Sunday, April 13, 2008

Democrats, Garrett and Taxes

Over at Blue Jersey this week there was a conversation about whether or not a Democrat could take the Fifth. A number of ideas crossed people's minds, largely centered around Representative Scott Garrett's social voting record. One thing that was missing, both from the comments on the original post and the response from Dennis Shulman's campaign, was a huge issue here in the Fifth: Taxes.

Our District is one of the most heavily taxed in the nation, and anyone running against Garrett is going to have to talk about it to get people listening.

Let's be honest, every time a Democrat talks about raising taxes on the most wealthy Americans to fund a program, they're talking about our District. Garrett's opposition to government expansion rings true with a lot of people, because they know they'd end up paying for it and haven't been happy with the return on investment at a lot of levels.

According to the Census Bureau, 46.9% of the families in our District make over $100,000 a year. This compares with 22.6% of the nation as a whole. The more popping figure are families making over $200,000. The nation has 4.4% at that level, where our District has 14.8%.

Although some could argue cost of living adjustments would be factored in, anybody who deals with the AMT knows that won't save our District from a higher bill. While Garrett has failed to deliver relief from the AMT, and actually voted against patching it at least once, it doesn't change the fact roughly 20% of the District are on the verge of having to pay it.

It is a primary issue for many voters in the District, and although completely ineffective in actually getting anything done to fix the AMT, people like what Garrett has to say about abolishing the AMT.

What also hurts Dems in our District is what happens with the State regarding property taxes. According to the Star Ledger, 17 of the top 50 towns in average property tax burden fall within the Fifth District. Camille Abate addresses the fact unfunded mandates and such raise people's property taxes when Federal dollars don't come through, but it's the last point on her issues page.

Garrett's philosophy of ending many Federal programs and returning "control" to the State is probably where Dems can make their greatest inroads. Not only has our return on the Federal tax dollar not improved with Garrett, but his voting record and statements are such that he wants more of the property tax burden to fall on our District's shoulders.

That's all well and good for a guy who has been accused of using a farm subsidy to lower his own property taxes. Since, supposedly, he's not paying his fair share now, it won't affect his bottom line if his neighbors have to pay more.

I guess my point in all of this is that Garrett's greatest strength, his verbal stand on taxes, needs to be turned into his greatest weakness. Things like his votes for deficit popping budgets; votes against small business tax cuts for owners in our District when they're among the highest taxed in the nation; and his votes against funding that will have to be replaced with property tax dollars are really how to make people rethink their support for him.

Garrett talks a good line on taxes, and any Dem that wants to take him down is going to have to show that Garrett is just that: Talk. Once a candidate establishes that, and people are listening, the rest of Garrett's record can be discussed.

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