A New Jersey pollster says state and local politicians have been quaking in their boots ever since 1990 when Gov. Florio's tax increases handed his party a major defeat. The Dems lost the legislature the very next year, and then he failed to be reelected.
Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said politicians from both parties learned a lesson from Florio's experience, but it has led to poor budget practices. The state and many municipalities have used budget gimmicks and one-time fixes to balance the books, which in turn create deepening budget deficits.
Shortly after he was elected, Florio raised income taxes and sales taxes because he faced a big budget hole. He also wanted to use the new revenue to provide sorely needed property tax relief.
But the voters had the last word. No one wanted to raise taxes after that, Murray said.
The problem is that sometimes tax hikes are necessary, as Medford Township is finding out. It is nearly $6 million in debt after its town leaders refused to raise taxes for six years and kept on spending. Now, residents face a double whammy - higher taxes and the elimination of services, including parks and recreation, bulk trash pickup and more.