So why wait?
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey has confirmed what has been obvious for a long time: His promise that the state Senate would "act on" the proposed property-tax constitutional convention was inoperative.
The governor and Senate president said Tuesday that he won't hold a Senate vote on an Assembly-passed bill providing for a referendum this November on whether to call a convention next year to reform the state's abominable tax system.
Instead, he said, "in consultation with the new governor, I would expect myself that probably in April there will be a special session of the Legislature devoted exclusively to that."
The obvious question is: Why wait till 2006? Who needs a new governor? We've already got one.
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In his role as head of two branches of state government, Gov. Codey has the power to call the Legislature into session tomorrow, next week or next month. If he really believes that the members, at long last, will fix a system that has produced property taxes that are the highest per capita in the nation and climbing relentlessly, let him summon them back to Trenton this summer to show what they can do. After all, his Democratic Party now controls the governorship, the Assembly and the Senate. This November's elections could hand the first two to the Republicans.
The hard truth is that the people's elected representatives at the State House - Democrats AND Republicans - never have tried to reform the state's tax system via the standard lawmaking process, and there is no good reason to believe that they ever will. They are too beholden to powerful lobbies that benefit from the status quo, and too fearful of demagogues who lie in wait to pounce on any politician bold enough to support the kind of action needed to bring about true tax reform. That's why the proposed convention, made up of citizen-delegates elected on a one-time-only basis for one specific purpose - to draft a tax-reform package that the voters then could accept or reject - offered the only real hope for relief.
But Gov. Codey and the Senate now have killed that hope. Which leaves the special session. If they are suggesting that somehow things will magically be different, that this time they actually will fulfill their sworn responsibilities, then we repeat: Why put it off?
The homeowners of New Jersey have had it with stalling. Too many of them regularly must confront the choice between buying medication and other necessities or paying their property taxes. Too many are agonizing over whether they should try to stay in their homes or sell and move to a state where they can afford to live. To tell these good people to "wait till next year" to hear their predicament debated by the same institutions and individuals who have ignored it for decades ranks with Marie Antoinette's alleged advice to the hungry peasants: "Let them eat cake."
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Among Gov. Codey's reported objections to the Assembly's constitutional convention bill was that it would not allow the convention to directly address the spending that generates the need for taxes. He made no effort, however, to amend the bill in the Senate to remedy that situation. The only inference one can draw, therefore, is that in this wondrous special session the Legislature not only will revise the tax system to the public's benefit, but will firmly exercise its plenary power to curb its own extravagant spending habits. That will be a sight to behold. Gov. Codey, bring on the show!