Monday
Jul042016

Where's the beef? Show us your TTF plan.

Remember that famous commercial from the mid-1980's that asked, "Where's the beef?" 

That's what we'd like to know too?  There have been too many uniformed comments and too many snarky politicians trying to get over by riding a wave of popular, anti-tax sentiment, without putting up a plan of their own.  To them we ask:  Where's the god darn beef!

 

You know who you are.  You've been having fun with others but not putting out any ideas of your own.  That's going to change.  Watchdog is going to follow you into your burrows and pull you out by the tail.  You're going to tell us how you intend to fix this thing BEFORE we pull a school bus full of drowned kids out of a river.  Then, it will be too late. 

 

Right now there are four plans.

 

(1) The Democrat Plan.  This is the plan pushed by Democrats like Senator Ray Lesniak and Assemblyman John Wisniewski.  It recognizes that the TTF has not been funded properly for decades.  That since 1988, New Jersey has charged drivers just 14 1/2 cents a gallon of gasoline to maintain and repair our state's roads and bridges -- whereas states like Pennsylvania have had to charge their drivers over 50 cents a gallon.  Instead of pay as you go, New Jersey has been running up the state's credit card to pay for roads and bridges.  That's why the first dime (10 cents) of any tax increase will have to be used just to pay the interest on the debt.  The Democrat plan is to raise the Gas Tax to pay for the TTF.  Period.  No tax cuts.

 

What stands in the way of the Democrat Plan is Republican Governor Chris Christie.  Of course, after the Democrats take back the Governor's office in 2017, they and their overwhelming majorities in BOTH chambers of the Legislature will enable them to easily pass a gas tax of any amount they choose WITHOUT any tax cuts.  That is 18 months away and counting.

 

(2) The Oroho Plan.  Economists have long believed that one of the main reasons New Jersey ranks 49th out 50th for business environment is its high Estate Tax.  Where most states have got rid of the Estate Tax and few have an inheritance tax, New Jersey has both.  The Estate Tax kills job creation and results in the flight of capital and people from the state.  New Jersey's tax on retirement income is another major factor in driving away people from the state.

 

Knowing that the Democrats don't need the GOP to pass a gas tax after 2017, Republican leaders gave Senator Steve Oroho the nod to negotiate a compromise with the Democrats that would address TTF funding in 2016 in return for tax cuts.  Oroho did his job well and ended up with an economic recovery plan that not only phased out the Estate Tax and eliminated the tax on retirement income for over 90 percent of retirees, but cut four other taxes as well.  It was an incredible accomplishment that few expected to happen.  Unfortunately, the thinking within the GOP Senate leadership had changed by then.  Now they were looking for a political angle.

 

(3) The Beck Plan.  While Senator Oroho was negotiating in good faith, Republican leaders in the Senate decided to launch a political plan, on which they believed they could build a statewide campaign for the majority in 2017.  This plan was sponsored by a member of leadership, Senator Jennifer Beck, who claimed that it could fund the TTF without an increase in the gas tax by borrowing $4.4 billion and freezing aid to municipalities and school districts (K-12) at the current level for seven years.

 

In addition, property tax relief was to be frozen for seven years -- along with tuition aid grants, NJ Stars, student financial assistance, higher education funding, hospital funding, and the State Police -- all frozen at the current level for seven years.  The Beck plan also raided the state's Clean Energy Fund. 

 

The Beck plan's numbers were seriously flawed and entirely reliant on economic growth.  The plan would have bankrupted the TTF in the event of an economic downturn.  Beck's rosy estimate of 3.15 percent growth was more than double the current year revenue growth of 1.5 percent.  And her plan depended on the Democrats to enact $1.4 billion in health plan savings and on timely savings from the mergers of departments and agencies. 

 

While Beck's plan did look at spending, she undercut her own argument when she voted for over $7 million in new spending for Planned Parenthood, the operators of abortion centers across the country. 

 

There are no tax cuts in the Beck plan, no attempt is made to address the out-migration of income and capital.  But the real risk to taxpayers represented by the Beck plan was two-part.  First, that by freezing aid for seven years, it would force local governments and school boards to raise property taxes. Second, that the plan's flawed numbers would send the TTF into bankruptcy and result in a property tax explosion.

 

(4) The Christie Plan.  On Monday, June 27th, the Governor entered into negotiations with Assembly Democrats on his own compromise plan.  Throughout the day, the Governor's office ran the numbers in an attempt to reduce the amount of the tax increase on gasoline, but with the first 10 cents going to cover debt service, there was little he could do.  Just before midnight, Governor Chris Christie and Speaker Vincent Prieto emerged from the Governor's office to announce their compromise.

 

The gas tax would still be raised 23 cents a gallon, the Republican Governor said there was no way around it if we wanted to keep roads and bridges safe and maintained.  The Estate Tax phase out was gone, as were the other tax cuts negotiated by Senator Oroho -- with the exception of the elimination of the tax on retirement income.  Oroho had negotiated an elimination of the tax for over 90 percent of New Jersey retirees.  The Governor's plan lowered that to 80 percent.

 

The big change was the cut in the state sales tax to 6 percent.  A half-cent in January and another half-cent by the end of 2017.  The Governor's numbers show that whereas the gas tax increase will cost the average household $200 a year, the sales tax cut will save that household $400 a year.

 

* * *

So these are the four plans before us.  Responsible leaders will have to choose which plan to support or will roll up their sleeves, do the hard work, crunch the numbers, and get ready for some math.  If you don't like what's on offer, responsible leaders can come up with their own plan that funds the TTF so that we can have safe, maintained roads and bridges.

 

As of this moment, the process is on pause.  Rather than let the last of the fund drip away, the Governor has suspended all TTF-funded work on roads, bridges, and other infrastructure in New Jersey.  The usual festered bungholes complained loudly when he did so, but would it have been responsible of him to allow every cent to flow out -- with hurricane season approaching?  Better to leave nothing for an emergency?  Thinking ahead is why he's Governor and they're festered bungholes.

 

Speaking of which, there's this crew of so-called "officials" in Andover Township (the ancestral home of National Socialism in America) who have decided that they dislike one aspect of three of these plans, the gas tax increase, to the point that two of them are threat-facing and sounding-off like a couple of loudmouths in a bar (beer hall?).   The issue here is finding a way to fund the continued upkeep of our roads and bridges -- and of those infrastructure projects like the Lackawanna Cut-off. 

 

If you want to lead, you need to do more than gripe.  Griping is what privates do.  You are not privates, you are leaders.  Leaders find a way.  Roll up your sleeves, get to work, do the math, and come up with a plan that balances out and works.  Or you can get behind one of the plans outlined here. 

 

It is cowardly to leave it at griping about one aspect of a plan.  Have the sack to be leaders.  Show us the beef!  Show us your TTF plan.

Friday
Jul012016

Governor forced to shut down road work

Good job, Andover Township.  Thanks to the backroom chicanery of the Andover Township Committee (John Jack Burke, Tom Mo-Mo Walsh, et al) and others, the state's ability to fund road and bridge maintenance and repairs is at an end.  The Governor issued Executive Order 210 late yesterday and it was released this morning.  The main points of the order are as follows:


NOW, THEREFORE, I, CHRIS CHRISTIE, Governor of the State of
New Jersey, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the
Constitution and by the Statutes of this State, DO DECLARE and
PROCLAIM that a State of Emergency exists in the State of New
Jersey and I hereby ORDER and DIRECT the following:

1. The Commissioner of DOT and the Executive Director of New
Jersey Transit are instructed to plan an immediate and orderly
shutdown of all ongoing work that is funded by the TTFA, with the
understanding that any work that is funded by federal funds may
continue.  The respective plans for such orderly shutdown shall be
completed no later than 11:59 pm on Saturday, July 2, 2016.

2. All work that is funded by the TTFA shall cease according
to the shutdown plans established respectively by the Commissioner
and Executive Director, with the understanding that any work that
is funded by federal funds may continue.   
 
3. The Commissioner of DOT shall take all appropriate steps
to ensure that work performed at the municipal level that is funded
by the TTFA, through grant or otherwise, shall cease in a manner
consistent with this Executive Order, with the understanding that
any work that is funded by federal funds may continue.
     
4. Notwithstanding the above paragraphs, transportation
project work may continue when it is, in the discretion of the
Commissioner and Executive Director, respectively, after
consultation with the Office of the Governor, determined that such
projects are absolutely essential for the protection of the health,
safety, and welfare of the citizens of the State of New Jersey, or
are required to ensure the receipt of federal funding.  

5. I authorize and empower the Attorney General, pursuant to
the provisions of N.J.S.A. 39:4-213, acting through the
Superintendent of State Police, to determine the control and
direction of the flow of vehicular traffic on any State or
interstate highway, municipal or county road, and any access road,
including the right to detour, reroute, or divert any or all
traffic, and to prevent ingress or egress and further authorize all
law enforcement officers to enforce any such order of the
Superintendent of State Police within their respective
municipalities.

6. All State officials and agencies shall cooperate fully in
the implementation of this Order.

7. In accordance with N.J.S.A. App. A:9-34 and -51, I
reserve the right to utilize and employ all available resources of
the State government and of each and every political subdivision of
the State, whether of persons, properties, or instrumentalities,
and to commandeer and utilize any personal services and any
privately owned property necessary to protect against this
emergency.

8. In accordance with N.J.S.A. App. A:9-40, no municipality,
county, or any other agency or political subdivision of this State
shall enact or enforce any order, rule, regulation, ordinance, or
resolution, which will or might in any way conflict with any of the
provisions of this Order, or which will in any way interfere with
or impede the achievement of the purposes of this Order.

9. It shall be the duty of every person or entity in this
State or doing business in this State and of the members of the
governing body and every official, employee, or agent of every
political subdivision in this State and of each member of all other
governmental bodies, agencies, and authorities in this State of any
nature whatsoever, to cooperate fully with the Commissioner in all
matters concerning this state of emergency.

10. This Order shall take effect immediately and shall remain
in full force and effect until such time as it is determined by me
that an emergency no longer exists.



The New Jersey League of Municipalities and the New Jersey Association of Counties issued the following statement:

 


LOCAL GOVERNMENTS URGE STATE LEADERS TO RESTORE TRANSPORTATION FUNDING
For Immediate Release:  July 1, 2016
_______________________________________________________________________________

(Trenton) The New Jersey State League of Municipalities (NJSLOM) and the New Jersey Association of Counties (NJAC) are urging State leaders to reach a fair and equitable compromise on reauthorizing the insolvent Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) in the wake of Governor Chris Christie’s decision to declare a state of emergency and shut down all work funded by the TTF, which includes vital local road and bridge projects.  

“The declared state of emergency is forcing county and municipal governments across the State to shut down operations on critical road and bridge projects that will jeopardize local businesses and economies and place the safety of residents at risk,” said NJSLOM Executive Director Michael Darcy.  


County and municipal roads and bridges carry over 55% of the State’s overall traffic and depend on $190.0 million each year in Local Aid Allocations from the TTF to repair, replace, and rehabilitate functionally obsolete and structurally deficient bridges, and to pave, resurface, and construct local roads and highways.   


“Our state leaders must act now to establish a stable, dependable, and long-term source of dedicated funding for the TTF, and must further restore Local Aid allocations to reduce the reliance on the collection of property taxes, promote economic growth and job development, and ensure a safe and reliable transportation network,” said NJAC Executive Director John Donnadio


As county and municipal governments continue to struggle with delivering essential services in a cost effective manner, a declining ratable base, and unfunded State and federal mandates, failure to reauthorize the TTF and restore Local Aid allocations will force local property taxpayers to inequitably bear the burden of an expense that is not entirely a local one.  Please contact the NJSLOM’s Assistant Executive Director Michael Cerra at (609) 394-3481 or John Donnadio at (609) 394-3467 with any questions or concerns.  

Thursday
Jun302016

Andover Twp picks fight with Governor

Facebook is the destroyer of political careers -- and it just isn't those politicians who use it to advertise their private parts.  For every Congressman Weiner there is a Committeeman John Jack Burke, a guy who takes up some issue and goes off half-cocked on Facebook, and only afterwards collects together a reason -- or an excuse -- for doing so. 

 

John Jack or, rather, Mr. Burke, is a corporate factotum who was elected to the Andover Township Committee in 2014.  His method of covering up his Facebook faux pas is to implicate his entire Township -- its committee and people -- in an uninformed pissing contest with the Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie.  Oh, and by the way, he also managed to put Andover Township on record as pissing on the Speaker of the Assembly, the Republican Leader of the Assembly, the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, the New Jersey Association of Counties, and the New Jersey League of Municipalities. 

 

Committeeman Burke or John Jack or... whatever he calls himself, doesn't like the gas tax.  Hey, nobody does.  New Jersey has kept its tab on an open credit card since 1988 just to avoid raising the gas tax.  When states like Pennsylvania raised their gas tax to 50 cents a gallon to pay for their roads and bridges, New Jersey kept it right at 14 1/2 cents and put the rest on the credit card -- and kept right on doing it for three decades. 

 

Think of it this way:  The same burger that cost you a $1.70 in 1988 now costs over $5.00.  Just try buying food for your family at 1988 prices and see how far you get.  Why should roads be any different? 

 

Nobody faults Committeeman Burke for opposing higher taxes.  Opposing taxation is a very Republican thing to do.  We just wish that more Republicans would oppose spending as well. That's the problem with so many suburban Republicans.  They always want more -- but never want to pay for it. 

 

What we fault Committeeman Burke for is not telling the truth.  You see, Committeeman Burke talked the other people in Andover Township's local government into attacking Governor Chris Christie for his proposal "to increase the gas tax by $0.23 per gallon."

 

But that's not true.  That's not the Governor's proposal.  And people who purport to represent a town as upwardly mobile as Andover Township should have the brain power to know that it's not true. 

 

You see, state legislation isn't some words that the town committee of Andover Township throws together and then imposes on both chambers of the Legislature.  Legislation can only be proposed by members of the Legislature who have been elected by the people of their districts.  Committeeman Burke should try running and find out.  That's how it works. 

 

The legislation in question is a bill called A-12.  Yes, it does contain a 23-cents per gallon increase in the gasoline tax, as well as a 1 percent cut in the sales tax, and the elimination of taxes on retirement income for more than 80 percent of retirees.  As members of a T-O-W-N committee, the voters have not given you the authority to split this legislation.  You support A-12 or you oppose it -- the whole thing.  And you live with that.  That is the honest way.

 

The dishonest way is to act as though legislators can vote for part of it and then against another part.  That is misleading.   

 

But what is more  disconcerting is the juvenile way in which this handjobbery was conducted.  Andover Township is very fortunate to have a member of the Legislature as both a resident and a former mayor and township committeewoman.  As far as we know, all the members of the Andover Committee are Republicans. 

 

Now we all know that John Jack jumped the gun and started spraying on Facebook, but a more adult crowd would have contained his juvenile urge and then would have brought their concerns face-to-face to make strong and reasoned arguments against this proposal supported by the Governor, the Assembly Speaker, and the Republican Assembly Leader.  Unlike most towns, you actually have a legislator in your town to facilitate it. 

 

Instead, by appearing to be afraid of making your arguments face-to-face, and then by misrepresenting the legislation, you strike a dubious, dishonest pose.  It is as if you dare not make your case face-to-face for fear it will be refuted.

 

Be honest, be forthright, make your case.  Republican-to-Republican.  Face-to-face.

Thursday
Jun302016

Franklin Councilwoman explains TTF

In a new radio spot, Franklin Councilwoman Dawn Fantasia explains how New Jersey has failed to pay its way for decades.  Since 1988, the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) has tried to pay for road and bridge maintenance and repair on just 14.5 cents a gallon of gasoline.  New road construction and even public transportation costs come out of that 14.5 cents.  So do the repairs for local roads -- to offset the need for higher property taxes -- all of it has to come out of the same budget.

Other states -- including every neighboring state -- charge 40 or even 50 cents a gallon of gasoline to pay for the upkeep of their transportation infrastructure.  So how has New Jersey done it?  It hasn't.  Instead of pay-as-you-go, it is borrow-until-you-go-broke in New Jersey. 

So now we have borrowed so much that the fund is out of money and it will take the first 10 cents of a proposed per gallon tax on gasoline just to pay the interest on the debt. New Jersey has spent nearly three decades behaving like children with a credit card.  Councilwoman Fantasia makes the point that it is time for our elected officials to start acting like adults, raising the money to pay for road and bridge repairs, paying down the debt, being fiscally responsible.


Click here to listen to Councilwoman Dawn Fantasia

Monday
Jun272016

Doherty bill makes Sussex schoolchildren suffer

A "fair school funding" bill backed by Senator Mike Doherty (R-23) would cut funding to some of Sussex County's biggest school districts, causing property taxes to explode. This is according to the bill's own website.

 

If you live in one of Sussex County's populous suburban municipalities -- like Vernon or Hopatcong -- you will see a decrease in the amount of your income tax dollars returned to you by Trenton.  The same goes if you live in one of the county's older boroughs -- like Franklin, Ogdensburg, Sussex, and Hamburg.  Even if you live in a farming community like Wantage, you will see the money for your children's education slashed by Doherty and replaced with the need for higher property taxes.

 

According to the website put up with the Doherty bill, the best towns like these can look forward to is this:  "The Fairness Formula may not result in a decrease of property taxes for your town, however there are other solutions to lowering municipal government costs."
 
What does cutting the cost of municipal government have to do with school funding?  They are two different things.  Now if we are talking about finding ways to lower education costs or the costs associated with school boards, that is more to the point, but this is just out and out b.s. 
 
But it is typical Doherty.
 
Senator Doherty talks cost cutting when what he really means to do is to cut our children's school money and force us to raise property taxes to make up for it.

 

The "real fair school funding" bills are ACR46 and SCR35.  Senator Steve Oroho (R-24), Assemblyman Parker Space (R-24), and Assemblywoman Gail Phoebus (R-24) are all co-sponsors of this legislation.  Senator Doherty once championed these bills too, before he decided to go with legislation he thought had a better chance of success. Unfortunately, what Doherty went with hurts the children of Sussex County.


 

Is Senator Doherty a "bad" man?  No.  What Senator Doherty is doing is called compromising.  In return for a general perceived good, some are being harmed.  


For example.  In 2009, Mike Doherty ran on a ticket that advocated replacing New Jersey's progressive income tax with a flat tax.  Like President Reagan's user fees, the flat tax is a very conservative idea.  But some Republicans objected and claimed that it would only help the rich.  They said that it would raise taxes on 70 percent of New Jerseyeans. Others said it would save the average New Jerseyean $1,000 a year and would help to grow the economy.  There were good, honest advocates in both camps.  Of course, the argument could be made that Mike Doherty wanted to raise taxes on 70 percent of New Jerseyeans -- doubling the taxes for some.

 

 Let us know.  We are always interested in your thoughts and ideas.  Write to us at: info@sussexcountywatchdog.com