Entries in TTF (32)

Wednesday
May162018

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.   

Tuesday
Mar132018

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. 

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.

Thursday
Nov162017

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:


Wednesday
Nov082017

Hamilton needs to choose a side

Democrat Jennifer Hamilton ran a campaign in which she stood side-by-side with her ideological running mates for the photo-ops but then quickly scurried away to assure her GOP "friends" that she was really one of them... except on the issue of abortion.  She is pro-abortion.  

Hamilton campaigned this way and not just where party identification is concerned.  She managed to be on both sides of the tax restructuring package that funded the Transportation Trust Fund, raised the gas tax, and cut or eliminated a host of other taxes (included the Estate Tax).  She claimed to want to fund the TTF, but opposed the means to do so (and offered nothing in place of it).  She claimed to want to cut property taxes, while turning over responsibility for funding local road and bridge maintenance to municipal and county governments -- a move that would raise property taxes an average of $600 a year.  

Hamilton offered very little beyond conflicting sentiments and slogans designed to ingratiate herself with whatever audience was on hand at the moment.  The vacuous habits of her effort put us in mind of this memorable line from the 1997 film, "As Good As It Gets."  Enjoy:

Sunday
Oct222017

Hamilton's lies. But lawyers are no good at math.

Look, we all get that it is election time and politicians -- even wannabe politicians like Democrat Jennifer Hamilton -- are going to twist the truth in an effort to appear more attractive to voters.  But when smiles and earnest lip pursing doesn't work, it's down to lies.

Hamilton's latest lie is her claim that the average household in Sussex County is paying $500 more for gasoline than it has in the past.  Well, the sale of gasoline is a very regulated industry, and there are agencies that closely monitor these things, and they produced a graph.  Here's what it shows:

Yes, we are paying less today for gasoline at the pump than we did in 2015. 

And because Sussex County has received funding from the Transportation Trust Fund to repair its roads and bridges, property taxes won't have to go up an additional $600 per household to cover those costs.  Hey, it's not all Hamilton's fault.  Instead of taking accounting courses in college she skipped them and learned how to be a social worker instead.  Then she went to law school.  Ouch!  No wonder she can't tell the truth.

Heck, this lady told the newspaper in Morris County (the Chronicle) that she supported raising the gas tax to fund the Transportation Trust Fund, then turned around and told the newspaper in Sussex County (the Herald) that she opposed it.  Good thing she is blessed with a wide smile -- the better to talk out of both sides of her mouth with.

Jennifer Hamilton affects to complain about the imbalance in state funding for education -- but then supports the Abbott decision which is the cause of that imbalance.  Hamilton stands with her party, the Democrats, and her nominee for Governor, Phil Murphy, in their promise to continue that imbalance.  Only a Republican-controlled Legislature will pass Senator Mike Doherty's Fair School Funding Act, which will reduce property taxes by providing every child with a basic level of school funding.

Only a Republican-controlled Legislature will put a Question on the ballot to strip control of school funding away from the unelected State Judiciary and give it back to the elected Legislature.  Of course, Hamilton disagrees with this.  She is, after all, both a creature of her party and of the courts.  While Republicans like Senator Steve Oroho are fighting to get more for Sussex County, Hamilton's party is opposing them.  While Senator Oroho was bringing back resources for Sussex County, lawyer Hamilton was representing criminals.

From all reports, Jennifer Hamilton is a fair-to-middling criminal defense attorney but as a candidate for public office, she is an absolute disaster.  Hey, somebody give the lady a calculator.  At the Ogdensburg debate, Hamilton maintained that she wanted to cut taxes -- and then outlined billions in new government spending she insisted was necessary.  Before it was over, she agreed with her running mates that the following new taxes should be imposed:

- A $5.5 billion tax hike by revoking tax cuts on employers.  This will be great for jobs, won't it?

- A $650 million income tax hike on high earners.

- A $2 billion tax hike by reinstituting the job-killing, small-business killing estate tax.

- And untold millions through a new "special" tax on yet to be determined products that the Democrats consider to be "luxuries."  The last such tax killed the boat-building in New Jersey, so good luck with that.

As a candidate for public office, Democrat Jennifer Hamilton is a mess.  She talks before she thinks, doesn't get her facts right, promises more spending while saying she'll cut taxes, and then agrees with her running mates that raising taxes by an additional $8.5 billion will help jobs and the economy in New Jersey. Maybe that callous disregard gets by in the courtroom, but don't try it with the people of Sussex County.