Governor Christie announced the creation of a nonprofit organization, Choose New Jersey, to help revitalize the state's economy. The mission of Choose New Jersey is to market New Jersey's "strategic strengths" by making the state more attractive for businesses to relocate here and expand their operations if they are already doing business in the Garden State.
New Jersey's ills are the result of decades of taxing, spending and borrowing tens of billions of dollars to "fix" the public schools, improve the transportation infrastructure and provide benefits to seniors and other targeted groups (voters). Hence, in the past, as politicians could satisfy (buy) numerous voting blocs with taxpayers' dollars, the more politicians would spend, tax and borrow to transfer — redistribute — money to special interests as long as the gravy train continued. The gravy train is long gone.
While it is bad enough that short sighted politicians on both sides of the aisle made promises to various special interest groups than they could pay for in the long run without hiking taxes markedly, they also underfunded the pension plans of state workers, creating a fiscal nightmare for state taxpayers in coming years. And to add insult to injury, the Supreme Court of New Jersey egregiously interfered with the Legislature's prerogative to distribute school aid as per the Constitution's clause on the income tax. In short, instead of the income tax being used for property tax relief, the SCONJ created one of the greatest wealth transfers at the state level in U.S. history.
Governor Christie must take back the Legislature's prerogative to spend taxpayers' money. All that would take is a simple declaration by the Governor that state aid will be distributed according to Article VIII, Section I, Paragraph 7 of the state constitution, which places the power in the Legislature to create a formula to use income tax funds to offset property taxes. The Governor also should articulate a free enterprise agenda for New Jersey.
Even if Governor Christie has the courage to stand up to the Supreme Court on school funding, he should announce that the income tax will be phased out over the next several years and that schools would become nonprofit organizations. How they will be funded would be up to each community. My preference, which I have proposed for years, is to put all schools — independent and public — on the same playing field. All schools should be financially independent, receiving their funding via tuition, fees, grants, etc.
In short, we need a free enterprise "revolution" in education, including higher education. Cut off from taxpayer subsidies, education would take its rightful place within the free enterprise system, a system that has fueled prosperity in New Jersey, in the nation, and around the globe. There is absolute no reason for the public to stubbornly assert that education is different, namely, it must receive taxpayer funds to survive and educate children, especially in low-income communities.
One of the great myths is that "public education" is a necessary requirement for an educated population. Education is a process, not a building occupied by an army of teachers and bureaucrats. We must be more creative in how children learn, especially in a high tech world. In addition, in one urban district the cost of educating each student has reached $34,000. This is an unconscionable amount given that the state average is less than half that sum, and it is unjustifiable even if each student graduates high school and goes on to college, which is not the case.
While the goal of Choose New Jersey is admirable, Governor Christie should proclaim a strategic vision for the state that would make New Jersey one of the most attractive, if not the most attractive state in the Northeast and possibly the whole country.
The free enterprise system has created the greatest amount of wealth and material comfort for billions of people around the world in the shortest period of time in human history. Yet, the Governor and most people in government as well as corporate executives still cling to the fantasy that some "socialism" is necessary to make "society work."
Abolishing the income tax, eliminating bureaucratic layers of government throughout the state, and creating a culture of enterprise instead of entitlement will revive New Jersey's economy faster and will boost employment opportunities for all.
Choose New Jersey can complete its mission quickly and save a lot of time and money in the process. All they have to do is explain how free enterprise is being undermined in New Jersey, and the sooner the Legislature does what is necessary to make New Jersey more attractive to all enterprises, the sooner the mission of Choose New Jersey will be accomplished.
Murray Sabrin is professor of finance at Ramapo College. He was the Libertarian Party nominee for governor in 1997 and a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2000 and 2008. Check www.MurraySabrin.com for more of his writings.