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Taxing The Truth In New Jersey Ad War

Forrester says 15 votes were for "higher taxes." Corzine says the same 15 votes were "to lower taxes."

October 24, 2005

Modified: October 24, 2005

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Summary

 

Anyone who doubts that political ads are a poor source of reliable information might wish to examine the absurd degree of fact-twisting taking place in New Jersey's gubernatorial campaign, where Sen. Jon Corzine is the Democratic candidate and Doug Forrester is the Republican.

Both men are making exaggerated claims about Corzine's voting record on taxes, with Forrester claiming Corzine cast 133 votes for "higher taxes" and Corzine saying he cast 70 votes "to lower taxes." Both lists are padded with multiple votes on the same tax measure, and most of the votes Forrester says are for "higher taxes" actually would not have resulted in any tax increase at all. Laughably,  both men are counting some of the same votes.

Analysis

Republican Doug Forrester's ad condemns "liberal Jon Corzine" for voting for "higher taxes 133 times" while Corzine's ad says he voted to "lower taxes 70 times." Neither side is giving an accurate picture of Corzine's record on taxes.

Forrester for Governor Ad

"More of the Same"

Announcer: Liberal Jon Corzine.  He's voted for higher taxes 133 times.

(On Screen: Senate Roll Call Votes, 2001-2005)

One-hundred-thirty-three times. Incredible.

But while Corzine was voting for higher taxes on seniors and working families, he was also voting to give himself and his multi-millionaire friends a huge tax break.

(On Screen: Senate Roll Call Votes, 2001-2005; Philadelphia Inquirer; "Corzine reported to have voted for own tax break;" The Bergen Record; "Corzine vote aided investment deal")

A tax break that saved them millions of dollars.

(On Screen: "It saved Corzine and his partners millions of dollars in Tax Payments;" The Bergen Record, 3/15/2005)

Jon Corzine.  More tax hikes.  More sweetheart deals for himself.  More of the same.

"Higher" or "Lower?"

A close look at each side's claims shows that 15 of the votes that Forrester lists for "higher taxes" are the same votes Corzine says were "to lower taxes." Clearly, both can't be right.

For example, on March 25, 2003 Corzine voted for Senate Amendment 330 – a Democratic proposal that would have cut taxes. Corzine claims it as a vote to lower taxes, which of course it was.

Forrester claims it was a vote for "higher" taxes, because it would have resulted in a smaller tax cut than the one proposed by President Bush. But that claim is deceptive. Taxes would not have been higher than people were paying at the time, only higher than the levels Republicans favored – particularly for those with the highest incomes.

Specifically, the Democratic tax cut favored by Corzine would have provided an average tax cut of $569 per household in 2003, while the plan approved by Senate Republicans would have averaged $692 per household, according to analyses by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. And – for those making more than $1 million per year – the Corzine cut would have been only $815 on average,  while the version favored by Senate Republicans produced an average cut of $73,790.

Another vote on both men's lists came June 12, 2002. Corzine voted for Senate Amendment 3831– to reduce the estate tax rather than eliminate it. It was clearly a vote "to lower taxes" as Corzine's ad says. Forrester again argues deceptively that this is a vote for "higher" taxes, meaning higher than the Republican alternative, not higher than people were paying at the time. And in this case, even by Forrester's reasoning, Corzine's vote would have resulted in "higher" taxes only for multi-millionaires. The measure he supported would have eliminated the estate tax entirely on estates of less than $3 million for an individual and $6 million for a couple.

Corzine for Governor Ad

"Seventy Times"

Announcer: The truth on taxes: Jon Corzine has voted to lower taxes 70 times.

And Doug Forrester? As a mayor and councilman, Forrester raised property taxes 200 percent.

(On Screen: Bergen Record; 6/6/05)

Now he's proposed a plan that eliminates property tax rebates for seniors and the middles class and gives tax credits to the wealthy.

(On Screen: Trenton Times; 6/13/05)

It's a plan that will require deep cuts in education, healthcare and emergency response.

Doug Forrester: the wrong answer for New Jersey.

133 Times…Not Really

Forrester's misleading ad uses the same tactic President Bush used when accusing John Kerry of casting 350 votes for "higher taxes," a claim we de-bunked in the 2004 campaign. Like Bush, Forrester pads his list with votes that wouldn't have raised taxes at all. By Forrester's own accounting, only 22 of those 133 votes would have actually resulted in a tax increase.

The list includes 37 votes against tax cuts, which of course would have left taxes unchanged, not "higher." The rest were votes that would have resulted in lower taxes, though not as low as Republicans proposed: 
10 votes for Democratic tax-cut alternatives, 53 votes to reduce the size of proposed tax cuts, and 11 votes to slow the implementation of proposed tax cuts.

Padding the Lists

Both sides pad their lists with multiple votes on the same tax measure. Corzine's list of 70 votes "to lower taxes" includes 40 votes on various motions and amendments to just two pieces of tax legislation: Bush's 2001 tax cut and Bush's 2003 tax cut. And Corzine voted against both those measures on final passage. Most of the votes listed by Corzine were in favor of Democratic amendments that often failed by party-line votes. Still others were procedural votes related to the legislation, not the straight up or down votes that this ad leads voters to believe.

Forrester pads his list in the same way. His list of 22 Corzine votes to raise taxes includes 16 on just two pieces of legislation, the budget resolutions for fiscal years 2005 and 2006. Furthermore, even those two budget measures could not have raised taxes by themselves. They set targets for taxes and spending. To actually raise taxes, separate tax legislation would be required.

So once again we advise voters, when you hear a claim about "higher taxes," always ask, "higher than what?"

 -- by James Ficaro

Sources

David Kocieniewski, "Spending Sets Record in the Race for Governor," New York Times, 12 Oct 2005: 6B.

 

U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 107th Congress - 2nd Session, " Vote 150 ."

 

U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes  108th Congress- 1st Session, " Vote 95 ."

 

Table T03-0072 , "Senate Democratic Jobs and Growth Plan: Distribution of Individual Income Tax Change by AGI Class, 2003," Tax Policy Center, 6 May 2003.

 

Table T03-0098 , "Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 as Passed by the Senate: Distribution of Income Tax Change by AGI Class, 2003," Tax Policy Center, 16 May 2003.

 

"Corzine Ad Back Up: Seventy Times," Corzine for Governor, 7 Oct 2005.

 

"Forreseter Verfication Sheet: More of the Same," Forrester for Governor.