Definition of Insanity: “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
It is ironic that a quote by one of New Jersey’s most famous historical figures is perpetually applicable to New Jersey’s government. No matter which party is in charge or who occupies the Governor’s Office and despite all of the political rhetoric to contrary, New Jersey’s leaders will invariably resort to the same failed actions to try to solve the same old problems. And Chris Christie, unfortunately, is no exception.
In 13 of the last 15 State Budgets, governors of both parties failed to make the State’s contribution to the pension in order to balance the Budget. In FY ’11, Christie followed suit although he criticized the use of such one-shot gimmicks by his predecessors. Not surprisingly, the pension deficit continues to grow, hastening the breaking point. While he talks of pension reform, no details are revealed.
As periodically happens, the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) becomes depleted and new funds are needed. The past habit of bonding for the TTF and other programs has created a situation where the amount of debt exceeds the amount of the annual State Budget. Christie’s recently unveiled plan for the TTF included $4 billion in new debt, which is on top of the $1.25 billion he authorized in the fall. It is also said that he will approve $3 billion in bonding for the School Development Authority.
The State’s $32.8 billion of debt will now exceed $40 billion. The Governor claims that the TTF bonding is “good debt” as opposed the Governor Corzine’s “bad debt” because we will “pay as we go.” One has to wonder how a State that cannot make an annual pension payment is going to make its bond payment, “as you go”. Not to mention, what happened to voter approval?
Governor after governor has decried New Jersey’s extraordinary and oppressive property taxes and promised to do something about them. Governor Corzine promised to reduce property taxes by 10% per year for four (4) years and restore the Homestead Rebates to their previous levels. The result was that rebates – except for seniors, decreased and taxes increased by about 16%. Candidate Christie promised to restore the rebates and reduce taxes. So far, there are no rebates and a flimsy cap on property tax increases and nothing about cutting taxes. Nothing new here: taxes up, rebates down and no cuts to be seen anywhere.
Not all the blame can be placed on the Governor. The spend-thrift, Democrat-controlled Legislature continuously seeks to increase the gasoline tax to make certain that we never pay less that $3 per gallon again. Similarly, they always want to add to the income tax burden of those who create jobs in the state and then wonder why there is no money left in the unemployment insurance fund. When will this Legislature realize that they cannot regulate every aspect of our lives? When will they learn that their role is not to provide everybody with everything and instead, remember that New Jerseyans do not have an endless source of money?
Most of New Jersey’s property tax problems, however, are due to the New Jersey Supreme Court. For several decades, they have usurped the Legislature’s appropriation authority by ordering obscene amounts of money to be dumped into 31 “poor”, special needs school districts not all of whom qualify to be there and not all of whom are poor! The Court has falsely assumed that money solves all social ills. Tens of billions, 60%, of New Jersey tax dollars have been spent trying to educate 20% of our students without success. It is as if they do not understand that “state funding” means “taxpayer funding.” We are paying the bill, not “the State!”
As the New Year begins and the budget debates commence, let us hope that we begin to see new ideas and innovative proposals. More of the same is nothing more than slowly bleeding us to death. Clearly, we simply cannot afford more of the same.
We can’t print money, but the Government can. If we did, we’d be arrested. Hmmm!