Malanga has the must-read history of NJ taxes and politics at the current City Journal, The Mob That Whacked Jersey: How rapacious government withered the Garden State. The article covers the Abbot Districts ruling,
The latest installment of this ruinously expensive mess is a court-ordered state effort to rebuild dysfunctional urban school systems. In a series of decisions beginning in the 1990s, the New Jersey Supreme Court has forced the state to boost spending dramatically in city schools. Going beyond fiscal equity cases in other states, which demand that prosperous suburban residents contribute more to poor urban school systems, the Jersey supremes mandated that each district be able to spend as much as the state’s richest jurisdictions—up to $18,000 per pupil. The court also required the state to establish universal preschool and to embark on a $2 billion school building program.
Once the courts decreed this modern-day exercise in taxation without representation, union-backed pols piled on.
. . .
Yet even as Garden State taxpayers have showered nearly $30 billion on city schools over the last decade, neither the courts nor the officials overseeing the urban school districts have demanded fundamental reform of the school bureaucracies, let alone innovative solutions like vouchers. The money thus has made little difference.
Who’s paying for this?
All the union- and court-driven spending and misspending has burdened New Jersey citizens and firms with heavy taxes and led to a multi-billion-dollar redistribution of income from suburban counties to the state’s urban core—and from private to public employees. Jersey’s wealth belt—six adjacent counties in the state’s center (Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, and Somerset)—handed over $4.2 billion in sales and income taxes in 2003 but got just $2.2 billion back from the state in spending, a Rutgers University study found. By contrast, Jersey’s most urban counties—Camden, Essex, Hudson, Passaic—paid $1.6 billion in taxes in 2003 but enjoyed $3.6 billion in aid.
. . .
Since their residents get precious little in return for their state taxes, most of Jersey’s suburban governments must finance their operations through property taxes—one reason those taxes are the nation’s highest, according to the Tax Foundation. Today, Jersey suburbanites find themselves paying for two sets of local governments and two school systems: their own (through property taxes) and those of cities like Camden and Newark (through income and sales taxes).
The net result is that people are voting with their feet:
Every one of the state’s 21 counties lost more residents to other states than it gained
Dynamo Buzz posts,
Disgraced ex-governor Jim McGreevey was perhaps the worst governor in NJ history when it comes to fiscal policy. Malanga notes in less than four years, he raised taxes at least 33 times, and still had to borrow billions to fund government. New Jersey has an estate tax (death tax) that is the highest in America. The McGreevey tax on home sales targets those selling their homes and moving out of state. While the liberal/progressives scream for more income taxes, figures show that 9% of NJ taxpayer, those making over $150,000 a year, already pay 55% of NJ income taxes with a top rate of 9%. Pennsylvania on the other hand has a top rate of 3.1%
While an annual income of $150,000/yr might sound like a lot in other parts of the country, in NJ you can only afford a middle-class lifestyle, IF you purchased your house 10 years ago. Otherwise you’re living very modestly indeed. In Princeton Township the average house pays $14,000/yr on property taxes alone.
Perhaps the left is basically satisfied with the way things are going in the state and have nothing they’d like to change or improve. New Jersey’s economy is lagging behind the nation, our cities are crumbling, taxes and spending going up, up, up and the state’s broke. Taxpayers are held hostage to public employee unions and corrupt politicians and there’s no relief in sight for people like me.
Maybe progressive Democrats have achieved all their major goals for state and local government and now wish to bring these achievements to the rest of the country. Anyway, it just doesn’t seem to me as though they are very excited about the opportunity to show us doubters what they can do with all the resources at their disposal.
Tomorrow is Princeton’s school budget election.
The owner of a house assessed at the township average of $421,941 would pay about $6,835, a $295 increase over the current year’s $6,540 in school taxes.
The budget is at the state-mandated cap, requiring no second question ballot approval by residents.
So you can vote to have your school taxes go up, or you can vote to have your school taxes go up.
Now take a look at that $6,835: that is only one half of your house tax bill. Here in the Township the residents don’t know what the tax increase will look like because the Township hasn’t filed even a preliminary budget yet. So all we know is one thing: we’ll be paying more.
I know we’ll be moving to a state with no income tax, and lower property taxes, as soon as our conditions allow. One with initiative and referendum, if possible.
There’s no relief in sight. I’ve lived in NJ for three decades now, and that much is clear.
NJ residents bear the second-highest tax burden in our nation, and is Corzine finding life in governor’s office isn’t easy? I sure as heck hope so.
While on the subject of NJ, Enlighten NJ’s hosting the Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers #48