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Former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Ciattarelli: ‘Governor Murphy, I’ll See You in Court’

By Jack Ciattarelli, May 30 2020 3:12 pm

OPINION

When you’re in a hole, stop digging. Apparently, Governor Murphy never learned that lesson.

Even before the COVID-19 restrictions, our business climate ranked worst in the country. Year over year our state economy has lagged the national economy. We have been dead last or next to last in job growth, wage growth, and fiscal health. Our property taxes are the highest in the nation and our soaring state debt has been downgraded 12 times in the past 10 years.

All of which has made our state unaffordable for starting a family, building a small business, or retiring with dignity.

Four months ago, I launched a campaign committed to fixing these systemic problems – to climbing out of the hole dug by Governors of both parties for decades – and positioning our state for long-term prosperity. We know what needs to be done. Improve our business climate, reform public employee benefits, scrap the outdated and unfair school funding formula, grow our economy, and make New Jersey more affordable for every day, hard-working New Jerseyans.

The widespread pain and economic carnage inflicted by COVID-19 restrictions has only made these reforms more critical. We must put ourselves on solid fiscal and economic footing to improve the lives of every taxpayers and adequately prepare for the next emergency – be it a storm, pandemic, or whatever else comes our way.

Unfortunately, Governor Murphy continues to lack the political will to take on these problems and to buck the entrenched special interests who control him. Instead, he’s planning to borrow $9 billion to fund an already broken state budget. Not only would such a move further destroy our state’s credit rating, it would also further bury us in debt that some outlets forecast could be as high as $65,0000 for each current New Jersey taxpayer.

Worse yet, according to the draft legislation being considered, Governor Murphy plans to repay this exorbitant borrowing, without any say from the voters, with higher sales and property taxes. More borrowing followed by higher taxes needs to be the last resort, not the first.

The Governor’s borrowing scheme is the wrong plan for New Jersey. It is also unconstitutional. As Governor McGreevey learned when Republicans took him to court, and as the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services made clear again this month, the New Jersey Constitution prohibits borrowing “for the purpose of funding or balancing any portion of the budget pertaining to general costs.”

This week, I let Governor Murphy know that if he moves forward with this unconstitutional borrowing scheme, I will initiate a lawsuit and he will see me in court. This is a fight worth having. Governor Murphy simply cannot be allowed to lazily repeat the mistakes that have left us financially ill-prepared to deal with the crisis at-hand. The time to break the cycle of borrow, spend, and tax is now.

I implore the Governor to abandon his reckless plan and instead work with both Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature to chart a new path forward for our state. One that will make good on the promise of our state motto; “Liberty and Prosperity” for all.

At the outset of the Great Recession, we experienced a “revenue cliff” in the billions.  We closed that budget gap with reduced spending, layoffs, and benefit reforms. Let’s double down on that approach, not kick the can down the road again.

We can meet this fiscal challenge too. But we need the Governor to put down his shovel.

Jack Ciattarelli, a former assemblyman, Somerset County freeholder and Raritan Township council president, is a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor of New Jersey.

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