Shutdown Averted, But It’s No Day at the Beach for New Jersey Taxpayers

Shutdown Averted,
But It’s No Day at the Beach for New Jersey Taxpayers

 

New Jersey averted a state shutdown, but the budget deal finalized by Governor Murphy offers no day at the beach for Garden State taxpayers.

The $38.7 Billion budget cleared late Sunday increases state government spending from just two years ago by $4 Billion, and it relies on the wide bevy of tax hikes the Governor and Democrat-controlled Legislature imposed on us over the past 18 months.

While some pundits and apologists claim the Fiscal Year 2020 budget includes “tax relief,” no tax is being cut. Instead, we have a massive spending plan, which was sadly approved by some Republican leaders such as state Sen. Tom Kean Jr., and it loads tax dollars into feel-good liberal programs, including an increase in the Illegal Alien Defense Fund.

That particular line-item, which has caught the eye of  critics, is being hiked by 47 percent in the new budget, from $2.1 million to $3.1 million. In the meantime, as a few GOP Legislators noted, millions of dollars will be hacked from public education aid to several Garden State counties.

That is what Governor Murphy calls tax fairness.

But the major problem with this new budget, as with past budgets, is that it continues to ignore the financial millstone hanging around the necks of all hard working families and business owners in New Jersey. No serious reform is being made to the broken and increasingly costly public employee salary, pension and benefit system that threatens to bankrupt our state.

The pension system is already underfunded, and the liability has risen to over $151 Billion, nearly three times the new budget. Yet, the Governor and Legislature have failed to take even a first step toward moving new government workers to a less costly retirement savings plan. In fact, they have only added political cronies to the state payroll.

It’s stunning that anyone would celebrate this type of government excess. It assumes that the people of New Jersey are so beaten down that we don’t know the difference between a tax cut and tax increase.

Let’s cut through the bureaucratic fog of euphemisms and politician-speak surrounding this budget.

The definition of  “middle class tax relief” for career politicians amounts to expanding income thresholds so some groups of veterans and seniors can qualify for tax deductions and even freezes on their already high property taxes. Their definition of “tax relief” also includes a very selective redistribution by the Governor and Legislature of state tax dollars to some local governments in the form of school aid and money for capital improvements.

The only thing taxpayers are left to celebrate is the fact that, after 18 months of tax hikes, even Democrats controlling the Legislature refused to give Governor Murphy new tax increases in the FY 2020 budget. They rebuffed him on boosting tax rates on people earning more than $1 million, imposing a punitive tax on certain pharmaceutical companies and hiking fees for gun owners to make certain only the rich could own firearms in New Jersey.

So a taxpayer victory in the Garden State is when our elected officials try to ram through a bunch of new taxes and fees, and only some get through.

Here’s an idea Trenton may want to consider. Let’s get through this new fiscal year with no new tax proposals and — while it may be too much to ask — let’s also cut spending.

If we cut spending, we certainly could cut everyone’s taxes and that would mean even greater tax breaks for our seniors and veterans. The cost of living for New Jersey families is oppressive. It’s time the Governor and Legislature stopped making it worse.

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