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Q & A with State Assembly Candidate Wil Levins - Fourth Installment -cnbnews.net

Wil Levins a Please feel free to ask your questions in the comments section below or email them to me at willevins@msn.com and they will be included in a future edition.

Q10: Do I support the Governor's refusal to raise taxes, especially on wealthier New Jerseyians?   - F.T. Gloucester City

A: Yes - I oppose raising taxes, especially on those residents who are already taxed the most.   Here’s why -

The top 1% of New Jersey income earners pay 40% of all state income taxes.  My concern for our State’s future tax revenue is that if we keep raising taxes on our most financially successful residents, eventually their desire to stay in New Jersey will be eclipsed by their incentive to leave for tax friendlier neighboring States.

As higher income earners leave New Jersey, so does the income tax monies we collect from them.  The tax burden shifts more onto the rest of us taxpayers as higher income earners depart.  I would rather keep our wealthier residents here paying the current tax rate than see them leave New Jersey and pay nothing.  We should applaud their success and their contributions to our State - not punish them with continually higher tax rates.

A friend summarized it best by quipping; “those who can afford to pay the highest rate can afford to leave the State.” 

Q11: Republicans like to say that New Jersey has a tax problem or a spending problem – well, which is it?  - K. F. Mantua

A:  Both - As I pointed out in last week’s installment, our State’s budget ballooned in just eight years from $21.8 billion in FY2001 to $34.6 billion in FY2008.  The only ways to fuel that kind of explosive spending are by having a wildly expanding economy or by continuously raising taxes or by amassing large amounts of debt.  We experienced all three but now the first option is in a recession, the second option is driving away more of our successful residents/businesses and the third option is endangering our future financial stability.

We must hold and lower government spending where feasible while fostering a business friendly environment that attracts new businesses and the jobs that are created by them.  This will see wage earners return to the workforce and pay new tax revenues into the State Treasury.  The increased revenue volume coupled with savings from reduced spending will allow us to fulfill our public obligations and reduce our massive debts - putting the State back into the black financially.

Q12:  Would you vote for tenure reform legislation that would allow School Boards to reauthorize individual teacher’s tenure every three to five years based on job performance evaluations? - D.S. Bellmawr

A: Yes, I would.  Tenure should be used to protect teachers from rights violations but not to safeguard those few educators who exhibit poor job performance.

Tenure as it exists today can be counterproductive because it limits long-term accountability.   I believe a renewable tenure policy coupled with additional monetary rewards for outstanding performance would better serve our educational system.

Let me be clear - we do not have a crisis of bad teachers.  The majority of teachers are dedicated professionals devoted to their craft.  All professions have their few "bad apples" but the current tenure system shields those individuals better than all other vocations.

Representatives from the State Legislature, the NJEA, the NJSBA and other professionals need to work together to forge reform legislation that is practical for educators, administrators, school boards, children, parents and taxpayers.

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