What a great week for tax reform - again in a state other than New Jersey. Last week, the North Carolina Legislature and governor announced sweeping changes to the Tar Heel State's tax code that will lower the income tax and corporate tax, cap the gas tax and kill the death tax.
While other states are doing the right thing to bolster growth through economic freedom, the sad reality is New Jersey continues to fall behind. North Carolina has done the right thing in flattening its income tax. It is going from three income-tax brackets down to one, with a flat rate of 5.8 percent in 2014 and then 5.75 percent in 2015. This is a far cry from New Jersey, which has one of the most progressive income-tax systems in the nation, with six different brackets and a top rate of 8.97 percent.
When it comes to the corporate tax, the difference is even more staggering. New Jersey has a flat rate of 9 percent on business, while North Carolina is set to lower its rate to 6 percent by next year and could drop it to as low as 3 percent in 2017.
Here in New Jersey, the Democratic-led Legislature has time and time again slammed job creators with more rules and regulations, taxed them to the hilt and driven business out with ideas such as raising the minimum wage. Does the New Jersey Legislature need to be reminded of all the businesses that are leaving the state? The Legislature overmedicated La Roche with taxes, drove Hertz to Florida, and bogged down Ocean Spray with regulations.
The North Carolina Legislature also removed the estate tax, better known as the death tax. Here in New Jersey, we tax when you come, go and die. So all of the assets you worked so hard to earn over your lifetime cannot be passed down to your family without incurring a tremendous cost to your loved ones.
The question New Jersey taxpayers should be asking: When will it be our turn to see real relief? Hearing Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Salem, Gloucester, saying we don't have enough room in the budget to pass a tax reduction doesn't pass the laugh test. We just passed a $33 billion budget, a 4 percent increase at a time when our economy barely grew more than 1 percent. It's hard to believe those in control of the purse strings in Trenton cannot find 5 percent to cut to allow much-needed property-tax or income-tax relief, or make it easier for business to hire employees.
In fact, there are many in our state Legislature who should be ashamed for taxing and spending at the expense of hard-working New Jerseyans, particularly when our economy is sputtering, job growth remains anemic, and many New Jerseyans are struggling to get by.
Recognizing the urgent need to make our state more competitive and improve our economy, Gov. Chris Christie has been calling for an income-tax cut and property-tax relief since first being elected in 2009. For the past two years, the governor has pushed for tax relief as part of his budget proposals only to be blocked by the Democratic leadership in the Legislature.
Sen. Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., R-Union, has also recently called for New Jersey to take up much-needed tax reform in the state before it is too late. Americans for Prosperity cannot agree more.
Like North Carolina, New Jersey finds itself at a crossroads that will determine our state's economic destiny. The Garden State can continue on the road to decay, mired in a morass of bigger and bigger government, punitive regulations and excessive taxation. Or the Garden State can follow the Tobacco Road to prosperity by, at long last, reducing the size of state government, getting bureaucrats off the backs of our entrepreneurs and job creators, and cutting taxes across the board, as North Carolinians have done.
The choice is clear. It is time to reverse course in New Jersey. It is time to make New Jersey great again. It is time to allow the New Jersey taxpayers to live the American Dream.
Daryn Iwicki is the deputy state director of Americans for Prosperity's New Jersey chapter.