by Heather Shupe
Many believe the state debt of $38 billion can be magically fixed by stimulus packages and tax cuts. But independent Chris Daggett knows that there is no quick fix to the economic crisis and is up to the challenge of fixing the problem. He asks, “What happens when the $2 billion in federal stimulus money is gone?”
The biggest problem that faces New Jersey is the many failed state and local budgetary policies of several administrations and both political parties. Gov. Corzine’s “temporary” surcharge on the income tax seems to have no end. Each year, officials demand that the state budget puts more money into funding state aid for schools and towns, property tax rebates and senior citizen property tax freezes. Local spending is why our state is billions of dollars in debt.
Daggett plans to have public employees, on all levels of government, pick up their share of the cost of these benefits. He plans to eliminate practices such as pension padding and dual-office holding, giving health care and pensions to part-time governmental employees and allotting health care and pensions to police officers and firefighters. Daggett realizes that these are only small steps and will not solve the problem. The state will eventually have to come up with $80 billion to fund long-term health benefits and pensions for teachers, local government employees and state workers.
Between the federal, state and local taxes, New Jersey bears the greatest tax burden in the nation. By focusing on issues such as property taxes and local spending instead of state taxes and state spending, Daggett can find a solution to this state-troubling debt. He wants to reduce the cost of salaries, health care benefits and pensions, and reduce the price residents pay to fund 566 municipalities and more than 600 school districts.
In order to reach this goal, Daggett says that we may go through a cycle of pay freezes and pay cuts. Workers may have to contribute a portion of their salaries to health and pension benefits. The issues of health care and pensions are not the only problem standing in the state’s way. Daggett believes that we need to reduce our spending and fix the structural problems concerning our budget. Daggett feels he can handle the economic crisis and that “both Democrats and Republicans have shown they are unable or unwilling to deal with these issues.”