By Anthony M. Bucco
Political leaders in our state spend a lot of time talking about making New Jersey more affordable. What they never seem to acknowledge is that their policies have made our state more unaffordable and brought us to a financial brink.
Gov. Phil Murphy and Democrats in Trenton are fooling themselves. Focusing on ideological talking points is not going to help people struggling to afford living in New Jersey. Let’s take a look at how New Jersey has done with Trenton Democrats controlling the state budget for the past 17 years.
New Jersey now has one of the largest debt problems in the nation, oour property taxes have risen 80 percent, we’re annually the worst place to do business and annually the most moved-from state. We have an ever-growing population of working poor families, and some of our nation’s worst rankings caused by constant tax increases and irresponsible spending.
The constant theme throughout all of these glaring issues is that New Jersey is too expensive. Property taxes consume nearly 12 percent of the average household income. How did that happen? Property taxes haven’t been addressed, and they aren’t a priority for the Trenton Democrats. The majority has helped pass 169 laws this year – many increasing the cost of living – and not a single one would lower taxpayers’ biggest expense. Worse, time and again Republicans have tried to provide relief but have been rejected on a purely partisan basis. This is bad for New Jersey.
In his State of the State address Murphy noted the United Way study on working poor families who are considered asset limited, income constrained and employed. What he ignored is that even though New Jersey has the second highest median income in the nation at $80,088, a family who lives here is considered low-income if they earn as much as $71,900.
This is not a wage problem no matter how you look at it. New Jersey’s cost-of-living is crushing the working poor and middle class. If our state doesn’t become more affordable the struggle to make ends meet, and state finances, will continue to get worse and worse.
It doesn’t matter how many times Trenton Democrats say they care about making New Jersey more affordable because the policies they champion have the opposite effect.
The people of New Jersey are demanding relief. Rutgers’ 2018 State of the Garden State report found that 82 percent of New Jerseyans are sick of the tax burden. A person earning over $10,000 more than the average American should not be considered low-income, but because of New Jersey’s tax burden they are.
The way to help the working poor and middle class is to balance the state budget in order to avoid increasing taxes, which would allow us to focus on primary government functions like education and infrastructure. The way the Trenton Democrats have handled things for the past 17 years has left the state bereft of resources, falling woefully short on funding schools and fixing our roads and bridges.
Meanwhile, Republicans have promoted common-sense tax cuts like eliminating the marriage penalty, which taxes joint-filers 140 percent more on income between $50,000 and $70,000 – a burden New Jersey’s working poor and middle class can’t afford.
Trenton Democrats have also rejected the idea of indexing income tax brackets to inflation so there isn’t an automatic tax hike every year because a worker received a cost-of-living raise. They even refuse to stop taxing retirement savings at a time when people have trouble saving any money at all.
What the Trenton Democrats didn’t reject is raising taxes by $1.5 billion — with 12 of those 18 tax hikes primarily affecting the working poor and middle class — so they can increase spending by $2.7 billion at a time when New Jersey already can’t afford to pay its bills.
It is a ghastly truth that they fought over tax increases, and compromised by raising every tax they discussed. That doesn’t make New Jersey more affordable, it puts hard-working people who make a good living in a position where it’s even harder to make ends meet.
Murphy and Trenton Democrats are fooling themselves if they think we can continue on their path, because the policies they promote are harming the very people they claim to protect. New Jersey needs responsible fiscal leadership that recognizes we can’t spend our way out of this crisis.
Anthony M. Bucco has been an assemblyman since 2010, serving as the Republican conference leader since July 2017. A lifelong resident of Boonton, he represents parts of Morris and Somerset counties in the 25th Legislative District.