Vin Suprynowicz

The Libertarian

Vin Suprynowicz

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When a private business faces a revenue shortfall, the goal in trimming expenditures is to find areas that will inconvenience customers as little as possible.

But government managers see the world differently. After all, there’s no concern that antagonized “customers” will go elsewhere -- they can’t. So the goal is to outrage and inconvenience the subject classes as much as possible, hoping they’ll “cry uncle” and burn up the phone lines urging their delegates to give you all the money you want.

We see it locally whenever there’s a threat that the school district’s legislative allocation may be “cut.” (The word is in quotes because it’s never cut. The term refers to giving the district an 11 percent annual hike when they want 12.)

Does the superintendent somberly announce that administrator retirement and vacation benefits will be trimmed, medical insurance co-pays raised, a dozen people who never see the inside of a classroom and who are paid more than $80,000 per year to work in “curriculum development” will be laid off, that their remaining cohorts will have to pitch in and mow the grass one day a month?

Of course not. Instead, parents are routinely warned this will mean the end of art and music classes and middle school sports.

The goal, remember, is not sensible belt-tightening, but getting the voters riled up enough to insist the district’s money-river be restored.

Take the state of New Jersey. Please.

New Jersey already has one of the highest tax burdens in the nation, and the second worst business climate of the 50 states. During his campaign last year, incoming Gov. Jon Corzine stressed, “I’m not considering raising taxes. It’s not on my agenda. We have a very high-rate tax structure. I’m not considering it.”

That was then. Less than eight months later, Gov. Corzine now wants the New Jersey Legislature to increase sales taxes by 16 percent, to a statutory 7 percent level (one of the highest in the nation, on top of income taxes, etc.) The Legislature is balking. It appears they may fail to adopt a constitutionally mandated balanced budget by July 1.

So what has the governor threatened to do?

-- Halt all road construction projects

-- Close 39 state parks and historic sites

-- Cancel campground reservations, and ...

-- Halt gambling at casinos because gambling inspectors won’t be on duty.

Oh, give Gov. Corzine credit: This is the best yet. Atlantic City’s casinos pour billions into the state’s coffers. If Gov. Corzine is going to shut them down to “increase the pain” -- along with all the state beaches (no lifeguards), heck, why not shut down all the state’s restaurants and grocery stores, while he’s at it, since there will be no health inspectors to inspect them?

For that matter, if the governor is forced to furlough the inspectors at the state Department of Environmental Protection, shouldn’t New Jerseyites be warned they’ll no longer be allowed to breathe the “unregulated” air? (The state DEP has announced it “would keep its trout and pheasant farms operating.” Thank goodness.)

What’s really wrong in New Jersey, points out Sam Batkins of the National Taxpayers Union, is that from 2000 through 2002, state spending galloped ahead by 21 percent, while an economic slump caused state revenues to decline 23 percent.

Did the state cut spending? Of course not. This merely “gave lawmakers an excuse to start hiking taxes” -- $3.07 billion in new levies since 2002: “Internet taxes, $497 million in cigarette and other tobacco taxes, $950 million in additional corporate income taxes, and over $1 billion in other taxes and fees.”

Such new “revenue enhancements” as a 2.5 percent corporation business tax surcharge, a surcharge on luxury car registration, and a new real estate transfer tax “practically beg residents and businesses to pack their bags,” Mr. Batkins warns.

Gov. Corzine, a Democrat, even wants to tax the water his citizens drink -- a 4 cent surcharge per 1,000 gallons!

“Incoming Governor Jon Corzine has not learned from New Jersey’s profligate past, and has proposed a 9.2 percent budget increase,” Mr. Batkins points out.

Among the expenditures? A new Office of Economic Growth. Honest.

“Most states see little need for such an office, and use low tax burdens and business friendly environments to attract potential employers,” Mr. Batkins notes. “Taxpayers of New Jersey would likely opt to keep the money that would be spent on this new office to help offset skyrocketing property taxes, which have risen an average of $1,300 in the past four years.”

Gov. Corzine’s budget proposes that the Department of Human Services, alone, be allowed to grow by 53 percent. And this when there are hardly any additional “humans” to “service”! (Stagnant New Jersey’s population growth rate has tumbled to a meager 0.4 percent.)

A modest answer might lie in “adopting some of the Medicaid reforms taking place in South Carolina and Tennessee, (and) modernizing the state government’s retirement system by switching from a defined-benefit plan,” the National Taxpayers Union advises.

Mr. Corzine might also “want to follow the example of Colorado, a state that limits budget increases to population growth plus inflation.”

Instead, it appears Gov. Corzine would rather tell Atlantic City, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.”

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