Tuesday, January 16, 2007

NJ: For Sale!

About six months ago, in reference to Governor Corzine's party with state workers on the steps of the Statehouse where he said he'd stand and fight for state worker benefits instead of standing up for state taxpayers, we opined that we can't trust the Governor with something as inconsequential as loose change.

Well, its not loose change we're concerned about now. Its New Jersey's assets that aren't safe.

Why aren't they safe, you might ask? Well, it seems that Governor Corzine wants to use New Jersey's assets as a quick fix for his projected budget shortfalls (and likely for tax give backs so that he can assure his re-election in 2009). Sale of the New Jersey Turnpike to a private corporation was the first "asset sale" bandied about (it probably would have been a long term lease deal, but same thing for these purposes). It could fetch a few billion dollars we were told. It didn't turn out to be as popular an idea as some hoped -- one reason is that the private company running the road could raise tolls a lot more often then the Turnpike Authority does. And from what we read, opposition has been growing to the idea.

But that won't stop the asset sales. If the Turnpike sale (or lease) is out, there is still the PNC Bank Art Center. Sell it? Why not. Hell, we already sold the name and spent those millions years ago. Let's see how much more money we can squeeze out of that hut. And while we're at it, why not sell the Turnpike rest stops. We bet Charmin would put their name on one. And maybe Purell (or Dial Soap) on another. Other asset sales being considered are the Atlantic City International Airport, operations of the state Lottery, and approval to construct Class-A office and apartment towers atop Penn Station in Newark, the Secaucus Junction rail hub and the NJ Transit station in downtown New Brunswick. State officials are also looking at selling the rights to build shopping malls on land owned along the Turnpike. Precisely what New Jersey needs . . . more malls and more traffic on the Turnpike.

And this is all to add more money to state coffers so that the state can spend more or offer more tax relief. But once this money runs out, what do we do then? How do we pay for all the new, neat things ten years down the road?

Selling assets is not a meaningful way to achieve tax reform. Period.

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