The Garden State has faced hardship because of coronavirus, that is unfortunate and has caused unexpected strain on the state’s finances, and those of its localities. But that is not an excuse for policies that will dig the state into a worse fiscal situation, which are apparently the only policies the Democrats running the place can come up with.
Let’s start with a tax on health insurance, that is supposed to help more people afford health insurance. You read that right, and no it does not make sense. The 2.5% tax on health insurance has passed both chambers.
Middle class New Jerseyans who were set to enjoy not paying the recently-dropped federal tax on health insurance plans will now get stuck with a state tax. Meanwhile the state still receives federal subsidies to drive down the costs of plans on its exchange.
This blatant tax hike on working people, that penalizes them for having health insurance, is just the latest mistake from Trenton.
New Jersey has also been adding massive new debt at the state and local level.
The state’s debt is $215 billion, “5 times the state’s total budget.”
“Among U.S. states, New Jersey’s net tax-supported per-capita debt ranks fourth-highest, according to the latest assessments from Moody’s Investors Service, the credit rating agency.”
Those numbers are about to get worse, as Governor Murphy’s $9.9 billion bonding scheme starts to go into effect. The bonds are supposed to be issued to counter coronavirus-related revenue loss.
The bonds do not require voter approval, but they will be backstopped by a statewide property tax surcharge if necessary. New Jerseyans already pay some of the highest property taxes in the nation. The state’s already overused credit card and the restraint of Democrat leaders are all that stands between them and even higher taxes.
That is, unless a lawsuit filed by Republican Gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciatarelli succeeds. The New Jersey Supreme Court has held previously that long-term debt can’t be used to balance the budget.
That’s not the end of the debt Murphy is working to add, and the state legislature has also moved legislation to allow localities to take on new debt, up to 30% of their budgets.
A lack of oversight is among the concerns with the local government debt plan:
“Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) said the bill allows local governments to borrow too much without direct state oversight, and doesn’t require local officials to exhaust all other options before turning to the bond market.
“A former sponsor of the bill, O’Scanlon said he dropped off after “the Assembly screwed it up.””
New Jersey is playing a dangerous game for its future. The state has already lost taxpayers who have fled to other states in recent years, and now it is putting both state and local budgets into greater debt. Meanwhile, absurd tax hikes like the new tax on health insurance continue to be piled on.
What taxpayer is going to stick around to pay off all this debt for New Jersey, just so families and businesses pay all the costs for coronavirus and government sacrifices little to nothing?