank Lyon and his father reside in the same household (according to corporate records, Lyon's mother resides in Texas).  Here's where the story gets interesting. 

Hank Lyon has long chaffed at the idea of his political career simply depending on "daddy's money."  He's worked to appear to be outside his father's shadow, going as far as lying on his official Freeholder biography:

"He is a lifelong resident of Morris County, specifically the Towaco section of Montville Township, where he was a member of the Montville Housing Committee.  He now lives in Parsippany."

Lyon even pictured his new home in his legislative campaign's advertising, with the words:  "Recently bought his first house, pictured above."  But if Hank Lyon no longer lived at home with his father, then how is he still using his dad's corporate money and keeping to the law? 

In February 2016, Freeholder Lyon did purchase a residential property in the Lake Hiawatha section of Parsippany-Troy Hills.  However, Lyon never occupied the property.  Neighbors claim to have no idea who lives at 45 Manito Avenue.  Mail has piled up and apparently gone unanswered.  Repairs and renovations have been pursued in a more or less desultory manner.  Then, on April 3, 2017, Lyon executed a mortgage on this property -- borrowing $125,000. 

According to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (NJELEC), Freeholder Hank Lyon loaned his legislative campaign $35,000 on May 12th and $83,000 on May 16th.  His campaign then purchased $99,997 in cable television advertising that began airing on May 19th.

The mortgage stipulates that the borrower (Freeholder Lyon) "shall occupy, establish, and use the Property as Borrower's principal residence within 60 days after the execution of this Security Instrument."  This Saturday, June 3rd, those 60 days are up.

When Freeholder Hank Lyon moves, in three days' time, the loan his father's corporation has with him will go sour.  It was only allowed while the candidate made his father's home his principle residence.  Freeholder Lyon should have paid off the corporate loan that will clearly place him outside normal, ethical, campaign finance limits.  Instead, he borrowed more to finance another campaign for political office.

Little wonder then that as a candidate for the Legislature, Hank Lyon supported borrowing and debt to pay for basic road and bridge maintenance.  He opposed adjusting the revenue source of the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) for inflation, despite it having failed to produce enough revenue to fund the state's transportation needs since 1990.  Because of this "credit card" policy -- endorsed by Lyon -- by 2015, the revenue source (the tax on gasoline) brought in just $750 million annually, but the interest on the debt to fund all that borrowing cost taxpayers $1.1 billion annually. 

Borrowing, paying your bills with a credit card, is not the way of the fiscal conservative... it is madness.