District mates DeCroce, Webber part ways over TTF capitulation

DeCroce (L) and Webber (R)

By Matt Rooney | The Save Jersey Blog

It’s not unusual for district mates of the same party to disagree and vote differently from time to time, Save Jerseyans.

The seismic gap between the Transportation Trust Fund positions of Betty Lou DeCroce (R, Parsippany-Troy Hills) and Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains), Assembly members representing New Jersey’s 26th Legislative District, speaks volumes about the problems facing a rudderless NJ GOP in the twilight of Governor Chris Christie’s gubernatorial tenure.

Tuesday night was a turning point. After ten Republicans — including DeCroce, late wife of former GOP Assembly Leader Alex DeCroce — defected and voted with the Democrats to raise gas taxes and incur massive new debt, Asm. Webber unloaded on his colleagues with a strongly-worded statement. 

DeCroce (L) and Webber (R)
DeCroce (L) and Webber (R)

“….all the Trenton insiders did was pave New Jersey’s road to higher taxes,” Webber, a former chairman of the NJ GOP, opined as the deal game together in real-time in the overnight hours. “This State Street ‘deal’ is an instant $850 million tax hike on overtaxed Main Street New Jerseyans, with as much as $4.8 billion more in tax hikes coming in the next few years. And it doesn’t offer taxpayers their money back until five years from now, if it ever comes back at all.”

“We have a serious problem and have to fix the Transportation Trust Fund,” Webber added. “But New Jersey’s biggest problem is our crushing tax burden, and any ‘deal’, like this one, that makes the tax burden worse, is just a raw deal for New Jersey.”  

The worst part for fiscal conservatives like Webber (and anyone with a calculator) isn’t the tax increases per se in the form of a 23-cent per gallon gas tax hike, or even the decision to scrap a significant death tax phase-out provision from the legislation, but the Assembly bill’s head-scratching directive to borrow $1.5 billion a year on top of New Jersey’s preexisting debt load, exactly the type of fiscal irresponsibility Republicans rightly decried during recent Democrat administration.

The history and math is clear on this point. Indeed, before long, state taxes will inevitably rise yet again as the need to pay for that debt mounts. Webber gets it.

DeCroce, on the other hand, put out a statement defending the legislation because it includes a modest sales tax cut. She nevertheless failed to address the massive new debt load and seemed to admit, right up front, that needed reforms were left out of the deal.

garden state parkway highway“There needs to be an overhaul of the permitting and inspection process that would streamline the construction of necessary infrastructure projects in the state,” explained DeCroce.  “As an example, I believe that we can reduce costs in a responsible way through working with county engineers to continue project oversight and inspections.  I hope my colleagues will work with me to bring about greater reform when spending the taxpayers’ money.”

In other words, even with this new infusion of cash for the transportation fund, the REASONS it went broke in the first place (out of control costs resulting to the nation’s most expensive roads to repair/maintain) haven’t been addressed. 

We here at Save Jersey see absolutely no basis for the ‘hope’ cited by Assemblywoman DeCroce that her “colleagues” (read: Labor Democrats) will do anything meaningful to rein in labor costs. Real reform has once more taken a back seat to Trenton politics. New Jerseyans will pay more in the pump, and down the road to handle a growing debt burden, for absolutely nothing

Taken together with the fact that the Republican defectors unbelievably gave political cover to swing-district Dems to vote against the tax-and-spend monstrosity, it’s incredible — maddening, if we’re being honest — that any Trenton politician would be patting themselves on the back right now.

It remains to be seen whether the NJ GOP stays the course, and remains divided and ineffectual, or if someone steps up to forge cohesion, assert a contrast with the ruling regime and get the party back on the right track again.

LD26 is only one of the places we’ll be watching closely over the next year to see which destiny the opposition party ultimately chooses for itself.

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Matt Rooney
About Matt Rooney 8533 Articles
MATT ROONEY is SaveJersey.com's founder and editor-in-chief, a practicing New Jersey attorney, and the host of 'The Matt Rooney Show' on 1210 WPHT every Sunday evening from 7-10PM EST.