Candidates offer contrasting visions on funding education

Last night’s event at the Ogdensburg Firehouse sponsored by the Ogdensburg Historical Society highlighted the stark contrast between the positions and approach taken by Democratic candidates for New Jersey Assembly Mike Grace and Jacky Stapel compared with that of their GOP rivals Gail Phoebus and Parker Space.

candidates_01.jpgThe area of sharpest contrast was education and its funding in New Jersey.  New Jersey’s constitution provides that the state of New Jersey has the responsibility to provide all children in the state with a thorough education.

ARTICLE VIII, (TAXATION AND FINANCE), SECTION IV, PARAGRAPH 1. The Legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of free public schools for the instruction of all the children in the State between the ages of five and eighteen years.

Phoebus and Space said they would seek to repeal this provision of the constitution. They would place the constitutional burden for funding education on municipalities instead of the state. In other words, they would enshrine in the constitution a provision that lets the state off the hook for funding education and place it on taxpayers who pay real estate taxes.  Decades ago, the state income tax was enacted specifically to provide a funding source to enable universal quality education throughout New Jersey. Phoebus and Space would have the state allocate only a set amount of income tax revenues to municipalities. They would do this on a per pupil basis without regard for the taxpayer base in any particular district. In other words, under their scheme, real estate taxes would rise dramatically in poor areas of the state and decline in rich areas. In effect, Phoebus and Space propose income redistribution from poor homeowners to rich homeowners.

On the other hand, Grace and Stapel propose enabling the intent underlying enactment of the New Jersey income tax. If elected, they would seek to have the State fund education throughout the state as the constitution mandates, and the law creating the state’s income tax intends. And, since the school taxes constitute most of the taxes levied on homeowners, their proposal would substantially reduce real estate taxes in New Jersey.

Rob Jennings published this report of the event in today’s New Jersey Herald where he focused on Parker Space’s enthusiasm for “coal rolling” and his obvious misunderstanding of legislation enacted to ban it.