By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist
??? New Jersey today is in the final scene of a train wreck drama that began 44 years ago.?? In 1964, New Jersey had high, but affordable property taxes.?? However, we had no sales tax, no income tax, no casino tax, no lottery, no state real estate transfer tax, no additional $10,000 tax on sales of million dollar properties, and no riparian claims.?? Business taxes were a fraction of what they are now, and everything we bought was a lot cheaper-even adjusting for inflation.?? Zoning laws were simple, and easy to follow.?? Many towns did not have them at all, and they were rarely enforced.
??? Almost everyone could afford a decent house or apartment.?? Building lots were cheap because builders just had to measure and clear the land.?? They did not have to pay fortunes for planners, lawyers, and politicians, and go through years of delay for permits like today.
??? Very few people worked for the government back then.?? We did not need government “homeless prevention” programs.?? Since people had enough spare money and time to volunteer for cultural and historic preservation projects, we did not need government programs for those things either.
??? Our medical and social service systems were not overwhelmed with illegal immigrants.?? Middle class college kids like me mopped floors, washed dishes, and cleaned tables.?? We not only earned our tuition money, doing that dirty work taught us more about the needs of the poor, and the value of an education, than the unpaid “community service” for kids today.
??? We did not have Urban Enterprise, Redevelopment, or Revenue Allocation zones or districts.?? Everyone paid property taxes at the same rate.?? We did not have armies of government experts making and explaining different rules for different people.?? We did not have lawyers and lawsuits appealing their decisions.?? We had less corruption because politicians had fewer favors to hand out.
??? Because government was smaller and did fewer things, citizens understood how it worked.?? Many business and professional people who are now too busy for these things, studied their local budgets in the paper, and gave informed opinions at the well attended public hearings.?? Politicians usually respected them and followed their recommendations.
??? Right now, only people who already get money from the government show up at those hearings to demand more.
??? With that small, simple, and inexpensive government, I grew up in the heart of Atlantic City with safe streets (even at night), beautiful parks, and plenty to do.?? Central Junior High and Atlantic City High School gave me an education equal to that of my Duke University classmates, who attended elite private schools.?
??? We even ended the dread diseases of polio in those days with the volunteer March of Dimes – not massive government borrowing.
??? But starting in? 1964, politicians buying votes, and government employees seeking more money, less work, and early retirement, began a relentless campaign to change all that.?? They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.?? Yet they still want more!?
??? They said they could raise teacher salaries, and guarantee low property taxes with a new 3% sales tax in 1966.?? Now it is 7%.?? Ten years later in 1976, when property taxes skyrocketed with the new sales tax, they said a 2% state income tax would fix things.?? Now it is 9% for some, and property taxes are higher than ever.?? We now “need” new state taxes almost every year for “property tax relief”.
??? In just the last six years, state spending went from $21 billion to $33 billion.?? This is 9.5% per year, or roughly 3 times the cost of living!??
??? Governor Jon Corzine is like the deranged engineer at the controls in a bad? silent movie.?? He plans to pay for billions in new spending by increasing our debt from $113 billion to at least $138 billion.?? The money will be paid back with massive toll hikes for the next 77 years.?? And Corzine is disconnecting the brakes.?? The power to raise tolls will be given to a trust run by foreign investors who will care only about grabbing their profits before the train runs out of track.
??? Only Corzine’s fellow Democrats like our own Senators Jeff Van Drew and Jim Whelan, and Assemblymen Nelson Albano, and Matt Milam are close enough to grab the controls and stop this runaway train.?? (Republican Assemblymen Polistina and Amodeo are bystanders like the rest of us.)?? Call them today and beg them to save us.