By Matt Rooney
Remember when yours truly, and others, said the grand October 2016 gas tax compromise was unadulterated BS?
And that any small tax “cuts” offered as a trade off would be erased over time? When Democrats inevitably retook control and “revenue” needs arose?
Well, in Tuesday’s inaugural Phil Murphy budget address, our new Democrat Governor declared his intention to raise our sales tax back to 7 percent. Christie, his GOP loyalists and the Democrats had cut the rate to 6.875 percent initially and then, effective January 1, 2018, down to 6.625 percent, as part of the deal to enact a massive gas tax increase and pump new monies into the state’s chronically mismanaged transportation trust fund.
The contemporaneously-pursued estate tax repeal remains in place (for now) but you need to die — and leave your heirs between $675,00 and $2 million — before you’ll notice any difference.
I hate being correct, Save Jerseyans. I really, truly do.
Saying “I told you so” brings me no pleasure.
I’m also sincerely not interested in recriminations. The only thing I want to know is whether the remaining Republicans who backed this nonsense are ready to admit they were wrong?
They didn’t just support a bad compromise which the Democrats were CERTAIN to invalidate upon reasserting complete control of Trenton; as I pointed out at the time, they also provided sufficient votes to allow swing district Democrats off of the hook like Bob Andrzejczak (D-1), Joann Downey (D-11), Eric Houghtaling (D-11), Bruce Land (D-1), Vince Mazzeo (D-2), and Andrew Zwicker (D-16).
The aforementioned vulnerable Democrats should’ve faced a united Republican tax revolt in 2017.
Instead? They easily fended off GOP challengers who had been fatally undercut by a state party establishment which, in the waning days of the Christie years, had succumbed to an identity crisis. A great, tangible, weaponize-able issue was taken off the table. Even Kim Guadagno found herself doing a difficult dance, unwilling to criticize her boss before the actual vote and then fighting her own administration after the fact. It hurt her gubernatorial campaign the next year without question.
Some pro-gas tax Republicans simply acted defensively and made a tactical, political decision to align with Big Labor. Others genuinely thought it was a good idea. At least a couple, I think, did what Chris Christie’s front office told them to do like good little soldiers.
The end result’s the same no matter the quality of the motivations or intentions because the governing logic is inescapable: Trenton is insane, and you can’t negotiate with something (or someone) who is irrational, no more than you can expect to advance the cause of your constituents by indulging a bad faith negotiation.
Here’s what the GOP position should and must be going forward: NO tax hike compromises, of any kind, until that magical day when Trenton (1) addresses cost drivers and (2) starts cutting spending. It’s the only way home.
Of course, we said all of this and predicted the disasters of the past few months years ago. Anyone who wasn’t willfully blind saw it coming. Regular readers are probably tired of talking about it! Again, the only remaining question is whether the Republican Party wing which took ownership of this crap is willing to be a part of the solution or persist in providing cover for the authors of our state’s economic destruction.
This is their #TimeForChoosing. I encourage them to choose wisely.
We’ll revisit this topic when it’s time to vote on Phil Murphy’s budget.