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CURBING GOVERNMENT & EMPOWERING PEOPLE; An interview with Steve Lonegan – Part II

Bookmark and Share     Confident that he will be the Republican nominee for Governor, Steve Lonegan answered questions in this interview in a way that came across to me as a back to basics strategy. A strategy that would scale back the scope of government and their intrusiveness in our lives. A strategy that intends to strip off the extras which cost us more.

In the previous installment of this interview, we got a good glimpse of that approach to government when the Mayor answered questions involving the Committee On Affordable Housing. Aside from calling the actions of the committee “leftwing social engineering“ he called for its abolishment.

Such signs of Lonegans desire to put government back in its proper place are most evident in the area of taxes.

antlone1In part two of this interview, Lonegan volunteered that the “first thing” he needs “to do in the state of New Jersey is to cut taxes“.

He says “we have the worst income tax, we have the highest top end rate in the east at 9%, we have the highest sales tax in the nation and the highest property taxes“.

The former mayor claims that these exorbitant taxes are all “a result of the massive growth of state government”. He adds that “we also have the worst estate tax in the country so not only can you not afford to live here, you can’t afford to die here” and he made it clear that under a Lonegan administration, the solution that he will provide to the problem will be achieved by cutting taxes across the board which you do by cutting the size of government. He added that he will do so by “cutting it with an axe, not a scalpel”.

  • …..“The number one driving force behind increases in property taxes in New Jersey is the state government“…..-Steve Lonegan, 1/21/09-POLITICS 24/7 interview

As for property taxes Lonegan believes the key to solving the problem is lifting government off of our backs and giving mayors and local council members “back the tools they need to govern effectively rather than become functionaries of the state whose job it becomes to implement all the COAH mandates and all the other unfunded mandates that Trenton heaps on the backs of local officials.”

Stating that after 12 years as Mayor of Bogotá he knows the burdens of which he speaks, and proclaimed that he knows what it takes to cut taxes and that due to the overreaching that Trenton participates in, local “officials do not have the tools” to cut taxes .”

He added “we need to eliminate COAH which will be driving up our property taxes. We need to give mayors and councils the ability to negotiate union contracts on a fair playing field and we need to give school boards the ability to negotiate teachers contracts and give them  a fair playing field which they do not have now.”

  • …..”The real losers here are the students”…..      -Steve Lonegan, 1/21/09-POLITICS 24/7 interview

Another factor, one of the most important factors, in rising property taxes is the 15 year old Abbot School funding formula which Lonegan clearly states is plain wrong.

Calling the Abbot funding system “another product of our liberal state supreme court”, Lonegan explains that we have the 33 most expensive school districts in America. “These are the Abbot districts where spending per student ranges as much as $25,000 and in some cases $30,000 per student and the real travesty here is that after billions and billions of dollars pored into these school districts, we still have students coming out of these school districts with a less than mediocre education, often in unsafe schools”, he added.

  • ….“I think the idea of collecting money from people and sending it back is absurd”…..                        – Steve Lonegan, 1/21/09-POLITICS 24/7 interview 

Still on the topic of property taxes, I asked the Mayor what he thought of the homestaed rebate program which eligible homeowners recieve after paying their taxes.  His response was expected and right on the mark.

“I think the idea of collecting money money from people and sending it back is absurd.  I think the whole sytem should be eliminated”  said Lonegan.  He  further stated that as governor, as  he reduces the size of government, “one of the programs that will go will be the homestaed rebate program”. 

  • …..”cut taxes for everyone”…..           Steve Lonegan, 1/21/09-POLITICS 24/7 interview

But before anyone takes tthe line about doing away with the homestaead rebate and tries to paint Lonegan as someone who refuses to make it easier for taxpayers in New Jersey, he made clear that his goal is to “cut taxes for everyone and give them real tax cuts, not some phomy income redistribution scheme that requires people to call into some stupid phone number and wait for an hour”.  Steve believes that if we can “start cutting the state’s income and sales tax for the people, they will say, we don’t want your rebate anymore”

As for the education of our children Lonegan declared that the highlight of his career will be the day that he signs a bill requiring every Abbot school districts to “give a quality education to students with the same funding as every other school district in the state of New Jersey”. 

If they don’t, Lonegan demands that they give each parent of those students a voucher so that they can go to the school of their choice.

With much of our discussion dealing with funding and mandates I asked Mayor Lonegan if as Governor, he would refuse any federal funding for the state because of strings that may be attached to it.

When it comes to our return on the tax dollar that New Jerseyans send to Washington, D.C., most of it has to do with the ability of our representatives in D.C. and how good they are at delivering for the state. Our representatives in the U.S. Senate, Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez have been a sleep and during their naps, New Jersey has fallen to last place when it comes to the money we get back from Washington. Although New Jersey could use all the help it can get right now, I asked Steve if there was any limit to what help he would reject  t from Washington because of some of the federal strings attached to it.

His matter of fact response was “I certainly would, it depends on the strings of course so it has to be analyzed case by case.”

The mayor did feel that it is a “sad state of affairs when the federal government uses money to manipulate us into implementing their agenda on the state level.”

But that answer cuts both ways.

For instance, I am a supporter of legislation sponsored by Texas Senator John Cornyn, which prohibits the use of federal money involving projects that a state or local entity obtains through eminent domain policies. I also support federal legislation to link the refusal of Homeland Security dollars to states that allow themselves to be sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants.

However the Mayor’s comment has merit. There are many cases where the federal government does refuse to turn over money to a state if they fall short of adopting some of D.C’s  intended social engineering programs, programs like COAH for example,  and besides, he did state that he looks forward to the day when we don’t need any help from Washington.

All in all Steve Lonegan presented a great case for not only conservatives but for taxpayers as well.

He also demonstrated that someone with the experience of a New Jersey township or municipal mayor, might just be what New Jersey needs in a Governor. Who knows best what the ramifications of Trenton’s decisions are in the towns, villages, cities and municipalities, throughout our state, than a mayor who has had to deal with what comes out of Trenton?

His points are hard to argue and the only real area for debate, regarding his points, deal with the approach to the solutions of each of those points and that’s what the Republican primary for the gubernatorial nomination will be all about.

In the next part of this interview we will get into that debate as we ask the Mayor about his opponents and his chances of winning.

We will also get into what may become a political liability and deep bump in Lonegan’s road to victory among Republicans.                                                                        Bookmark and Share

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A friend of mine is in the naval reserves…………….

A few weeks ago, He was attending a conference that included admirals in both the US and the French navies. At a cocktail reception, my friend found himself in a small group that included an admiral from each of the two navies.  

The French admiral started complaining that whereas Europeans learned many languages, Americans only learned English. He then asked. “Why is it that we have to speak English in these conferences rather than you have to speak French?”  

Without even hesitating, the American admiral replied. “Maybe it is because we arranged it so that you did not have to learn to speak German.”

The group became silent.

Submitted by Mike, Broomfield, Co.

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OFFER LEGISLATURE MERIT PAY LINKED TO THE ECONOMIES THAT THEY MANIPULATE

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ASSEMBLYMAN RICHARD MERKT
ASSEMBLYMAN RICHARD MERKT

Assemblyman Richard Merkt recently proposed to slash the salaries of New Jersey lawmakers by 10%.However, the Assemblyman is a candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination and the proposal could be viewed as an election gimmick. Then again, everything that any lawmaker does can be seen as a election gimmick.

In light of the recent pay raise of federal legislators, Merkt’s proposal is a noble one and worth looking at.

So his point is well taken. Times are tough and our representatives should be willing to make sacrifices and at least pretend to be empathetic to the people whose lives they affect.

Besides, lawmakers are partially responsible for any state’s economy including the one we are currently in here in Jersey so they should be more directly effected. I say they are partly responsibly because not everything is their fault. Nature, world events and human stupidity outside of Trenton politics, all play a part. But our lawmakers are elected to both steer us and our state economy in the right direction and to help our state better cope with the situations that we are dealt.

That being the case, it can easily be said that the current state legislature has not done a good job.

New Jersey has led the way in economic trouble over the past few years and under the direction of Governor Jon Corzine, the state legislature has been ill equipped at handling the situation. In fact, together the Democrat controlled state legislature and Democrat Governor have made matters worse.

Together they raised taxes, increased fees made it harder to do business in New Jersey and expanded opportunities for government corruption.

It could be said that Republicans bare no responsibility for this situation since they do not control any branch of state government. I can agree with that but it still doesn’t get Republicans off the hook.

Both parties have failed the people of New Jersey to one degree or another.

Democrats have failed to do anything right and Republicans have failed at convincing anyone that they could do better.

Given these circumstances, I have a more interesting proposal than Assemblyman Merkt’s.

How about we link state legislative and executive salaries to the economy and taxes of the state that they run.

Currently New Jersey State Assembly members and Senators make $49,000 a year.

I say let us reduce those salaries to a base of $41.000 a year and then use the following standard.

  1. For every percent or portion of a percentage that any given legislature raises income and property taxes, their salaries are decreased by 2%. For every percentage or degree of a percentage that they decrease income and property taxes their salaries can be raise by half of one percent.
  2. For every percent or portion of a percentage that they raise a sales or service tax, their salaries also decrease by that same percentage. Conversely, their salaries can be raised by half a percent for every full percent of a decrease in such taxes.
  3. For any new tax created, their salaries are reduced by 2% plus the equivalent percentage of that new tax.
  4. Every toll increase passed during any legislative session is matched by a reduction in legislative salaries that equal to the percentage of that increase.
  5. And finally, state legislative salaries are further reduced by the same number of percentage points that the state’s unemployment rate is whenever it exceeds 4%.

To make it fair. Newly elected legislators would not be held accountable for the taxes and economic situation that any previous legislative session, which they did not have a hand in, was responsible for, and so they would start with the base pay of 41K.

Of course, such measures would not prevent rich people like Governor Jon Corzine from raising fees and taxes, misappropriating funds and offering sweet heart deals to sweethearts like Carla Katz. After all, Corzine took a $400 million golden parachute from Wall Street and doesn’t even accept his salary for Governor but this system could help to make less well off lawmakers work a little harder to address our problems and to fight the wealthy Governor. Having their own pockets linked to what they pick out of ours could just help to make them finally work together for the benefit of themselves as well as us. Maybe such a pay scale system will help to really create a sense of bipartisanship?

Perhaps if the lawmakers of New Jersey had their financial well being directly linked to the state’s financial well being and our own financial opportunities, maybe tax increases and increased fees for everything from driving to landscaping and joining a gym will be viewed as a last resort. Like it should be.

Perhaps by immediately linking their decisions directly to their own incomes, they may better empathize with the financial impact that they bring to bare on those they are representing .

You could say that it is not fair to those who vote against penalizing taxes or policies that drive businesses away and raise the unemployment in the state. That might be so, but, those who simply voted against something are still culpable. They have more than a responsibility to vote against such measures. They have the responsibility of leadership and the responsibility of making their case and doing it so well that a preponderance of people in the state as well as the legislature are persuaded by their arguments. They must convince people why others are wrong and they are right. Failing to do so is a failure that they share in common with those who support regressive economic policies.

So Assemblyman Merkt’s proposed 10 % reduction in salary is nice.

It is certainly going in a direction far better than the 2.8% pay increase that Congress is willing to take, at of all times, now. But the gesture Merkt is making could be made more meaningful and be more enduring. By linking legislative salaries to their actions we are adding a new incentive to politics and a new level of innovation……..political merit pay. If you do a good job and keep a good economy going you get paid better.

Is this crazy?

Maybe it is. Maybe it is as far fetched as a State Senator taking money from a no show job given to him by a school funded with state money that the same State Senator helped procure with tax payer dollars that he helped get through the state legislature. Maybe this political merit pay scale sounds just as crazy as that same corrupt State Senator getting his state funded pension after ripping the state off and being convicted.

But just like former *Senator Wayne Bryant, it may sound crazy but it could be true if like Wayne Bryant, we just did it.

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*Wayne Bryant pressured officials of University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey  to create a no-show job  that  allowed him to lobby himsef’ for taxpayer funds. Bryant also chaired the Senate Appropriations comittee which Funneled large sums of taxpayers dollare to UMDNJ.

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I was talking to a friend of mine’s little girl the other day.

I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up and she replied, 

I want to be President!” 

Both of her parents are liberal Democrats and were standing there. So then I asked her, “If you were President what would be the first thing you would do?”

She replied, “I’d give houses to all the homeless people.” 

“Wow – what a worthy goal.” I told her, “You don’t have to wait until you’re President to do that. You can come over to my house and mow, pull weeds, and sweep my yard, and I’ll pay you $50. Then I’ll take you over to the grocery store where this homeless guy hangs out, and you can give him the $50 to use toward a new house.” 

Since she is only 6, she thought that over for a few seconds. While her Mom glared at me, she looked me straight in the eye and asked,

“Why doesn’t the homeless guy come over and do the work, and you can just pay him the $50?” 

And I said, “Welcome to the Republican Party.” 

Her folks still aren’t talking to me.

 Submitted by Dick, Williamsport, Md

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