Why in the world is the Democrat controlled New Jersey Assembly allowing Chris Christie to flush the state down the fiscal drain?
Everyone seems to agree that we need to fund the state’s depleted Transportation Trust Fund. It’s needs money to fix decaying roads and infrastructure. Soon, the TTF will be bankrupt. Necessary funds aren’t available from current state revenues. And we’ve borrowed as much as we can for the TTF – the current gas tax barely covers the interest we owe. A gas tax increase is needed. It’s a pretty simple proposition -- higher taxes are necessary in order to fix our roads.
Senator Steve Oroho seems to be on board with the proposition that the state’s gas tax needs to be increased. But for some reason -- probably ideological; certainly not rational on its face -- he ties an increase in the gas tax to a reduction in other general revenue sources. The result is net revenue neutrality, but middle class taxpayers would end up paying more with rich ones paying less. And since he’s cutting taxes on the rich, it’s obvious that the general budget deficit will increase under Oroho’s plan. The state Senate was favorably considering a plan something like Oroho’s as a compromise to keep GOP lawmakers on board.
Now steps in the governor. Until now he left it to the Democrats in the legislature to come up with a TTF solution. And yesterday, out of the blue, he moved. He got Democrats in the Assembly, in a midnight session, to join with Republicans to pass a bill that raises the gas tax but cuts the sales tax. And in venues across the state, Christie is already touting the move as his personal victory. He’s claiming as his own accomplishment, the first reduction in decades of a general tax in New Jersey. In return for placing this conservative feather in Christie’s cap, the state will get to dig an even deeper fiscal hole and probably experience further reductions in its credit ratings..
Christie’s bill now goes to the Senate. The initial reaction there is that it’s crazy talk.
Here’s a reaction from the Star Ledger’s Tom Moran.