You have probably seen the TV ad – more than once in fact.
A shadowy clip of Phil Murphy shows the governor talking about taxes and then saying the following:
“If you’re a one issue voter and tax rate is your issue, we’re probably not your state.”
Jack Ciattarelli then pops up to ask, “Who says that?”
On one hand, the Republican candidate may be on to something.
Taxes are a big issue in New Jersey – maybe the biggest – and Murphy’s comment does seem a bit cavalier, even dismissive.
But yet – the latest poll shows Murphy ahead by 16 points and Ciattarelli not cracking 40 percent. Sure, it’s still the summer and regular people, as opposed to political junkies, probably are not paying attention yet. So, there’s certainly a chance support for Ciattarelli will grow.
Then again, what Murphy said is basically true. That may be a greater problem for the Republican to overcome.
The governor did not say if you care about taxes, New Jersey is not for you.
He said that if you only care about taxes, the state is not for you. That’s a critical distinction.
In short, the governor was saying, or implying, that while taxes are high, you get a lot in return.
That, of course, is a debatable point. And it’s not true for everyone.
But Murphy’s take is as follows:
U.S. News & World Report rates New Jersey’s public schools as the best in the nation. The general criteria has to do with such things as test scores, graduation rates, student-teacher ratio and money spent on education.
Others who rate school systems may not have New Jersey as number one, but it’s just about always in the top three or five.
Education is obviously important even if you don’t have kids in school. An educated populace benefits society as a whole and a good school system raises property values.
That same outfit, U.S. News, rated medical care in the state as the fourth best in the nation. Again, others don’t rate it that high, but all have medical services available in New Jersey in the top half of the country.
In looking at the state as a whole, you also have to consider such things as easy access to airports and such major cities as New York and Philadelphia.
The state, which on many levels has done a good job preserving some of the open land it still has, also offers outdoor recreation that many outsiders are not aware of.
Yes, taxes are high, but the quality of life here is good. And, of course, income levels here are among the highest in the country.
That, at least, is Murphy’s argument.
Put another way, suppose New Jersey had much lower taxes, but lousy schools, substandard hospitals and no real place to take a hike or jog in the woods? Would residents be better off?
Let’s remember that the governor’s initial statement was about “one issue” voters.
Sure, if you care only about taxes and not much at all about services and lifestyle, Ciattarelli’s ad rings true.
But if you are not a one issue voter, it may not.
This is not a novel dilemma.
So much about government spending is balancing off services the people need with how much they cost.
One thing Ciattarelli’s advertisement does is put that question on the ballot.
It’s pretty likely he will have most of the so-called one issue voters.
But will that be enough?