New Jersey's 25th Legislative District

Senator Anthony Bucco

Senator Anthony Bucco

Editorial: Hold Governor Accountable for Shocking Budget, Taxes

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The following editorial by Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-25) on Governor Phil Murphy’s massive budget and tax increase proposal was published by The Record on March 18, 2018:

Gov. Phil Murphy shocked all of New Jersey with an outrageous budget proposal that would massively increase state spending while raising taxes by billions of dollars on our already overtaxed families and businesses. While the Governor had promised tax increases during his campaign, the sheer scope of the proposal offered in his budget address last week left most in disbelief.

Editorial by Sen. Anthony Bucco on Gov. Phil Murphy’s outrageous budget proposal that would massively increase state spending while raising taxes by billions. (©iStock)

Tellingly, Democratic legislators offered little applause as Murphy laid out the gory details of tax increases totaling more than $1.6 billion.

The Democratic leadership, which had seized every opportunity in recent years to criticize every aspect of the former administration’s budget proposals, scurried off the Assembly floor following the speech to avoid questions from the press.

What’s so distasteful? To start, Governor Murphy wants to hike spending by nearly $3 billion to $37.4 billion in 2019, an increase of almost eight percent over the current year’s budget.

The governor seeks to fund that huge spending increase with higher income taxes, increased sales taxes, plans to raise taxes on employers, and new taxes on online sales and sharing services like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb.

The Record’s headline following the speech put the overall impact succinctly: “Proposed Murphy taxes would hit every resident.”

The governor explained how these tax increases are “fair” and would fund his campaign promises, including “free” community college. It’s an unfortunate reality, however, that nothing provided by the government is ever really free. Taxpayers always pay the price, and this budget proposal proves that.

Gov. Murphy also wants to funnel hundreds of millions more this year into the state’s broken school funding formula, which is prone to abuse and manipulation and delivers state aid inequitably to the benefit of a handful of districts.

He eventually wants school aid to increase by a billion or more annually. Wanting to support our schools is laudable, but it’s critical that we fix the formula before pouring more money into a broken system. Unfortunately, the governor did not make that a priority.

Over the long term, it’s extremely concerning that the large spending and tax increases proposed by Gov. Murphy for the upcoming budget appear likely to repeat in future years, especially as the full expense of the big-ticket items he has proposed – “full” school funding and “free” community college – would be phased in over several budgets.

If it’s going to take an 8 percent budget increase and $1.6 billion in tax increases to fund the first year of this phase in, what’s it going to cost New Jersey taxpayers in the second year, or in the third or fourth? More tax increases, we must presume.

It’s clear that Gov. Murphy fails to understand that New Jerseyans want an opportunity to buy a house, raise a family, and build financial security without the threat that they will be the next target for a large tax increase that they can’t afford.

Our residents are smart enough to know that even if they’re among the lucky few who won’t be hit too hard immediately by the governor’s tax increases, the full pain of paying for “free” everything will reach them eventually.

While New Jersey backtracks on years of fiscal discipline, other states become increasingly affordable in comparison, and they’re all too happy to accept former New Jersey residents and businesses.

As a small business owner who frequently talks to partners and customers about financial matters, I find the governor’s suggestion that New Jerseyans don’t make choices about where to live and set up shop based on taxes rings hollow.

A few days before the governor’s budget address, I received a call from a major customer who said to me, “Tony, I just came back from Florida. It looks awful nice down there. The taxes I don’t have to worry about.”

He’s hardly the only New Jersey employer who’s concerned by our growing tax burden relative to other states. How many others are ready to make the move and take the paychecks they provide elsewhere? I don’t think we can afford to find out.

And it’s not just employers that are making those decisions. New Jersey families have choices too, and they know it. They won’t have to go far, either, to save thousands or more in state and local taxes annually. Affordable homes with predictably low tax bills are only a few minutes away in Pennsylvania.

I have no doubt that Gov. Murphy’s proposal to increase spending and taxes by billions of dollars will be a train wreck for New Jersey if it’s allowed to proceed.

Unfortunately, it’s not clear that the Democrats who run the Legislature have the guts to stand up and say that. If they’re unwilling to join us in holding the governor accountable, Senate Republicans will show them what leadership looks like.

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