The State of Our State 2012


The State of Our State 2012
Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski

In this year’s annual State of the State address, Governor Christie offered a number of proposals for legislators to consider in the...

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The State of Our State 2012

February 28, 2012

The State of Our State 2012
Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski

In this year’s annual State of the State address, Governor Christie offered a number of proposals for legislators to consider in the coming year. Some are likely to find bipartisan support such as his proposal to provide drug treatment instead of jail for non-violent drug offenders.

There are also areas such as education where Democrats and Republicans can agree on the problems but differ on the strategies to solve them. I was encouraged to hear the Governor recognize in his remarks that the majority of New Jersey students perform well. In the heated debate over education reform, it seemed that he had lost sight of that fact. His recent comments that the growth of charter schools should be focused in school districts where we are failing our children is also a relief to those of us who had a growing concern about the good schools that were losing education funding to local charters. If all parties involved are able to maintain a civil discussion, we may have an opportunity to make progress on tough issues such as teacher tenure reform.

Then there are areas where there are stark disagreements with the Governor, both in his assessment of the current state of our state and his proposals moving forward. Nowhere is this contrast more evident than in his assessment of our current fiscal state and his tax proposals.

Before I discuss those disagreements, let me note one area of agreement on taxes. Restoring the earned income tax credit for New Jersey’s working poor has the potential to garner wide support in the legislature. For the Governor to have cut this credit, which even Ronald Reagan supported, was a grave injustice to those who struggle to provide for a family despite their work. My only concern is that this proposal should not be held hostage to his more contentious proposal for an across-the-board income tax cut.

The Governor’s income tax cut proposal is both inequitable and does nothing to address New Jersey’s true tax problem – property taxes. In fact, it stands a very good chance of making property taxes an even greater problem.

While the Governor is quick to claim that property taxes are under control, he turns a blind eye to the fact that his policies have significantly raised the average property tax burden in New Jersey. According to an analysis done by NJ Spotlight, an online news service, when property tax credits and rebates are included in the calculations, the average New Jersey homeowner saw a net increase of 20% in their property tax burden in the last two years – from $6244 in 2009 to $7519 in 2011. That $1275 increase is more than the entire income tax bill for a New Jersey family of four earning $75,000.

The Governor’s income tax proposal would also, once again, disproportionately favor the wealthy. The same family of four who saw a property tax increase of $1275 would receive just $112 from the income tax cut when fully phased-in. By contrast, someone earning $1,000,000 would reap $7266.

Most egregious, however, is the fact that the Governor has ignored major fiscal problems on the near horizon.

While he may claim to have made some progress on New Jersey’s pension liabilities, he also has planned for the state’s contributions to the pension fund and to fund transportation infrastructure to grow by $5 billion in the next few years. Despite his claim of having made tough decisions, he has resorted to the same borrow and “kick the can down the road” fiscal strategies for which he has criticized with his predecessors.

The first step in solving any problem is recognizing it. With his State of the State address, Governor Christie has failed to clear this first hurdle. Until he does, New Jersey can not truly begin to solve its problems.