I don’t envy Governor Christie. Like his predecessor, Jon Corzine, he has a difficult job – bringing the state’s financial house in order in the aftermath of the Bush Financial Meltdown. But unlike Corzine, Christie is being dishonest, and is putting the burden on those who can least afford it.
The recent cutbacks to New Jersey Transit will impact the people who are already hurting the most from the recession. And the fare increases are nothing more than a tax aimed primarily at the same people, especially given that an increase to the low state gasoline tax is off the table. Many low-income people whose budgets are already stretched will find the fare increases onerous. Call it what you will, but the bottom line is that this is a new tax.
Mass transit is one of those services that is best handled by the public sector. It is more environmentally friendly than privately-owned automobiles. In this day and age, we should be doing everything we can to encourage mass transit rather than discourage it. We need more, not fewer, choices in using public transportation. In fact, in order to discourage driving and boost the economy, there’s no reason why mass transit should not be 100% subsidized by the government – just like parks and most roads.
The Governor should be honest with his constituents and declare that he is, indeed, raising taxes. But let’s not put the burden of balancing the state budget on those who can least afford it. A graduated progressive tax on higher incomes and luxury items would be fairer and would go a long way toward fiscal stability.