By Matt Rooney
This is one of those Trump tweets which I doubt will make anyone completely happy, Save Jerseyans:
Congratulations to legislators in New Jersey for not passing taxes that would have driven large numbers of high end taxpayers out of the state. Many were planning to leave, & will now be staying. New York & others should start changing their thought process on taxes, fast!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 1, 2019
The context: on Sunday, Governor Phil Murphy (D-NJ) signed a massive $38.7 billion FY 2020 budget which, against his wishes, did not include certain tax and fee hikes including a “millionaire’s tax” applying to income over a million bucks (at present, it only applies to the 5 million-and-higher level).
A victory for fiscal restraint? Hardly. It’s still a record budget in terms of size and waste; New Jersey spending has increased by BILLIONS since Murphy took office a mere 1.5 years ago. Coupled with state school aid adjustments baked into the budget (the actual decisions are made after the fact by bureaucrats) which benefit a few Democrat outposts at the expense of suburban and rural communities? New Jerseyans’ taxes will continue to rise throughout all twenty-one counties into next year and especially in the all-important property tax category where we’re already pushing an average of $8,800 – the worst in America.
“For years, we have been sounding the alarm about the dire need to fix New Jersey’s terribly flawed school funding formula,” opined state Senator Steven Oroho (R-24) over the weekend. “Regretfully, any funding scenario that formularizes the Abbott mandates which translates into two-thirds of all State aid going to a handful of urban school districts will always be flawed no matter how you run numbers. Our students and our taxpayers deserve better treatment, and we will continue to fight for them until we get a school funding formula that treats every student equally.”
The bottom line: taxpayers are still and will still continue running for the exists. The structural reforms aren’t there. Nothing has been fixed. The train is still off the tracks and heading for the cliff. Your taxes ARE going up, and this budget compounds the problem.
Trump may also not know that New Jersey’s FY 2010 spending blitz now includes $3 million to help illegal aliens get taxpayer-subsidized legal representation thanks to supplemental spending votes which were stripped out of the budget at the last moment and voted upon separately. That former budget line is particular is hardly on message with POTUS’s strong position on getting America’s illegal immigration problem under control.
So why did Trump tweet what he did? Perhaps he saw something on Fox News about the millionaire tax angle (he’s an avid watcher). He’s here a ton; his Bedminster golf course often serves as a ‘summer White House.’ Or maybe he’s happy to see Governor Murphy suffer a tactical loss at the hands of Democrat legislators who regularly scrap with Murphy. If you can explain Trump? You’re the first. Congrats.
All the same, Jon Bramnick – a reliable centrist, by any definition – now finds himself in the unlikely role of highest-ranking legislative fiscal conservative on the FY 2020 budget (his entire caucus voted against it, while seven GOP state senators sided with the Democrats).
“What the state needs to do is cut spending, cut taxes, and reform the way we do things to save money,” said Jon Bramnick (R-Union), the Assembly’s GOP minority leader in a Monday morning statement. “The governor did not cut any of the pork he continually criticized. It’s time for Trenton to stop being so generous with taxpayers’ money and actually provide people with relief.”
Democrat Senate President Steve Sweeney, for his part, is undeniably less-than-pleased to suddenly find himself getting praised by the least popular Republican in New Jersey (next perhaps to Chris Christie). I’m sure the emails are already flying on the Democrat side of the aisle. Another related angle: Trump is FRIENDS with Sweeney’s political patron, South Jersey Democrat boss George Norcoss, Murphy’s arch nemesis and the central player in the EDA tax credit controversy.
Yes, politics can create strange bedfellows.
Trump may just love the chaos. Who knows.
Next time, however, we invite the President’s people to check in with Save Jersey before celebrating a budget process which hardly deserves presidential approval.