New Jersey politics

I left Connecticut just as the battle for the Democratic race for Governor heated up between my former mayor, [Dan Malloy]( and New Haven’s mayor, [John DeStafano.]( Been entertaining to see Malloy and DeStafano battle it out in their blogs. Personally, I don’t think either has a chance against Rell but this election isn’t until 2006.

Closer to home now is the battle between [Jon Corzine]( and [Doug Forrester]( for New Jersey’s top seat. I was pretty sure that I was voting for Corzine, but I have to thank Doug Forrester for making me sure of my decision.

The hub of Forrester’s campaign is his *promise* of a 30% property tax decrease in a 3 year period. [He has a separate domain to talk about it](

>The 30%-in-3 Guarantee will lower property taxes in New Jersey by 30% over three years, guaranteed by the state constitution.

>The plan provides a 10% property tax cut in the first year, a 20% cut in the second year, and a 30% cut in the third year. In the third and every year going forward, 30% of your property tax bill will be paid for by the state.

Sounds good. Keep talking.

>The plan provides an automatic rebate that is guaranteed by the State constitution, unlike current rebate programs that have a history of being politically manipulated, cut or suspended. The 30%-in-3 Guarantee also creates a Property Taxpayer’s Protection Fund that can be used to maintain property tax relief during lean economic years.

But Doug, how are you going to pay for it? What if there’s another Iraq? Another Katrina? Goodness forbid another 9/11? How are you going to pay for it *now* even without worrying about what *may* happen down the line?

>Doug’s 30%-in-3 Guarantee will lower property taxes by 30% because it forces the state to make property taxpayers the number one priority – the state will be forced cut wasteful spending to pay property taxpayers first.

Ah. There you have it. **the state will be forced cut wasteful spending to pay property taxpayers first.** In other words, folks, we’re not exactly sure how we’re going to give 10% of your property tax back, much less 30%. So we’re just going to assume that we’re going to go over those books with a fine tooth comb and come up with the money. It’s all [waste, fraud or abuse]( It has to be, right?

New Jersey is well known for corruption, so I’m sure there’s a lot of gold in dem hills. [Nice flashy page]( listing all those funds…nice two sentence sound bites. I particularly like “Overlooked state audit report identifies potential cost savings and revenue enhancements”….“I just knew I left $101,400,000 somewhere!” Of course it’s probable that there are savings there, and I would welcome the opportunity to save taxpayer money. But I learned in Stamford politics that an audit doesn’t tell the whole story. Auditors will identify “potential savings” that don’t look at the big picture. Auditors won’t consider the long term costs of the short term gains. What about those folks that will lose their jobs in these cuts and will cost the taxpayers more in unemployment-related spending? And I love those recommendations that use words like “implementing consistent space standards”…“adapting ‘best practices’ used by other states..” These changes *cost* money, they don’t happen by magic. How much will it actually *cost* to make the changes? Folks, even New Jersey Democrats, don’t wake up in the morning and say “how can I be the least efficient today?” How many times have you spent 3x as much to do something than you know you should because the time and short term investment to realize a long term financial gain isn’t immediately possible?

Like I said, not saying that is happening here…just that it’s possible. Not only that, but an audit talks about money already spent. If they spent $100,000 on fancy hotel rooms or whatever, does that mean that it’s in the budget to do it again? How is this going to give enough *guaranteed* funds to give everyone their property tax rebate? What is he going to do if the money just isn’t there?

He talks about *potential* savings of $919 billion…but just how much does a 30% property tax cut cost anyway? He doesn’t seem to say.

There’s no way I’m buying into “$40 and a mule!” mentality, banking on someone else saying “read my lips…” Yes, it makes for a nice headline but it’s ridiculous to think that a politician can promise me a 30% cut over 3 years based on “potential” cuts and savings. He might as well buy a lottery ticket and call it a retirement fund.

Now I do agree about eliminating “pay to play” but that’s not a New Jersey problem alone. And it’s not a Democrat problem either as Forrester appears to make out.

I like that Corzine is [addressing the issue]( without making ridiculous promises that he can’t possibly live up to.

>Jon Corzine knows that property tax bills are high because too many property tax dollars are wasted. While politicians have promised to get rid of waste for years, no one has taken a hard look and removed waste and patronage from state and local budgets. Jon Corzine has pledged to have an elected Comptroller audit state and local spending. As a former businessman, Corzine has never seen a budget he couldn’t cut – and that experience will allow him to scrub the state budget, line-by-line, and use the savings for property tax relief.

Still a bit pie-in-the-sky but if you find $10 then I’ll save my share of that. Don’t tell me 10% now with no clue if you’re really going to get that $10,000,000 or $10.