New Jersey Ballot Measures

New Jersey Ballot Measures

This November, New Jersey voters will be faced with two ballot initiatives. Ballot question 1, if voted Yes, would amend the New Jersey Constitution to allow for two new casinos to be built in northern New Jersey. Current law only allows for Casinos to be built in Atlantic City. Ballot question 2, if voted yes, would dedicate all revenue from the gas tax to transportation projects.  

At the moment, polling is showing overwhelming opposition to ballot question 1. The recent Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll shows that a whopping 70% of voters oppose north Jersey casino expansion next to 24% who are in favor. Polls are showing that voters are split on ballot question 2, with 51% support according to the Fairleigh Dickinson PublicMind poll taken back in July.

I will be voting ‘NO’ on both of these ballot initiatives.

Ballot Question 1: North Jersey Casinos

The two men leading the effort in favor of expansion are businessmen Paul Fireman and Jeff Gural. Although the official plans have not yet been codified by the state legislature as to specific locations (which is part of the reason for the overwhelming opposition) the businessmen have proposed building in Jersey City and the Meadowlands in East Rutherford.

The basic arguments in favor of expansion presented by Fireman, Gural and their group Our Turn NJ are:

  1. Casino expansion will generate an additional $500 billion in revenue which can be used to lower property taxes.
  2. This expansion will generate 43,000 new jobs.
  3. Casino expansion will fight back against other states who have taken New Jersey jobs and revenues. According to their group, neighboring states have taken over $15 billion in revenue and $1.8 billion in revenue that could have otherwise gone to programs to help low-income seniors with disabilities.

Using these arguments put forth by proponents of the expansion, here is my take:

  1. As a Constitutional, Reagan Conservative and an advocate for limited-government, any argument that is predicated on the government gaining more revenue is automatically a non-starter for me. I don’t want the government to get more tax revenues, I want them to get less! I think the government is far too big, gets involved in far too much, and wastes far too much money. The idea that Trenton getting more money is a good thing is laughable. The second part of point one from proponents of expansion is that these additional revenues can be used to lower New Jersey’s nation-leading property taxes. New Jersey residents should know by now that any time they are told their property taxes will go down, they never actually go down but continue to increase. Why would this time be any different? As they say, “fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”. Or as New Jerseyans, the more appropriate adage may be, “fool me once, shame on you. Fool me for the 12,878 time, shame on me”.
  2. While it is true that jobs would be created for the construction and, later, staff of these casinos, the fact of the matter is there is too much that has not been presented clearly to New Jersey voters. Questions such as; will the construction of these casinos be subsidized by taxpayers? Where exactly will these casinos be built? How will this affect traffic? These are questions that New Jerseyans have yet to get a clear answer to. I have a much simpler proposal that will generate wealth and create jobs for the state: slash regulations, eliminate the death tax, reduce the just expanded gas tax, reduce the state income tax, and reduce property taxes. If NJ wants more jobs then it needs to create an environment that encourages people to live, work, and raise a family here. Simply put, having outrageously high taxes that contribute to one of the highest costs of living in the nation isn’t incentivizing anyone to stay or move here.
  3. Mr. Fireman and Mr. Gural are in this to make a profit. I am a free-market capitalist and do not begrudge that at all; as a matter of fact I think that is entrepreneurial, and quintessentially American. You’ll never hear me complain about people who are honestly trying to make money. That being said, let’s drop the phony appeal to our Pathos. These men are not in this to bring back $1.8 billion in revenue that can be used to help disabled senior citizens. Even if that were the case, these men don’t control where tax dollars are allocated to, who is to say $1.8 billion in additional revenues would go to seniors? This is the same New Jersey that has a pension crisis brought on by politicians spending money that was supposed to be allocated to the pension funds that they instead spent elsewhere. So forgive me, but that silly attempt to pull on my emotional strings with ‘disabled seniors’ isn’t doing it for me.

In principle, I have no problem with a private citizen using private funds to build a casino, so long as taxpayer dollars are not used to subsidize it. That question and others have not been sufficiently answered and is why I will be voting ‘NO’ on ballot question 1.

Ballot Question 2: Dedicating Revenues from the Gas Tax to Transportation Projects

On paper, this is absolutely something I would support. Of course money from the gas tax, which was just increased from the 2nd lowest to the 7th highest in the nation, should go to the Transportation Trust Fund which is what Trenton politicians said it was for. After all, I just wrote about the pension funds being raided leading to our current pension crisis. In principle this is the same concept here, except that it’s not. With this ballot question, Trenton is attempting to trick us and pull the wool over our eyes.

In an interview on NJ 101.5, Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno came out against Gov. Christie and implored New Jerseyans to vote no on number 2,

A vote for question two is a vote for the gas tax. If you like the gas tax then you’re going to like number 2. If you oppose the gas tax, you have to vote no on number 2 because it requires them all to go back to the drawing board because they can’t borrow the money they need to make it work.

The Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) broadly encompasses all forms of transportation, including public transportation. When Trenton raised our gas tax a few months ago, they did so under the premise that our roads and bridges were falling apart. They told us the gas tax revenue had decreased and the increased tax was necessary to ensure our roads and bridges aren’t crumbling. At the time Governor Christie put to rest any talk of new light rail projects that would be funded using an increased gas tax. However, Governor Christie lied and as part of the finalized gas tax increase, included plans to expand light rail projects in Bergen and Gloucester County and double the amount of transportation aid given to municipalities and counties. So much for funding crumbling roads and bridges.

So how will Trenton pay to fix our roads and bridges while simultaneously increasing funding for light rail projects and ensuring we do not fall further into debt?

I’ll take “they won’t” for $400, Alex.

As Bill Spadea reports, revenue from the gas tax is projected to be $1.3 billion. Meanwhile, the projected spending from the state is expected to be over $2 billion. That leaves New Jersey $700 million in the hole EACH year. A bit of a side note that our leaders haven’t addressed, why are New Jersey highways the 3rd most expensive to repair in the country? New Jerseyans know how this vicious cycle goes; a few years from now the state will be further immersed in debt, Trenton will start barking about the need to increase taxes lest our roads and bridges all crumble, they’ll pass some massive new tax increase in the middle of the night that will include things we didn’t know about and the state will fall further into debt.  

Remember? ‘Fool me once…’

This November, let’s not get fooled for the 12,879 time. A ‘YES’ vote on ballot question 2 is a vote to give Governor Christie, Senate President Sweeney, and the rest of Trenton the ok to borrow an additional $12 billion for transportation projects and continue down the failed, debt-ridden road they have paved (pun intended). A ‘NO’ vote will ensure that New Jersey’s tax dollars will be used to address the pressing priorities of our aging roads and bridges and not for unnecessary and wasteful new projects on light rails because, as Lt. Governor Guadagno noted in her interview, by voting ‘NO’ you are preventing Trenton politicians from spending an additional $12 billion and driving us further into debt.

This November, please join me in voting ‘NO’ on ballot questions 1 and 2.

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