Governor Jim Florio’s $2.8 billion tax increase two years ago left New Jersey taxpayers with no recourse, despite efforts over the last 16 years to make the initiative and referendum process available to frustrated citizens. The issue was revived again last year by Republican Assemblyman Robert Franks, who sponsored a bill that would allow individuals, with petitions in hand, to propose legislation or dismantle laws, an option available in 23 other states.
According to the New York Times, opposition to last year’s initiative and referendum proposal was spearheaded by the powerful Democratic Speaker, Joseph Doria, Jr. Rather than face election-year reprisal by voting it down, both houses agreed to stall it in committee.
As promised, Franks reintroduced the proposal last January, and with Republicans in control of both the Senate and Assembly, it was given a warmer reception. But when Governor Florio added his endorsement the New Jersey Education Association went on the offensive. Executive Director Robert Bonazzi candidly urged the teachers’ union to attack the plan because it “will provide an impetus for our enemies to organize at the local level . . . for lower taxes, for spending caps, against school budgets, and to eliminate our tenure rights.”
The initiative and referendum proposal is expected to be approved by August for inclusion on the November ballot, at which time voters will decide for themselves whether they can decide for themselves.