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

Monday
Jun272016

Gas stations say yes to Oroho bill

Many of you asked what the gas stations of New Jersey thought about Senator Steve Oroho's efforts to continue to pay for road and bridge maintenance and repairs while avoiding a property tax explosion.  We found out for you and present it here:


Sunday
Jun192016

The Media wants Higher Taxes on YOU 

Tom Moran, editor of the state's biggest paper -- the Newark Star-Ledger -- owned by union-busting, out-of-state billionaires, has gave away the Establishment's game plan for New Jersey.  It is this:  A big gas tax increase with no accompanying tax cuts.

Editorializing in Sunday's Star-Ledger, Moran wrote that the majority Democrats should just borrow for now and wait until after 2017 -- when they elect a Democrat Governor and Chris Christie leaves office.  Then they will be able to raise the gas tax.  Period.

That is why the Establishment is so big on killing the Oroho plan.  Unlike some of his more delusional colleagues, Sussex County's Steve Oroho recognized the FACT that the Democrats control BOTH chambers of the Legislature.  Knowing that, he put together a plan WITH them -- a plan that now has the chance of passing.  Oroho's plan (officially, the Oroho-Sarlo plan after his Democrat co-sponsor) will raise the user tax on gasoline, but link that tax increase to a series of tax cuts.

The Oroho plan will allow retirees to deduct up to $100,000 of retirement income on their state income taxes. This will annually save retirees $1,200 on average.  90% of state retirees will see their income tax bill completely eliminated, allowing them to afford to stay in New Jersey near their children and grandchildren keeping families together. 

For those currently working or looking for a job, the Oroho plan will phase out New Jersey’s estate tax – the nation’s most expensive.  This will prevent many small to medium businesses from being forced to leave the state for friendlier tax climates.  Too many jobs have gone south.  The Oroho plan will make our state more competitive, and help keep jobs in New Jersey. 

The Oroho plan creates a new state income tax deduction for giving to New Jersey-based charities that provide safety-net services to our communities, and increases the Earned Income Tax Credit to help low-income workers keep more of their paychecks.  Sussex County charities like Project Self-Sufficiency, local food pantries like Champions for Charity, Ginnie's House, and Birth Haven will all be primary beneficiaries of the Oroho plan. 

The Oroho plan will provide property tax relief by sending more state aid to local municipalities for the maintenance and repair of roads and bridges -- without which, property taxes would have to be increased to pay for it. 

In choosing a user tax on gasoline to pay for New Jersey's roads and bridges, rather than a broader tax like the property tax, Senator Steve Oroho is following the principle set by President Ronald Reagan.  It was Reagan who said:  "Good tax policy decrees that wherever possible a fee for a service should be assessed against those who directly benefit from that service."  Reagan himself raised the gas tax to pay for the road improvement projects of the 1980's.  President Reagan noted:  "Our highways were built largely with such a user fee - the gasoline tax. I think it makes sense to follow that principle in restoring them to the condition we all want them to be in." 

Sussex County taxpayers recognize a good deal when they see it.  In return for an average $180 expenditure at the pump, retirees and those looking forward to retirement will get an annual savings of $1,200 on average.  Nine out of every ten retirees will from now on pay NOTHING.

Recent polling data bears out just how popular this idea is:

 

T14. Would you support or oppose a proposal that would increase the state gas tax and

eliminate other taxes, like the state tax on retirement income? 

Total Support .......................................................... 67%

Total Oppose .......................................................... 19%

Strongly Support ...................................................... 47%

Somewhat Support .................................................. 20%

Strongly Oppose ..................................................... 12%

Somewhat Oppose .................................................... 7% 

Unsure, No Opinion ............................................... 14%

 

T15. A proposed increase in the state gas tax would cost the average driver an extra 200 dollars each year. Eliminating the state tax on retirement income would save the average retiree more than twelve hundred dollars each year. Knowing this information, would you support or oppose a proposal that would increase the state gas tax and eliminate the state tax on retirement income at the same time?

 

Total Support .......................................................... 74%

Total Oppose .......................................................... 14%

Strongly Support ...................................................... 58%

Somewhat Support .................................................. 16%

Strongly Oppose ..................................................... 12%

Somewhat Oppose .................................................... 2%

Unsure, No Opinion ............................................... 12%

Those are some numbers.  So stay tuned as this debate heats up and make your voices heard.  If people like the media's Tom Moran get their way, you will be stuck with a gas tax increase... PERIOD!  If politicians like Senator Jennifer Beck and groups like NJEA, AFP, and the Socialist Party USA get their way... your property taxes are going to EXPLODE! 

The responsible way forward, based on Reagan's principle, is to raise the user tax to avoid a property tax hike, while cutting taxes on retirees, making New Jersey better for small businesses and job creation, and by providing relief for property taxpayers and the working poor.   That's the Oroho plan.

Thursday
Jun092016

Is Sen. Beck the new Christie Whitman?

Senator Jennifer Beck is a strident social liberal, out of step with the Republican Party platform, but very much in-step with the views expressed by former Governor Christine Todd Whitman.  Whitman, the author of It's My Party Too! (a liberal tract that urges the Republican Party to become more like the Democrats), "presented" her policies as fiscally conservative and "anti-tax".  Off course, those of us who were there remember just how unsound and un-conservative her policies turned out to be -- and how they caused a property tax explosion. 

 

These days, Senator Beck appears to be following the Whitman playbook on more than just the social issues.  Like Whitman before her, Beck is presenting a campaign talking point as a policy prescription.  The term "anti-tax" is a useful blurb during a political campaign, but how anti-tax is the slogan "anti-tax" if it prevents cuts in the tax on retirement income and the phase out of the estate tax?  How anti-tax is the claim "anti-tax" if it causes property taxes to rise?

 

The controversy revolves around how to fund the bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund (TTF).  Without money from the fund, the repair and maintenance of the state's roads and bridges will grind to a halt.  On this, Senator Beck is in danger of becoming a casualty of the "inside-the-box" thinking of her leadership.  It was they who presented the option of a user tax on gasoline without context.  This is like asking voters if they "support or oppose war" and then using the result to make "war" some political "third rail."  Of course voters will always claim to "oppose war" -- until it is placed in the context of a December 7th or September 11th.  Then those numbers change in a hurry.

 

This is illustrated by the data from a poll conducted last week in Monmouth County by a highly respected, national survey research firm.  Look at what happens when an increase in the user tax on gasoline is placed in context with a tax cut on retirement income:

 

T15. A proposed increase in the state gas tax would cost the average driver an extra 200 dollars each year. Eliminating the state tax on retirement income would save the average retiree more than twelve hundred dollars each year. Knowing this information, would you support or oppose a proposal that would increase the state gas tax and eliminate the state tax on retirement income at the same time?

 

Total Support .......................................................... 74%

Total Oppose .......................................................... 14%

Strongly Support ...................................................... 58%

Somewhat Support .................................................. 16%

Strongly Oppose ..................................................... 12%

Somewhat Oppose .................................................... 2%

Unsure, No Opinion ............................................... 12%

 

The Tax Foundation -- the granddaddy of conservative think tanks (founded in 1937) -- is a proponent of user fees/taxes simply because it is the fairest way to impose a tax.   Americans innately understand the fairness of paying your own way and that there is no free ride.  But that's the biggest problem we have with Senator Beck's plan to fund the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) -- it makes New Jersey residents subsidize out-of-state drivers for the use of our roads and bridges.  And we're talking billions here -- billions of dollars in taxes that we could be collecting from out-of-state drivers to maintain and repair our roads and bridges but that instead we will make New Jersey residents pay. 

 

See, here's the FACT that you just can't get around:  The ONLY way to make out-of-state drivers pay their fair share is through a user tax on gasoline.  That's it.

 

And the voters who live in Senator Beck's Monmouth County agree.  Here's what they told that polling company last week:

 

T12. Approximately one third of gas tax revenues in New Jersey is paid by out-of-state travelers, while 100% of property taxes are paid by New Jersey residents. Knowing this information, which of the following do you think is the best option to pay for improvements to roads and bridges, an increase in the state gas tax or an increase in property taxes?

 

Gas tax .................................................................... 81%

Property tax ............................................................... 3%

Unsure or No Opinion ............................................ 16%

 

That is a pretty darn unambiguous finding.

 

We've been looking at the whole of Senator Beck's plan to address the TTF and how to fund road and bridge maintenance and repair.  There are lots of very optimistic assumptions and unanswered questions.  Here are just a few of the things Senator Beck could maybe help us understand better:

 

(1) New Jersey is a chronically low-growth state and its current tax structure makes it just about the worst place in America to start a business.  Senator Beck's plan does nothing to address the current tax structure, the damage done by the tax on retirement income and the estate tax.  There are no tax cuts in her plan, no attempt is made to address the out-migration of income and capital.

 

(2) And yet the Senator's plan is entirely reliant on economic growth and it will fail if there is an economic downturn.  Her estimate of 3.15 percent growth is more than double the current year revenue growth of 1.5 percent.

 

(3) Senator Beck's plan relies on timely savings from the mergers of departments and agencies (remember that the TTF is broke NOW) but fails to mention possible contractual hurdles and bond covenant issues.

 

(4) Her plan assumes $1.4 billion in health plan savings that have been recommended but not acted upon by the Legislature.

 

(5) And then there are the freezes:  K to 12 school aid is frozen, municipal aid is frozen, property tax relief is frozen, tuition aid grants are frozen, NJ Stars is frozen, student financial assistance is frozen, higher education funding is frozen, hospital funding is frozen, the State Police is frozen, and the Clean Energy Fund is raided.

 

Does anyone believe that this is the basis for a bi-partisan plan?  And it will have to be bi-partisan in order to get through the Democrat-controlled Legislature.  So what that leaves is politics and pre-campaign posturing.  That has merit for its own sake. . . but it won't maintain any roads or repair any bridges.