Thursday, February 11, 2010

Missing the Bus on Fiscal Reform

I read Governor Christie’s “Fiscal State of Emergency” speech he gave today describing his acknowledged draconian cuts in state expenses and services.  I don’t envy him in his position.  I’m not savvy enough on the pension issues or the state programs that he is cutting to constructively comment on them yet.  There is one cut, however, that is a mistake and will cost New Jersey in the long run.  In fact, it is a tax increase for those who can least afford it.

I’m referring to his reduction in subsidies for New Jersey Transit.  In his speech, he acknowledged that we will have “service reductions or fare increases.  Mass transit is more cost-effective and environmentally responsible than personal automobiles.   Users of the mass transit systems are skewed toward the lower end of the economic spectrum, so they will be the people hardest hit by these cuts.  In his remarks, Christie mentioned the “rich union contracts” and patronage issues with that agency, but these issues can be addressed independently and should not precipitate the reduction or elimination of subsidies for New Jersey citizens.

Infrastructure is the foundation of the economic well-being of the state, and should have increased support even in these tough times.   An additional sales tax (say 1%) on the sale of privately-owned vehicles over $30,000 would be a good place to start to help with the NJ Transit subsidies, while encouraging residents to drive more fuel-efficient cars at the same time.

Here is the Democratic response to Christie's speech:

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