Gov. Phil Murphy and top New Jersey Democrats today are the party of special short-term deals for selected people. They have settled on a $50.6 billion fiscal 2023 budget that spends $2 billion on a so-called “ANCHOR” tax rebate” for homeowners and residential renters.
They’ve also included a 10-day back-to-school sales tax holiday for selected retail purchases. Neither plan offers any tax relief for businesses. So, those businesses will simply pass the higher cost they’re paying for government back onto those homeowners and renters through higher prices of goods and services.
Democrats were not so short-sighted 150 years ago. Back then, there was only one broad-based tax imposed on New Jerseyans, the local property tax. In 1875, Democratic Gov. Joel Parker even pushed through an amendment to the old state constitution requiring all property to be “assessed according to the same standard of value.”
When New Jersey embraced that idea, it became one of the richest and least taxed states in America. During that time, we had excellent police, schools and roads. The fastest trains in the world went to and from Atlantic City. Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb and more, set up his laboratories in New Jersey. We manufactured everything from automobiles to pharmaceuticals.
However, property tax rates and most bills have gone up every time politicians gave us “more property tax relief.” Today, New Jersey’s real estate taxes are the highest in the nation, and its sales tax and its top income tax rate are among the nation’s highest. Our state government has roughly $248 billion in combined debt and public pension obligations, the second highest in America. The reason is obvious.
When the 1875 state constitution forced everyone to pay taxes at the same rate, all voters had one simple way to attempt to control their taxes. They had to pay attention to local politics and elect officials who were capable and honest.
This may not be constitutional. The general rule that all real estate be taxed equally is still part of our state constitution. It was never amended to create a tax break for casinos.
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