Asset monetization just a way for Corzine to further welfare

Gov. Jon S. Corzine certainly knows how to play politics. The only problem: it is at the expense of New Jersey taxpayers.

Many months ago he revealed his ideas on privatizing the toll roads, including the New Jersey Turnpike, as well as other state assets. After quickly testing the waters and seeing the public outrage mount, he knew he would have to devise a more clandestine way of getting what he wanted. Thus, the term “asset monetization” was born – something the average citizen does not know the meaning of.

Regardless of how the governor or his most vociferous critics specifically define it, the aim is to get a ton of cash upfront so Corzine can address the state’s budgetary woes.

Frequently cited as the reason for selling or leasing the toll roads is the tremendous debt the Garden State faces. The state has over $30 billion in state debt that needs to get paid off, not to mention healthcare liabilities and unfunded pensions. Much of this fiscal nightmare can be accredited to New Jersey’s last two governors and yes, one of those was a “Republican.” While this may appear to be a logical reason to sell the toll roads, there is little evidence to prove that a lot of the money will go toward debt.

There is no doubt that if this horrendous plan goes forward some debt will be relieved. However, Corzine has expressed his desire to fund a lot of other initiatives, like universal healthcare, universal pre-K and affordable housing. This money will go toward the largest expansion of the welfare state in New Jersey history. Since much of the money will go toward “capital investment,” as he calls it, do not be surprised if Democrats down the line raise even more taxes to pay off the looming debt (on top of the ’94 tax and fee increases they have made in the last six years).

His initiatives could be funded for two to three years, maybe. Afterward, guess who’s stuck with an even bigger tax bill to pay for a larger state bureaucracy and more government handouts? That’s right: the taxpayer.

This is just one aspect of the problem. There are also the problems of the almost certain increase in tolls on sold roads, the refusal of private companies to properly maintain roads that need repair and the increased congestion New Jersey’s other major highways will receive, most notably from trucks switching routes to avoid inflated tolls. All of these issues warrant even further discussion.

Despite the litany of conflicts presented, the governor has decided to study the issue of toll road monetization, using taxpayers’ money. Already the study has cost the taxpayers roughly $4.5 million. Even with that cost, Corzine refuses to reveal any of his plans and is willing to use more taxpayer money to fight a request for public documents.

Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck and assemblyman Sean Kean are taking Corzine to court in order to understand this plan. It is their opinion, as well as the opinions of assembly Republican leader Alex DeCroce, and virtually every other New Jersey Republican, that Corzine and other Democrats should explain the plan and their views on the idea of asset monetization before this upcoming state-wide election. It is only fair to know their stances on this dangerous and stupid idea.

Knowing that it would be election suicide, Corzine and the Democrats refuse to make public the specifics of the plan and study. Instead, they hope to ride into the legislature without giving the voters their position.

Democrats like Bonnie Watson-Coleman, Reed Gusciora and Shirley Turner will quickly deny they are in line with Corzine, but is the New Jersey electorate really supposed to believe that three of the state’s most liberal legislators (remember, they are from the 15th district) can subdue their love for increased government? I would be shocked if they in fact go against privatizing the roads.

While the Superior Court judge has mandated that Corzine explain his refusal, the judge will not allow the issue to be decided before the election on Nov. 6. It is important, therefore, that everyone know the stances of their candidates before they vote. Many will surely give the answer most people want to hear, but their stances on other issues may shed some light on where the Democrats are really headed.

It is apparent that New Jersey is in a dire fiscal situation. Let us not contribute to it by sending some of these liberal Democrats back into the legislature. Cast your ballot for the Republicans on Election Day so that we can begin the process back toward fiscal responsibility.

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