There isn't a family in New Jersey who, if it were deeply in debt and struggling to pay its bills, would decide the answer is to decrease its income.
But unlike responsible heads of families, politicians have no problem looking at New Jersey's dire financial condition and deciding to try to make it worse.
That's how an offhand remark by Gov. Chris Christie at one of his town hall meetings - that he'd be happy to eliminate the realty transfer fee - becomes a bill sponsored by two Republican lawmakers and Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, to do just that.
Many people find the realty transfer fee, which is assessed when people sell property, an especially objectionable form of taxation. A seller of a $325,000 home pays about $1,900. Senior citizens pay about a third of that.
Objectionable or not, the fee is expected to bring in $325 million next year, money the state can hardly make do without right now.
Just this week, we learned that the current year's budget is $807 million in the hole. Last month, Standard & Poor's downgraded New Jersey's bond rating for the second time in recent years, to the third-lowest rating in the country. Fitch Ratings follow suit, downgrading the state's bonds on Thursday. That means New Jersey will pay more to borrow money in the future.
What makes this proposal even more worrisome for folks who live at the shore is that money from the realty transfer fee is dedicated to pay for the $25 million Shore Protection Fund each year. When the bill to dedicate those funds was signed in 1992, one year after the devastating 1991 storm, it provided a stable source of funding for the state's share of beach-replenishment projects for the first time.
In fact, when Gov. Jon Corzine's budget transferred millions of dollars of shore-protection money to the general fund in 2009, no one was more outraged than Van Drew.
Now, Van Drew says he is satisfied with a pledge from Christie that, if the realty fee is eliminated, shore protection funds would be protected.
Really? Is Van Drew familiar with the governor's unfulfilled pledge to find funding for open-space projects? Or his attempt to grab affordable-housing trust funds from municipalities? Or with the long-standing tradition of governors diverting funds to plug budget holes?
Our state finances are in such bad shape that Christie is now threatening to go back on the historic agreement he and lawmakers made in 2011 to provide increasing payments over several years to fully fund public employee pensions in exchange for greater pension and health insurance contributions from employees.
We get it. Nobody likes taxes. And jumping on the bandwagon to eliminate one is a reliable way for a politician to look as if he or she is listening to constituents.
But New Jersey cannot afford a cut in its household income right now.