2016 Ballot Questions: Vote ‘No’ on 1, ‘Yes’ on 2

vote_with_check_for_v-svgIn the midst of the closely-watched presidential election, it is important to remember that New Jersey’s two ballot measures deserve close attention. Question 1 would authorize casino expansion to North Jersey, while Question 2 would constitutionally dedicate all fuel taxes to capital improvements to transportation networks. The first should be defeated; the second approved.

The proponents of casino expansion claim that two North Jersey casinos will save Atlantic City from failing as a tourist destination; the construction and operation of the two casinos will spark a boom in jobs and economic activity; struggling seniors and disabled New Jerseyans will be assisted with more generously funded benefits; and the shrinking equine industry will receive a subsidy to preserve jobs and economic activity.

These are hefty promises, but right now they are empty promises.

In fact, the referendum fails to answer basic questions about the proposed expansion of casinos. Everything from what the specific tax rate on new casinos would be (and, therefore, how much revenue might actually be generated to fulfill all these big promises) to how visitors and workers will get to the new casino sites remains unaddressed by the pro-expansion campaign (which, incidentally, suspended its efforts weeks ago in the face of polling that overwhelmingly shows voters lining up against this idea). For more on the case against Ballot Question 1, read our October report, Big Promises, Few Answers on Casino Expansion

Question 2 would constitutionally dedicate all fuel taxes to capital improvements of New Jersey’s essential networks of highways, bridges and public transit. Despite much confusion in recent weeks, one thing is clear: Approval or rejection of this question would not increase or reduce the recent increase in fuel taxes. Instead, it would make more certain that all fuel tax revenues are used for their intended purpose.

Here’s the principal reason for voting “yes” on Question 2: New Jersey’s most important asset, which no other state can match, is its location in the middle of the world’s largest market with convenient access to the world’s most important city. That advantage disappears if the state’s transportation networks are not maintained, improved and expanded. Public transit in particular has suffered from substantial disinvestment in the last seven years. The recent fuel tax increases, combined with the certainty that they will not be diverted to other programs and services, give the state a better opportunity to preserve its most important economic advantage.