Itâ€™s no secret. The Garden Stateâ€™s finances are in the toilet. The state is looking at a shortfall in the billions of dollars. The voters knew this going into the most recent election for governor. Nevertheless, as history will record, Jon Corzine won the race.
Today, Governor Corzine announced his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2007.
Let me preface this by saying that I am not an economist, nor am I particularly facile with figures. However, I do speak English, I didnâ€™t just fall off the turnip truck, and I manage to pay my bills every month. Therefore, I tend to believe that if you are in a financial hole, the way to get out of the hole is to be sure that the amount of your â€œoutgoâ€ is less than less than the amount of the â€œoutgoâ€ that got you into the hole in the first place. In English, that means that you have to spend less than you have been spending until you are out of the red ink.
Which makes if difficult to understand why this yearâ€™s budget calls for spending increases over last yearâ€™s in the amount of 9.2 per cent.
The Governor explained this increase as being largely the result of â€œalready legislated, mandated, negotiated and inflated costs.â€ The budget also includes some proposed reductions in spending, however, as Ken Adams pointed out in big, red letters, only in the world of politics do reductions in anticipated increases in spending equal â€œcutsâ€.
The Governor proposes that the stateâ€™s sales tax be raised from six percent to seven per cent. The government (and the press) characterize this as a â€œone percent increaseâ€ in the sales tax. Thatâ€™s very clever, but even a math-challenged guy like Yours Truly knows that it is not a one percent increase, but rather it is an almost seventeen percent increase in sales tax. (Math 101, folks â€“ 1/6 = 16.66). If you still canâ€™t see it, it means that if a purchase normally would have cost you $100 in sales tax, the same purchase, under the Governorâ€™s plan, would cost $116.66 in sales tax.
The Governorâ€™s plan also nails the politically easy targets — smokers and drinkers. The taxes on cigarettes, wine, booze and beer are to be increased. I have to wonder whether sufficient thought was given to the collective effect that an increased cigarette tax will have on: (a) people deciding that they can no longer afford to smoke (healthier Garden Staters, but less revenue for the state), (b) increased cigarette sales in nearby states such as Pennsylvania and Delaware (less revenue for the state), and (c) increased internet cigarette purchases (less revenue for the state). Iâ€™m just sayinâ€™.
Oh, and before the teetotalers out there get all giddy, did I mention that the Governorâ€™s plan will also tax tap water. Yes, I said tap water. Talk about a â€œdry stateâ€!
Although the budget and the stateâ€™s finances are complicated (and beyond the scope of this post), a couple things about the proposed budget seem clear at this juncture:
Republicans, not surprisingly, hate it.
And, if the Star Ledger Readersâ€™ Forum is any indication of public opinion, the citizens of New Jersey really hate it.
The next few weeks ought to be quite something to watch as the
rogues politicians and lobbyists savage one another to protect their respective interests. Of course, while they wrestle in the muck that is the Jersey Political Swamp, people and businesses will quietly go elsewhere.
In typical Jersey fashion, no one will notice until its too late.