Democrats and Republicans gave New Jersey its spiraling taxes
By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist
Last week, my fellow columnist Harry Hurley asked, “Why does New Jersey consistently elect Democrats?”
In 1965, I was a sophomore at Atlantic City High School. At that time, New Jersey was the best state in the country to live and work. We had no state sales or income tax, and no state debt. But my public school education was second to none. Rutgers and most state colleges charged less than $800 per year for tuition, room, and board – less than what I and most teenagers earned working on the Boardwalk in a single summer. We also learned as much about what really matters in life from those summer jobs as we did in school.
Yes, you had to play politics and pay “ice money” to get a low pay, do-nothing, government job or a sweetheart government contract or license. But there were so many opportunities that most people did not need favors from the government to make a good living.
But all that changed starting in 1965 when New Jersey Democrats, re-elected again, after eight years of control, brought Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” to our state.
In 1966, Democrats led by Gov. Richard Hughes adopted a new 3 percent state sales tax for the first time. They said this would cut property taxes.
But property taxes went up. Money from the new state sales tax gave local politicians and teachers’ unions bigger salaries, more dues, and more political clout. They then demanded even bigger salaries, more benefits, and the right to force everyone to join public employee unions – and higher taxes to pay for it.
In 1969, just four years later, fed-up New Jersey voters elected Republican Gov. William Cahill and a Republican Legislature by a landslide. But Republicans quickly betrayed those voters. Despite new money from the new state lottery, Republicans failed to repeal or reduce the 3 percent sales tax. Instead, they increased it to 5 percent.
Then, Republican Gov. Cahill appointed the previous liberal Democratic Gov. Richard Hughes as chief justice of the state Supreme Court. Hughes immediately ripped the New Jersey Constitution to shreds.
His court ordered the state to impose a new state income tax on top of the sales tax to fund local public schools. He also created loopholes for state government to borrow billions of dollars without the voter approval that is required by Article VIII of the New Jersey Constitution.
Republican Cahill and the Republicans were voted out after one term in 1973. Democrats under Gov. Brendan Byrne then ran all branches of state government for the next eight years. In 1976, they gave us the 3 percent income tax demanded by the Hughes Supreme Court on top of the 5 percent sales tax.
In 1981, the success Ronald Reagan in Washington allowed Republican Tom Kean to win election as governor, and for Republicans to again run the Legislature. But these Tom Kean Republicans did as much taxing, spending, and borrowing as Democrats.
Republicans raised the 3 percent income tax to 3.5 percent, hiked the sales tax to 6 percent, borrowed billions without voter approval, boosted government pensions without paying for them, and left the state with $3 billion budget hole when they were finally booted out.
In 1989, New Jersey voters put Democrats back in control with Jim Florio as governor. Florio doubled the state income tax rate from 3.5 percent to 7 percent for incomes over $60,000. That created so much anger that Florio was out four years later, and Republican Gov. Christie Whitman and a Republican Legislature were elected in 1993.
The lame-duck Democrats were so demoralized that they actually tried to repeal the entire Florio tax hike. The dirty little secrets is that they were stopped – by Republicans. Republicans wanted their new Gov. Whitman to look like a hero by repealing only a small part of the Florio tax hike.
Whitman’s Republicans put more left-wing progressives like Deborah Poritz on the Supreme Court. And they increased state borrowing, spending, and government regulations as much as Democrats until they were thrown out.
Democrats came back in 2001 with Govs. McGreevey, Codey, and Corzine with more of the same. McGreevey gave us the 14 percent hotel-motel tax. Corzine hiked the sales tax to 7 percent, and Republicans criticized Democrats who tried to stop him.
Since 2009, Republican Gov. Chris Christie has done exactly what Republicans Cahill, Kean, and Whitman did before – complain about Democrats, but spend, tax, and borrow just like them.
How can we change the Republican Party in New Jersey? Organize tea party conservatives now and beat them in the June primary elections next year.
(Reprinted from October 3, 2012 Current-Gazette Newspapers of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, http://www.shorenewstoday.com/snt/news/index.php/politics/30195-democrats-and-republicans-gave-new-jersey-its-spiraling-taxes.html)
Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman appears on 92.1FM 8-9 a.m. Saturday. For information see www.libertyandprosperity.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (609) 927-7333. Breakfast discussions are held 9:30-10:30 a.m. every Saturday at the Shore Diner on Fire and Tilton roads in Egg Harbor Township.
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