“We’re Number One!” This is usually a joyous cheer, reflecting accomplishments in our towns and schools, at the academic, athletic and social levels. However, this time of year, we somberly reflect on being number one- in taking money out of your wallet. This past October, Business Insider rated New Jersey as having one of the most unfriendly tax codes in the country, with property, sales and income taxes all near the top of their respective lists of the most onerous burdens in the nation. The Tax Foundation notes “New York and New Jersey are in a virtual tie for last place” in State Business Tax Climate, which is clearly not a statement we would like to hear as residents of the Garden State.
The high property, sales and income taxes are just the beginning. Perhaps the Beatles had New Jersey in mind when they wrote “Taxman”: “If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street/If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.” Realty transfer taxes, inheritance and estate taxes, a “millionaire’s tax” on those who don’t even earn half a million dollars per year, a “jock tax” on athletes who play for out-of-state professional teams and all team employees, and a “telecommuting tax” on out-of-state companies employing New Jersey residents who work from home. You name it, the Democrats in Trenton are either taxing it, or they are proposing a tax on it, as a remedy to the fiscal crisis that we face after more than a decade of their control of the Legislature. The citizens of New Jersey are suffering under the weight of this tax burden, as exemplified by the number of people relocating and retiring out of state, including nearly one quarter of those receiving a public pension who leave the state because their taxes are too high.
Despite all of this gloomy news about our taxes, there is hope in the work being done by Republicans in the Legislature and Governor Christie. The two-percent cap on property tax levies has greatly stemmed the rate of increase, which was greater than seven percent under our previous governor. Attempts by the Democratic legislature last spring to undo much of the interest arbitration legislation by nullifying the two-percent cap on interest arbitration awards for police and fire departments were rebuked by Governor Christie and Assembly and Senate Republicans, and later replaced by an agreement to renew the cap. Republicans have introduced multiple versions of bills to eliminate the aforementioned “Taxman” taxes. On the estate tax issue, I sponsor four different bills seeking to eliminate, phase out and/or increase the filing threshold. We must continue to advocate for this legislation, as Democratic leadership seems uninterested in advancing these bills.
April 15th is not a date any taxpayer in New Jersey can look forward to, but November 3rd certainly is. We have the opportunity to have our voices heard concerning how much of our hard-earned income is sent to Trenton and not back to us. When you enter the voting booth in November, remember the feeling of frustration and your lighter wallet, and consider which candidates are working to fix these issues, and who is satisfied with the status quo. It is time for new leadership in the Assembly to work on these tax issues.