New Jersey Sales Tax Increase Squandered On Pork
“The state is pretty much broke”, declared New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine during his budget unveiling speech in March.
What was the Governor’s solution to the problem? The first thing Corzine did was to borrow, adding $6.4 billion to the state’s debt, structured such that repayment balloons from 2011 through 2041. Next, Corzine proposed a budget to increase state spending by 9.2 percent and to levy $1.8 billion in new taxes.
Corzine has insisted the tax hike - from 6 percent to 7 percent - is needed to close the state's recurring budget gap.
To gain support for his new taxes, Corzine shut down state government to force lawmakers to accept his budget and tax increases. He protected state employees, agreeing to pay them for any days not worked during the shut down. The losses in taxes to the state and income by private citizens were to be borne by those held hostage. To add insult to injury, Corzine then broke out the taxpayers’ checkbook:
Lawmakers estimate that majority Democrats added more than $300 million in such projects - called "pork" or "Christmas tree ornaments" - in the hours before the Legislature passed the spending plan early Saturday morning.You know things are bad when David Rebovich, political science professor at Rider University, can’t put a positive spin on the tax and spend frenzy. The tax increases weren’t used to place state government on a sound financial footing; they were frittered away on new spending.
"That means state government was closed for eight days to gain an additional $300 million in revenue, which is 1 percent of the budget," Rebovich said. "That's not a headline that the governor or Democratic legislators want out there."Call it “property tax relief” in you like, $200,000 for a diesel-powered electric generator in West Deptford, $40,000 for roof repair to the Barnsboro Fire House, $110,000 for sidewalks in Logan Township, $24 million more for Newark and $4 million more for Trenton for God knows what. And on and on the spending list goes.
He added: "In what we're told is the beginning of a major downsizing in government, it's surprising that [Corzine] allowed so much additional spending to be added in the wee hours of the night."
So there you have it. After all is said there done, there was no downsizing of New Jersey’s government. Tax increases were gobbled up by even more new spending and the state begins next year with a $2 billion budget hole.