From the Star Ledger:
New Jersey has an investment problem.
The Garden State’s numerous credit downgrades, budget shortfalls, crumbling infrastructure, chronic underfunding of critical programs and priorities are well known. The source of these issues isn’t a lack of capital or wealth. New Jersey is among the nation’s wealthiest states with a growing millionaire population.
Many argue that Jersey’s credit woes stem from former Gov. Chris Christie’s continuation of ill-advised tax cuts that weakened state coffers, along with an underfunded pension system dating back to the Gov. Christie Whitman years. This irresponsible fiscal policy reinforced backwards, yet persistent notions that hedge funds and enormous corporations should be appeased before tax dollars are invested in small businesses, public services, and working families. New Jersey deposits taxpayer funds directly into Wall Street and foreign banks, coupling tax giveaways with misdirected investments and high fees.
Consider for a moment: whether you believe that our taxes should be lower or higher, your tax money, which is intended specifically to provide public services, ideally aimed at helping residents and maintaining public infrastructure, is filtered through Wall Street bankers and instead used as bonuses for financiers.
As a result, the state of New Jersey paid more than $1 billion in fees and $3 billion in interest to Wall Street for debt services in 2016. Payment of debt costs have been prioritized over meeting the public purpose for which they were borrowed. This system isn’t just immoral – it’s inefficient and irresponsible, a final blow in a line of schemes that Wall Street uses to steal our wages and our tax dollars, and it’s contributed to the stagnation of investment.
Murphy’s budget begins to address this, reinstating tax fairness and investing state dollars in priorities like education and transportation, but intractable structural issues remain.
A publicly owned bank which makes affordable loans to small businesses, directly finances public infrastructure, invests in green energy and efficiency programs, and refinances student loans, would put tax dollars to work properly: supporting New Jersey’s economy from the bottom up.