Corzine and Forrester Should Treat Us Like Adults

By Steve Adubato, Ph.D. I recently had the chance to sit down with gubernatorial candidates Democrat US Senator Jon Corzine and his challenger, Republican Doug Forrester. Both are decent and nice enough guys, but I just have one really big problem with both of them on the issue of property taxes. Everyone agrees that soaring property taxes is the number one issue in this governor’s race. The average homeowner spends $8,000 in property taxes every year, which is nearly twice the national average. That’s insane. Both candidates say they have a plan to provide property tax “reform.”Both plans are centered largely around catchy slogans, but offer few details as to how this so-called reform will be accomplished and what has to be given up in the process. Forrester’s plan is called “30 and 3.”He says he will reduce our property taxes 30 percent over three years if he is elected governor. That„s going to cost the state big money in lost revenue. Forrester will argue this amounts to a couple of billion dollars, but other estimates are that the number will be much higher. When I asked Forrester about how he would make up those lost revenues, he talked about going after “waste, fraud and abuse” in state government. He highlighted the school construction program as an example of where the state has wasted billions of dollars. He said there were other examples, but just didn„t provide any. The other thing Forrester and Corzine neglected to mention is that nearly ¾ of the state budget goes to really important initiatives that provide much needed relief for local property tax payers. We„re talking state aid to education, local college funding, Homestead Rebates, mass transit, Medicaid and direct municipal aid. Forrester said none of these programs had to be cut and he could still reduce our property taxes 30 percent over three years. So much for candor. As for Corzine, his property tax plan is a bit more conservative, saying that he will increase property tax rebates 40% over 4 years. But again, Corzine refuses to talk about a single cut in any state program to local governments. He doesn„t identify a single state service that would be reduced or eliminated completely. Simply put, both candidates agree on one false promise. You can cut property taxes without a single stitch of pain and suffering, not to mention sacrifice in order to get this done. Neither candidate talks about mandating that local school districts consolidate in an effort to save money at the local level. The state has 611 individual school districts. That„s insane. Every district has its own superintendent and an educational administrative bureaucracy that costs big bucks and drives up local property taxes. If a candidate for governor were really serious about tackling the property tax issue, he would go directly at the need to consolidate and merge local school districts as well as tiny municipalities that insist on having their own police and fire departments. Again, this obsession with “home rule” and local control is contributing big time to our property tax bill, but neither gubernatorial candidate will touch this topic with a ten-foot pole. So think about it. Both Jon Corzine and Doug Forrester want voters to actually believe that they can reduce our property taxes while local governments won„t have to make any changes to their bloated and often unnecessary municipal infrastructure. Both candidates say they can reduce our property taxes without the need to increase the income or sales tax in an effort to make up any lost state revenue. Neither candidate is willing to say that the state property tax rebate program is an administrative nightmare and costs all of us unnecessarily just so certain voters can get a few hundred bucks from the state capital a few weeks before the election. Neither candidate says cutting the property tax from the state level will have any adverse impact on homeland security efforts. Oh, and by the way, both candidates say we really need to make sure that our transportation system remains strong and viable, but neither is willing to go on record supporting the modest increase in the gas tax in order to make that happen. So let„s recap. These two smart, decent, would-be governors are telling us that they can be Santa Claus to the rest of us pretty much every day of the year. Well, the last time I checked, chief executives are hired to make tough decisions and painful choices that lesser people are not willing or able to make. I say, the person we elect governor should have the courage and decency to treat us like adults who can understand simple, budget math that says when revenues and expenditures don„t add up, something has to give. Something must be sacrificed. We do it with our family budgets every day. Businesses must face this reality, which is why people often get laid off or bonuses are delayed. It„s why we wind up going to the Jersey Shore for a one-week vacation as opposed to a month in Europe. It„s because you just can„t have it all sometimes. I wonder why Jon Corzine and Doug Forrester don„t think we„re smart enough to know that.

Corzine and Forrester Should Treat Us Like Adults