Jensen: The not-so-conservative Chris Christie
Author: Rick Jensen - October 8, 2016 - Updated: October 8, 2016
To say New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is skipping … um … trudging … out of office, loading up Jersey drivers with a 250 percent increase in the gas tax, is certainly accurate.
To say he’s waddling out of office, giving tax breaks to veterans, the poor, the middle class and the wealthy would also be accurate.
What you don’t know is for how long any tax cuts agreed upon by the Democrats overpopulating Garden State political offices will last.
Here’s the deal as it currently stands: Because the New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund has been raided by politicians to pay for billions of dollars of expenses other than repairing roads and bridges, the fund has broken any possible definition of the word “trust.”
So, Christie has worked out a deal in which lawmakers agree to raise the gas tax from 14.5 cents per gallon to 37.5 cents per gallon.
At 23 cents per gallon, filling up a 15-gallon tank twice a week is an extra $6.90 each week out of everyone’s pockets. That’s close to $400 a year more to get to work, pick the kids up from basketball, take them to karate and music lessons and pay even more for a vacation trip.
How does “Conservative” Christie weasel the deal?
Democrats would be voting to reduce the state sales tax a little bit, from 7 percent to 6.625 percent by the middle of next year. That’s not even a “10 percent off” sale. It’s a “9.46 percent off sale.”
They would give veterans a personal exemption from state income taxes, which is a pretty meaningful 3.5 percent on average.
New Jersey’s estate tax would be phased out completely in two years, and they would increase the earned income tax credit from 30 percent to 35 percent, a benefit for low-income residents of the great peoples’ republic of New Jersey.
They’ll wink and nod over a new exclusion on retirement income taxes over four years to $100,000 for joint filers.
You’ll now be able to deduct charitable contributions.
So, how long do you think all of these tax breaks will last?
All it takes is one Democratic governor and these little ripples of tax breaks will come rushing back in such a tsunami of tax-and-spending bills that it’ll take an intrepid reporter to uncover the elimination of the veterans’ tax break. Fortunately, such reporters do live and work in New Jersey.
What will not happen is any lowering of the gas tax increase.
In fact, one state senator said, “It only starts at 23 cents.”
Wouldn’t a conservative leader repair the broken system to find the money this tax scheme is expected to confiscate from the system’s prisoners?
Republican Gov. Tom Kean had a solution to make expected road and bridge repair sustainable: combine the gas tax with borrowing timed to coincide with expiration of bonds specifically for infrastructure maintenance.
When Kean left office, the “Trenton Jackals” fed upon the trust fund, expanding borrowing limits, using the money to pay operating expenses and old debts.
Christie has been piecing together funding plans, competing against Democrats pushing and pushing for higher taxes like a Jenga game which has finally crashed.
At the time of this writing, the gas tax has not yet been voted up or down.
That matters little.
What does matter is a real solution for the hundreds of infrastructure repairs and maintenance projects that have been suddenly cancelled.
Sure, Christie reportedly spent $300,000 in state dollars on food, booze and deserts over the past five years, but that hardly puts a dent in the porcine state spending and debt.
Earlier this year, NJSpotlight reported New Jersey’s total debt was more than $35 billion, plus $51 billion in unfunded pension costs and $66.8 billion in unfunded retiree-healthcare costs.
Considering New Jersey brought in just over $34 billion in revenues in 2015, their problems are still greater than a 23 cent gas tax.