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Author: Scott Alexander

The Case for a FY 2015 Tax Cut

TaxesThe lines have been drawn and the battle has started, Save Jerseyans.

Discussions are underway concerning the viability of a FY 2015 budget year tax cut and these discussions have changed little in substance since earlier this year. The Governor wants it done though, once again, Democratic leaders are skeptical. But what this State needs more than anything else is a tax cut.

What we need to get our economy going is a strong housing market. A strong housing market increases sale prices, cash flow and revs up the economy. A stronger economy helps to generate jobs. The lynch pin is property taxes since they greatly influence the housing.

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Not Just Bad for Business

New Internet Sales Taxes Will Grow and Expand the Size of Government, Too

By Scott Alexander | The Save Jersey Blog

Bill Clinton InternetWe stand at a crossroads in America, Save Jerseyans.

Maybe I am the only one who sees it this way, but the Federal Government is poised to grow State Government by seeking to expand taxation of internet sales. The Senate recently passed the Marketplace Fairness Act bill [S-743} by a vote of 69-27 and it is now going to the House. It should be renamed the Government Unfair Act of Expansion. President Obama supports the bill, too.

This is the way I see it: you can pick any U.S. state but let’s take New Jersey as an example. The 2013 proposed budget for New Jersey is $32.1 billion. We have taxes and other revenues equal to that amount to create a balanced budget. If we were to add in $212 million in unrealized internet taxes from 2012 for example, we would grow the budget 6.6%.

In other words, we would grow New Jersey state government by 6.6%.

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Bet On Outsourcing Government

Lottery Privatization is Exactly What the Doctor Ordered

By Scott Alexander | The Save Jersey Blog

State House TrentonI like efficiently run smaller government. I also like the idea of providing value added services to citizens. Over time as services have been added to the menu, most governments look to themselves to provide services. Why? At the same time if there is an opportunity to outsource government operations to realize financial benefit, why not?

Governor Christie’s vision with outsourcing services currently provide by the State is the right vision. He should be turning over every rock to see where economies can be realized.

Outsourcing the lottery business, for example,is an idea ripe for the picking. There are private companies who do this already and it has been done in other U.S. states. The Northstar Lottery Group says they will more aggressively market the lottery programs and build online lottery sales. We are a gambling state so making lottery sales available through the internet will no doubt increase ticket sales.

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Outsourcing Inmates is Smart Policy

Gloucester County Jail Plan Will Benefit Taxpayers

By Scott Alexander | The Save Jersey Blog

Prison FenceGloucester County recently inked deals with four other county jails to house all of its 270 inmates, Save Jerseyans.

I really like the idea and think it is a great example of how shared services should work and how economies of scale benefit multiple budgets. Gloucester County Republican Freeholder and ardent taxpayer advocate Larry Wallace said, “[t]his will create smaller less government.” And isn’t that the goal? Or at least it should be.

It is interesting to me how some New Jersey counties expand their government and others work hard to reduce. There are plenty of opportunities for informative contrasts at both ends of the Turnpike. Camden County raised their tax levy 3.1% in 2012 while Republican Freeholders in Gloucester County pushed to have the tax levy lowered 3% despite having to grapple with a Democrat majority.

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We Can’t Afford Not to Do It

Attention Trenton! We need a Tax Cut ASAP

By Scott Alexander | The Save Jersey Blog

ScissorsWhat we need in this state more than anything else is a tax cut, Save Jerseyans.

Deep property tax cuts would be ideal but until that occurs, income tax cuts will work. Governor Christie is proposing an income tax credit up to a $10,000 limit based on 10% of your property taxes paid and phased in over 4 years. In addition, there is an earned income tax provision of his plan. The Democrats say we can’t afford it but I say we can’t afford not to figure out how to make it happen.

What we need to get our economy going is a strong housing market. A strong housing market increases sale prices, cash flow and revs up the economy. A stronger economy helps to generate jobs. The lynch pin is property taxes since they greatly influence the housing.

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Time to Focus on Local Taxes

Trenton’s Take is Too Large But Local Levies Deserve Greater Taxpayer Scrutiny

By Scott Alexander | The Save Jersey Blog

Cap 2.5 LindenLike the citizens of most states, New Jersey residents pay municipal, school, county, sales and income taxes. Seven don’t have income taxes and five don’t collect sales tax. Local taxes (municipal, local and county) account for 57% New Jersey’s aggregated consumer annual tax bill. 

New Jersey takes 43%, which is good news, since on average, American states that collect an income taxes take 60%. In fact, we are the second lowest state in this metric out of all states who collect an income tax.

What that tells us is that our local taxes are out of whack. Not that we don’t need to lower state taxes, Save Jerseyans, but local taxes exact a much bigger impact on our local economies. In 2013, local governments will spend $23 billion. 

Governor Chris Christie proposed the tool kit in 2010 which included pension reform and the 2% cap (originally a 2.5% cap) among other tools. These tools have helped to slow the rate of growth of local taxes, resulting in over $1 billion in combined local tax savings in 2011 and 2012 alone. And in 2013, they’ll add another $500 million to the savings column. But our Democrat-controlled legislators have pushed-back against all but six of the tool proposals and, as mentioned above, insisted on a legislative 2% cap instead of a constitutional 2.5% cap.

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Voting for Democracy

Opinion: U.S. Governments Should Do More to Foster Voter Participation

By Scott Alexander | The Save Jersey Blog

Wooden Ballot BoxPresident Obama last night announced the creation of a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. He tapped Democrat lawyer Bob Bauer and Republican lawyer Ben Ginsgberg to co-chair the commission. I agree that we need to do all we can to make sure our “God-given rights are protected here at home.”

The sad reality is that the United States is 138th out of 169 countries in terms of Representative voter turn-out versus the voting age population. We are 12th out of 16 countries in North America, behind Canada for registered voter turnout.

Voter turnout growth as a percent of registered voters and total population is flat. Our Democracy is weaker because the voice of all citizens is not being heard. Though it is a right and responsibility of citizens to vote the complexity of life and built up disdain for Government and its processes has created the environment of not prioritizing the need to vote.

It is the responsibility of Congress to enable and foster our Constitution, and in this case be innovative to make sure all voices are heard at the polls. We are the lead proponent of democracy through action and funding in the world, but when it comes to our own country our turnout results don’t represent our international actions.

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Jersey’s Moving Van Blues

The Northeast Continues to Rank High in Outbound Moves

By Scott Alexander | The Save Jersey Blog

Moving VanThe success of any State, County or Municipality can be measured by the desire of people and businesses to move to that location. In a recent study by United Van Lines “United Van Lines 2012 Migration Study Reveals Northeastern U.S. Exodus” they measured the migration of movers to and from States throughout the U.S.

The report noted the top 5 inbound migration and 9 outbound migration States. New Jersey ranked #1 in outbound moves along with 3 other Northeast States.

It was noted in the article by Professor Stoll that high inbound States were attractive because of their lower housing costs, more temperate climate and growing economies. Little was said as to why a State would have high migration so I looked into cause.

My first inclination was taxes.

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Encourage, Not Discourage Volunteers

Last week the State Senate passed bill S-1650 along party lines to redesign New Jerseys’ EMS, sending it to the Assembly for consideration.

Taking a hard, honest look at this legislation is important particularly with Hurricane Sandy bearing down on New Jersey.

At first I didn’t think much of the bill at all, but then I realized it was sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney so there had to be more to it. And guess what, Save Jerseyans? Sweeney, the king of advocating service consolidation at the county level, wants to effectively replace local volunteers with paid services.

The New Jersey State First Aid Council (NJSFAC) issued the following statement:

The New Jersey State First Aid Council is deeply concerned that the changes proposed in S-1650 / A-2463 will result in a decline in the number of volunteers in EMS services throughout the state, and an explosive financial burden to municipalities. This could be avoided by addressing recruitment and retention issues and creating a process to coordinate a blended system of paid and volunteer first aid and rescue. Not only will it effect the day-to-day operations of local EMS agencies, it will also have a significant negative effect on disaster readiness and response if the number of volunteer squads is significantly reduced.”

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An Interview with Camden County Freeholder Candidate Eugene Lawrence

Save Jerseyans, Camden County is in need of immediate change and Republican Freeholder Candidate Eugene Lawrence says he is more than ready to make necessary changes.

I had a chance to chat with Eugene last week about his plans should a majority of county voters entrust him with their vote:

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a lifelong resident of Gloucester Township and live in the Erial section of the township with my family. The Lawrence family is one of the oldest and largest families in the Township’s history. I served on the Gloucester Township Council for three terms and was the liaison to the Human Relations Committee. I was also a member of the Gloucester Township Planning Board.”

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Rebellion Behind Machine Lines?

Last Tuesday night, Save Jerseyans, the Camden City school board denied the KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy its application to build a charter school in Camden.

The proposal was backed by the Democrat South Jersey powerbroker of the same name and endeavored to create a five-school campus serving up to 3,000 students in the Lanning Square neighborhood of Camden.

Thankfully, the school board did the right thing by rejecting the KIPP Cooper Norcross plan because of its overreaching goal.

However, the interesting story here is the unexpected push back against the South Jersey Machine by other Democrats…

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How to Fix Camden’s Fiscal Woes and PD Problem, Too!

I think I am stating the obvious but Camden City’s government has not been motivated to operate efficiently for a long time. Between overspending, PILOTS and reliance on state transitional aid, Mayor and Council receive a failing grade for getting their fiscal house in order. And this is the simple reason why they can no longer fund their own police department.

The math is simple; you can’t spend more than you have. They don’t generate enough revenue and they spend too much. Camden City spends $2,160 per resident in expense, whereas Cherry Hill spends $845. Camden spends 155% more per resident. Why? Because they can. They get handed $100 million per year in “free” money from the State of New Jersey. What incentive is there to be fiscally responsive when that’s happening?

If Camden would get its spending in line with a town like Cherry Hill on a per resident basis, they would need only $69 million per year for expenses versus the $150 million currently in their 2012/2013 budget. They are spending 117% more than they should be spending….

And don’t blame the actual police department expense, Save Jerseyans…

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President Obama Leads the Blame Game (VIDEO)

Regardless of who wins today’s NFL match-ups, Save Jerseyans, we all know who is leading America’s favorite blame game.

There is always enough blame to go around in public life but often too little assumption of responsibility. This becomes even more troubling when the leader of the largest free economy in the world elects to accept no blame.

Check out this music video by The Voters called “Blame it on Bush.” It’s funny and sad at the same time:

“Wait and See” Isn’t a Valid Job Growth Strategy for Elected Leaders

Business leaders in the private sector don’t sit around to wait and see if jobs will just “appear” in their industries. What they do is look for ways to create new jobs. They get creative, they try new ideas and they take some risks. Why? Because they want to produce more revenue and profits for their companies, right?

So why is our President sitting around and waiting for jobs to happen? Pointing his finger at others and saying “it is the economy” as a verbal shrug. Correct me if I am wrong, Save Jerseyans, but isn’t he is the leader of the US economy!? Could you imagine Bill Gates sitting around, just crossing his fingers and hoping that new Microsoft jobs will materialize, or do you thing he is out there proactively looking for innovative ways to grow his company? And when have jobs never been a priority for this country?

When Barack Obama took office, unemployment was 5% and in two years hit 10%. Wouldn’t that have been a signal to President Obama to shift all attention to job creation instead of the implementation of new social experiments like healthcare reform? Dropping to the side any projects that would distract from his focus on the #1 priority, jobs?

Well he didn’t, and now our unemployment level is at 8.3% as a direct result. So think about this: the leader of our country and the largest economy in the world hasn’t been able to lead us back to even the level of unemployment that existed when he took the oath of office.

“Leaderless” is the best way to describe our nation at the moment.

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Camden City PD Blues

Camden City needs more reinforcements to their police force; no one disagrees with this statement.

But the Camden County Freeholders are moving forward like a speeding train towards a countywide police force, and it’s going to both crash and burn, or hobble to the finish line. The problem is that the train they are driving is going in a direction that has caused more acrimony than any issue in the recent past, even more so than the Rut-Row merger.

Camden City and Camden County residents, Camden County elected and appointed officials, Camden FOP, Camden County Chief of Police Association, Citizens’ Community Committee for Public Safety, and the NJ State PBA have all expressed concerns over the County plan for a Metro Police department. The reasons include, but are not limited to, legal issues associated with union busting, Camden City residents’ fear of losing familiar veteran officers, that costs will be spread to all County Municipalities, and the ability to sustain the plan when the State pulls aid.

The question is what is the best way to pull this off? It is unimaginable that county officials would ignore all the concerns being voiced but that is what they are doing. I keep asking myself why? It seems like political suicide… or do they know something that all others don’t see or understand. Are they rushing the process to create a flash point for November elections? Are they so arrogant and confident in their elected positions that they feel that they can do whatever they want with no political consequences?

The County has yet to pull off any large scale operational initiative, and to think or even allow then to play politics with public safety is disturbing at best.

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Scary Camden County

There has been plenty of talk about residents leaving New Jersey for less-taxed states.

The good news is that from April 2010 to July 2011 under Governor Christie’s stewardship, New Jersey has increased its population by 0.3%. On the other hand, Democrat-controlled Camden County has more residents leaving then coming. During the same time period, the county lost 0.1% of its population.

Why? There are a lot of reasons, but the County has earned a horrible reputation for irresponsible spending, cronyism and continually raising taxes. Since the county is not taking the bull by the horns, what choice do residents have but to leave for a more affordable county?

Existing businesses which are already having trouble sustaining themselves keep getting bigger tax bills, and what new business wants to call home to a county with taxes higher than the county right next door?

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The Open Space ATM

On August 12th, Camden County Freeholders approved $784,500 in grants to 21 of the 37 municipalities in the county, though they collected $7.96 million in open space taxes from County residents in 2012. The 2012 tax is in addition to the $9.2 million already in its coffers.

So where is the remaining $16.4 million, Save Jerseyans?

They transferred $795,000 to the general operating budget to cover “fringe benefits.” They pay the Camden County Improvement Authority $1.9 million a year in lease payments, overpay for services and are keeping $9.2 million for a rainy day.

Burlington County has 3,480 acres of protected open space whereas Camden County has 1,854. In 2012, Burlington plans to spend $1.8 million on development and maintenance of land, whereas Camden County is spending $3.6 million. That’s $3,901 per acre in Camden County and $518 per acre in Burlington County. Camden County is spending an outrageous 750% more per acre in expenses than Burlington County!!. How is that possible!?

Wasteful spending.

Here is another example of just inappropriate behavior; in 2012, the County levied Haddon Heights with a $165.875 open space tax bill, and they graciously are giving back a $25,000 grant. Where is the remaining $140,875?

It is fair to say that the County uses Open Space tax in a similar way that the DRPA has used its economic development funds like an ATM. They use the funds to supplement the general budget, to overpay for services and to give back pennies on the dollar of what they took from a few select communities in taxes. We do need to protect and preserve our open space but we need to do it in an efficient economic manner.