Where the NJ Democrats’ Priorities Should Lie

The liberal group Blue Wave New Jersey last week asked its supporters to pressure state lawmakers to approve a millionaire’s tax.

It put it this way.

“Many of our state’s Democratic representatives are pushing back against a plan to raise taxes on incomes over $1 million. The Millionaires Tax will make our tax system fairer. Moreover, without additional revenue from the wealthiest in our state, New Jersey will not be able to cover its existing obligations or fund critical
investments.”

Yes, some Democrats in the Legislature are wary about Gov. Murphy’s plan to increase the top state income tax rate from 8.97 to 10.75 percent for those earning at least a million dollars a year.

So, there is nothing factually wrong with the group’s statement. And of course a fairer tax system is a traditional Democratic goal.

The politics is another story.

The feeling here is that Blue Wave and others on the left should stop fighting for a millionaire’s tax and focus on a much more important issue – winning the midterm election and gaining control of at least one house of Congress.
I know. One is a state issue and one is federal. But they are definitely related.

Here in New Jersey at least, Democrats have a great issue to use this fall against incumbent Republican members of Congress.

The signature domestic accomplishment of the Trump Administration will raise taxes on at least some state residents. As we well know, that is because the federal tax reform bill caps the deduction for state and
local taxes at $10,000. Many in New Jersey pay more than $10,000 in property taxes alone.

It is true that all Republican House members from New Jersey except one – Tom MacArthur – voted against the Trump tax plan.

No matter. Democrats still can argue that if Republicans are raising taxes on many people in New Jersey, they should not be running Congress. It’s a strategy that some Democrats already are using. See Mikie Sherrill’s comments after winning the Democratic primary last week in District 11.

It’s a good issue because Democrats are usually playing defense when it comes to taxes.

But what happens if Democrats in Trenton increase taxes on millionaires? That issue evaporates.

Republicans will point out the hypocrisy of Democrats griping about increasing taxes on one hand and passing a tax increase on the other.

Sure, Democrats can say – as the Blue Wave group is saying – that the tax increase would impact only the very rich – those making a million dollars.

But that’s not the point. The federal tax changes impact the wealthy the hardest as well. After all, it’s the rich who are the most likely to own lavish homes and pay far more than $10,000 in property taxes.

So like the proposed millionaire’s tax, the federal tax changes most impact those who are at least well-off.  If the tax is approved, Democrats will be in a position  of saying one tax increase on the rich is bad, but that another one is good.

That’s political foolishness.

If lack of revenue makes it harder for Murphy to implement some of his worthwhile progressive initiatives this year, so what. That’s no disaster. This is only the first year of Murphy’s four-year term. He’s got time.
But Democrats have only five months to make the case to take control of Congress.

That’s the priority.

Or at least it should be.

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