Volunteer Tax Awaits Christie Signature

by James Devine

A bill that would require members of a board of education to undergo criminal history background investigation, for which the unpaid elected officials would pay a tax, has been approved by both houses of the Legislature and is waiting for action by Gov. Chris Christie.

Christie pledged that he would not sign any new taxes into law has been widely expected to approve the measure, since it has not attracted much attention as a new tax.


Assembly Bill 444 was sponsored by Ass. Gerald Green and 30 co-sponsors and it was approved without a single vote in opposition in five votes in the Senate, two in the Assembly and two more in committees.

The tax component requires school board members to pay for a criminal history background investigation that is required under the proposed law.

This is an excellent example of the absurdity of ‘no tax pledges’ made popular by the same Republican political strategists who made ‘liberal’ a dirty word in politics.

Government runs on taxes and all taxes are not created equal. Without taxes, there would be no government — a situation that would suit many Republicans who would like to see it perish from the earth, or as Grover Norquist put it, drowned in a bathtub.

Few of the nation’s richest people have much requirement for government except when it suits them, in such cases as law enforcement and prisons or contracts and expenditures from which corporations draw heft profits.

Those in the top one percent of the population whose incomes average $3.6 million can afford for themselves everything they need while the other 99 percent of us must rely on each other.

For educating our children, preventing crime, restricting public health hazards, controlling traffic, development and other civil affairs that require order, caring for the sick and poor, or a hundred other things that are too important to leave to chance and beyond the capacity for most of us to deal with on our own — those are the reasons we have a government.

To secure equally for all people the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness we establish government, which works because we give it permission.

We agree to pay for it based upon our various abilities to contribute, with a greater share borne by those with the most wealth, and we accept that it is going to treat us all the same regardless of our standing in society.

We give it the power to deprive people who break the law of liberty or even to kill enemies that threaten our peace and security; even though we do not assume to be entitled to use such force on our own except in the most extreme circumstances.

Government serves the collective needs of society, providing what we all want and preventing what we all wish to avoid.

Forcing unpaid volunteers to pay for background checks after they are elected seems like an awfully unjust tax on a very select group of individuals that could discourage good people from taking on the responsibility of leading our schools. Not a single politician from either party objected to taxing these volunteers.

Asking the richest people in society — those in New Jersey whose earnings exceed $400,000 or nationally with income over $250,000 — to contribute a little more than they are now paying until the economy improves sounds like a brilliant way to reduce our debt and permit expenses that will get things going faster.

That’s what won bipartisan agreement, however. Chris Christie and Joe Cryan agreed to it here in New Jersey. Barack Obama and John Boehner settled on it in Washington.

The time has come for some radically different thinking in government, which would require the election of people who believe the institutions of state are capable of something other than evil.

Legislative elections are looming, with candidate filing deadlines a month away. Hopefully, voters will have some sound choices.

If you are a Democrat who wants to run then you should look into your options at www.njdems.com/2011 where a group is actively recruiting new leadership.

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