N.J. can blame itself (and no one else) for any ugly Trump tax overhaul consequences

Well, the general framework of Donald Trump’s tax plan dropped on Wednesday afternoon, Save Jerseyans, and to borrow a Trumpian vocabulary favorite, it’s “yuge.” Assuming of course the hapless GOP can make some version of the plan to slash corporate tax rates, flatten individual brackets and close “loopholes” happen sometime this century. Tax reform is critical. So critical that it’s hard to understate exactly how important this debate is for the country.

Look at it this way: the U.S. hasn’t overhauled its federal tax code since the Internet. Our world has changed a lot since then. If we want to keep up? And keep good paying jobs here? We need to adjust in order to remain competitive. This guiding principles of this reform proposal collectively represent a major step in the right direction.

Just don’t expect a lot of excitement from the usual suspects in the media and on the Left (but I repeat myself). They’ve got an agenda and tax fairness isn’t part of it.

Trump, flanked by Chris Christie and Rep. Tom MacArthur, headlining a 2017 Bedminster, New Jersey fundraiser.

Then there are the Northeastern/coastal GOP types who know reform is important but, you’re going to find if you don’t know it already, are concerned about not only the political climate but also parochial interests. Specifically, the fact that high tax states like New Jersey will benefit less than the rest of the country because our in-state tax burden will no longer be eligible for a federal deduction. For example: even if the standard deduction doubles for individuals and married couples to $12,000 and $24,000, respectively, not being able to deduct $8,500 (our state’s average and ungodly property tax bill) might create a wash.

“When our leadership opened the floor for comments I was the first to make the case to my colleagues for maintaining the state and local tax deduction that is so critically important for New Jersey. New Jersey taxpayers support federal initiatives more than any other state. The elimination of this deduction would further increase the disparity in New Jersey’s support for the federal government versus the return in federal tax funds,” opined 7th District GOP Congressman Leonard Lance on Wednesday after the plan dropped.

Congressman Tom MacArthur of the 3rd District, Lance’s colleague from South Jersey, is reportedly working with the Trump Administration on the issue. He’s tight with the Donald.

At least one Republican legislator is already echoing Lance’s concerns.

“I’m gravely concerned that tax reform efforts that are intended to ease the federal tax burden will instead have the opposite effect for many New Jerseyans,” said Kip Bateman, a state senator hailing from a Central Jersey swing district. “Losing the ability to deduct property taxes and state income taxes could lead to higher federal tax bills for many working, home-owning families in New Jersey.”

All of that is true. 

What’s also true: New Jersey could lose out because New Jersey voters, and the people we send to Trenton, make objectively shitty decisions. Specifically, our highest-in-the-nation state tax burden. 

As this national tax overhaul debate gets underway, this state, New York, Connecticut and a handful of others are kind of like a 500-pound. man on a plane yelling at the stewardesses over the seats not being big enough. The REAL answer isn’t making the airlines build bigger seats/planes; the answer is to lose some damn weight!

Here’s a totally crazy idea for New Jersey politicians: focus on lowering our property taxes! So we don’t have to go begging to D.C. for a refund. Finally addressing affordable housing the school funding formula, and other major property tax drivers instead of pointing fingers and watching as the Garden State transforms into the “Moving State.”

The other 49 states can’t be expected to accommodate Trenton’s dysfunction. We’re going to get left behind if we don’t reform our stupid ways. This is only the latest example (if the hordes of taxpayers leaving our state wasn’t a wake-up call). 

New Jersey Republicans running for elected office this fall could try to shift the onus back on Trenton IF they were willing to screw their courage to the post.

One idea?

“It’s truly funny — in an sad sort of way — that the same Democrats who produce an entire litter of kittens at the proposal to remove the federal property tax deduction have never, in their 16 years of legislative control, proposed to permit NJ taxpayers to deduct their property taxes from their state income tax. (The tax cut would go to the wrong people, don’t you know: those who actually pay taxes.),” our friend Michael Patrick Carroll, Assemblyman from Morris County, shared on Facebook on Wednesday.

Why not campaign on that? And if you want to get federal about it, celebrate the potential for New Jersey sending LESS dollars down I-95 every April?

Regular readers know how we feel about accepting bad premises around here. Letting Trenton off the hook in this tax fight isn’t just a bad look for GOP candidates but it’s a self-defeating strategy, too. Republican campaigns please take note…. you’re missing a golden opportunity to make the contrast you so desperately need.

Matt Rooney
About Matt Rooney 8495 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.