Gas tax blues and Spadea’s 5-point plan to make NJ affordable (Opinion)
We told you so.
No sooner did the previous governor and his cohorts in the Legislature propose a hike in the gas tax, we called it out for what it is. A blank check drawn on your account for the elite insiders to line the pockets of special interests. The rich get richer and you keep paying.
Two years ago, Gov. Christie and I had an exchange over the tax hike and he took my opposition to it a tad personal. And just when you think you can trust the politicians in Trenton (kidding of course - you can only name a handful worthy of your trust), remember that it was politicians on both sides of the aisle that conspired to raise your taxes.
Unfortunately, there is no effective opposition to the plans of our very ideological governor who is focused on covering his insatiable appetite for spending your money. The bottom line is that the pols in Trenton will tell you that if the gas tax goes up, it's only gonna be a few cents. It's why many of us refer to life in the Garden State as "death by a thousand cuts." What to do?
First, know that when they tell you "it's temporary", "it's necessary", "we have to fix the roads, right?", they are lying.
Then, when they tell you a number to expect to whip up public support, like sports betting when "billions" of dollars were discussed, they're lying.
How exactly did sports betting go from $9 billion to $13 million in revenue? Remember the conversation about $1 billion in legal pot revenue? That time when the politicians wanted you to think it would be a windfall for the budget? Right, that was politicians purposely confusing everyone with sales numbers.
They get people to support their ideas by inflating numbers to make it seem that we're one campaign or good idea away from balancing the budget and paying for all of our obligations. We're not. There will be no billions from sports betting, legal pot, nor the gas tax. Instead, Gov. Murphy and his pretend enemy Steve Sweeney will continue to push through gimmicks instead of actually solving the problem that is driving income earners out of our state ... and their tax revenue with them.
Here are five things that politicians in Trenton could do that would help restore affordable living for working and middle class New Jerseyans. You'll notice, raising the gas tax and giving away free college are not among them:
1. Convert new public employees to 401k retirement accounts. It would be cheaper in the long run (and the short term) to have state government match employee contributions instead of playing catch up on underfunded pensions with your money. Currently, the public pension and health benefit cost is closing in on 26% of the entire budget in just a few years.
2. Renegotiate public employee health plans. Allow for workers to opt-up into better plans, but offer a minimum standard as you'd find in just about every major company in the Garden State.
3. Lower the taxes on incomes higher than $1.5 million. Why are we not attracting millionaires from across the Delaware and the Hudson to pay taxes on their first $1.5 million of income? Talk about hundreds of millions of dollars in potential revenue spread across a few thousand people.
4. Lower the gas tax and offset the reduction with toll increases and maintain the 7% sales tax. The Turnpike and the Parkway are the best way to get out of state money into our state coffers. The gas tax only creates an incentive for driver to fill up in Maryland and Delaware who both have lower prices than New Jersey. Remember, the sales tax represents about a billion dollars of revenue per percentage point. Would you pay 8% if you knew that property taxes could come down?
5. Expand Legal Gambling. Allow for slot machines, video poker and sports betting to be available to any business in New Jersey with a liquor license. The regulatory structure and bonds are already in place and people are likely to spend more money frequenting a local bar/restaurant that driving to AC and spending time. Why is the government in the business of making sure gaming revenues stay with the multi-million dollar corporations? How about the little guy? The Lottery takes in billions and is set up across small businesses throughout New Jersey. Would you play the lottery if you had to drive to AC?
This is just the tip of the iceberg. We need to also address the long-term prospects of privatizing NJ Transit. Ending political patronage jobs for connected elites who are not qualified for the job. Then disqualify law firms who are connected to politicians from getting public contracts without a bidding and public hearing process.
Then there's education. Public education is a mess in many of our cities. Suburban communities with higher ratables continue to foot the bill for failure. The kids growing up in Paterson, Newark and Camden deserve better. The lack of economic and education opposites is a civil rights crisis. Of course the politicians in those areas continue to play class warfare and race bait instead of addressing the underlying problems.
More to come ...
Bill Spadea is on the air weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m., talkin’ Jersey, taking your calls at 1-800-283-1015. Tweet him @NJ1015 or @BillSpadea. The opinions expressed here are solely those of Bill Spadea.
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