By the Asbury Park Press
Democrat Phil Murphy or Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno? You will be asked to decide who will replace Gov. Chris Christie as governor on Nov. 7.
Our choice? Guadagno.
She is best equipped, through experience and a fiscally conservative governing philosophy, to address what most New Jersey residents have long regarded as the state’s number one issue — crushing property taxes.
Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive and U.S. ambassador to Germany, has run a campaign built on snake-oil promises to address virtually every problem facing New Jersey by throwing even more money at it.
His disturbing lack of focus on the tax burden is dramatized by his campaign website’s failure to list property taxes as a major heading in his issues section.
(Democrat and former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy and Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno are facing off in a debate for New Jersey governor. Courtesy of CBS New York, tokm908 and YouTube. Posted on Oct 18, 2017)
A subsection on “Making New Jersey more affordable” devotes one bullet point to it: “Easing the property tax burden by funding our schools, restoring rebates for seniors and low-income residents, and incentivizing towns to share services.”
One of the key reasons we support Guadagno is because a Republican is necessary in the governor’s chair to keep the Democratic-majority Legislature’s profligate impulses in check.
While Gov. Chris Christie’s tenure was a major disappointment in many ways, he largely succeeded in reining in the Democrats on spending.
That can’t be overlooked, not in a state that has far and away the highest property taxes in the nation.
(Here are five facts you may not have known about Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno. Courtesy of nj .com and YouTube)
There are other factors behind our preference for Guadagno, not the least of which is her background as acting governor, lieutenant governor, Monmouth County sheriff and U.S. attorney, specializing in public corruption cases.
She won’t require any on-the-job training. Murphy, who has never held elective office, will.
As lieutenant governor, Guadagno also served as secretary of state and was the state’s chief liaison with the business community, seeking to attract new businesses and retain existing ones.
She has a clear understanding of what New Jersey needs to do to help them prosper.
We also prefer Guadagno’s positions to Murphy’s on several issues beyond the need to reduce property taxes.
Unlike Murphy she opposes legalization of marijuana.
She supports the extension of the 2 percent interest arbitration cap for police and firefighters, which has played a major role in reducing the rate of property tax increases in recent years. Murphy has been noncommittal.
She supports giving citizens the right of initiative and referendum, which Murphy opposes.
She favors a far more aggressive approach to school and municipal consolidation than Murphy.
She is against a $15-an-hour minimum wage, would renegotiate public employee health and pension benefits, and wants all new public employees to enroll in 401(k) plans.
(The first gubernatorial debate in New Jersey between Republican Kim Guadagno and Democrat Phil Murphy on Oct. 10, 2017. Courtesy of nj .com and YouTube. Posted on Oct 11, 2017)
Murphy, on the other hand, has made campaign promises that would require tens of billions of dollars in new spending at a time when New Jersey has the highest debt burden per capita in the nation.
He cites three major ways to raise revenue: imposing a millionaires tax, closing corporate loopholes and generating revenue from legalized marijuana.
Taken together, they wouldn’t come close to offsetting the costs of his wish list — a list that includes fully funding the state school aid formula ($1 billion), fully funding pensions ($5 billion annually), universal pre-K ($600 to $700 million), infrastructure improvements (new Port Authority bus terminal, new second rail tunnel under Hudson River, restoring operating assistance to NJ Transit (many billions) and free community college ($200 million).
He also favors raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Because it would apply to public as well as private workers, it would create further upward pressure on taxes.
He also said he doesn’t want to move newly hired public workers into 401(k) plans, nor negotiate any changes to the state’s public pension and health care plans.
That sounds like fiscal suicide.
There are three way to close the gap between what Murphy wants to spend and the available tax revenue to pay for it: Cut government costs, raise taxes and increase tax collections through economic growth.
Murphy emphasizes the latter, as do all politicians who can’t make their math work. Additional spending should come after you’ve grown the economy, not before it’s come into state coffers.
We also are troubled Murphy has failed to provide more specific information about the extent of his wealth, how it was obtained, who some of his clients were during his days at Goldman Sachs and what deals were struck with them, and what investments remain in his considerable portfolio.
Asked during the Facebook Live conversation to elaborate on just how wealthy he was — reports have ranged from $50 million to hundreds of millions — he was evasive.
He also demurred when asked why he had not made his tax returns available online.
While wealthy public officials often argue that it makes them immune to pressures from rich, powerful interests, it does not insulate them from the need to curry favor with those whose votes they depend on.
In Murphy’s case, it’s the unions, a formidable voting bloc in the state. Given his stances on virtually every issue, their influence on him is evident.
Murphy is likable and smart. And from all accounts, his strength as a manager was the key to his success at Goldman Sachs.
But we believe his agenda for New Jersey is informed more by a core progressive mindset than a sober look at the stark fiscal realities facing the state and overwrought taxpayers.
Guadagno understands those realities. And, if elected, will focus on changing them.