New Jersey Needs a Tax-free Vacation

By Assemblyman Ryan Peters

Guest Column appeared in the Burlington County Times and InsiderNJ

New Jersey introduces countless new taxes, fees and regulations every year. Some are far reaching and some are miniscule. They may slightly affect you but can have big consequences on a certain industry. Most of them make it harder for businesses to operate and more expensive for people to live. Some have no purpose other than keeping small businesses out of an already established playing field. 

Due to the yearly inundation of new expenses, New Jersey has become one of the highest taxed states in the nation and, hands down, the worst state for business climate. It is up to Trenton to start rolling back some of the regulations, fees and taxes that have gotten us where we are today, but I’m skeptical that the governing body, controlled by Democrats for the last two decades, is up to the task. 

With the summer in full swing, it’s brought me back to Governor Phil Murphy’s first year in Trenton when the Democrat-led legislature passed a tax labeled the “AirBnB Tax.” Although it was commercially targeted towards the online giant, it also hit private renters with a new 12-percent tax. I voted against it at the time and support my decision today.

The tax has slammed Jersey Shore renters especially hard. The shore is a place where families often privately rent out their beach houses to other families they know. It provides them a second income, and they don’t do it through any type of market. Now, on top of paying income taxes on the money they make and property taxes on the home, they have to pay another 12 percent, which will most likely be passed on to the renting family, if they can still afford to go on their vacation. 

The Jersey Shore is one of the biggest commercial success stories in the state, to mess with that economic ecosystem is just foolish.

The tax was quickly panned and a bill passed through the legislature to reverse it, but we’re more than halfway through summer, and the governor still hasn’t signed the bill to take this burdensome tax away from private renters. 

Once you start giving government new pots of money, it’s extremely hard to take them back. 

I’ll never forget a more personal example of a ridiculous money grab that I learned about during my first year as an assemblyman, last year. A woman called my office to talk about a grievance she had with the Garden State. She explained that she’s epileptic and her driver’s license was medically suspended because she suffered from seizures. With help from her doctor, she was able to get on the right medication and prove she was seizure free long enough to be medically cleared to drive again. But going through medical clearance was not enough to get her license back, because it’s never enough in New Jersey unless the state gets paid. 

The resident had to pay a $100 restoration fee with the Department of Motor Vehicles before getting her license back. It’s a standard fee that is charged to restore any suspended license, whether it was suspended for a medical reason or for a nefarious reason like drunk driving. 

It, honestly, was unbelievable to me. My wife has a form of epilepsy, and even I have never heard of this fee. It’s also terrible. Someone who overcomes a medical issue shouldn’t have to worry about ponying up to motor vehicles. 

After listening to her story, I worked with my staff to introduce a bill to eliminate the restoration fee for people who had their licenses suspended for medical reasons. That was in January and the bill is still waiting to be voted on. 

It turns out, in New Jersey, people are really good about coming up with new ways for the government to take your money, but not as great at slashing ridiculous expenses, even ones as obvious as this. 

It goes to show that we have to be extremely careful in Trenton about passing new taxes, fees and regulations, because the beast will fight like hell if you try and steal its supper.