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.
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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.