Tag Archive: NJ Business & Industry Association

Resurrecting RGGI

Last summer, without consulting the legislature, following what he hoped would be a secret meeting with the notorious Koch Brothers climate change deniers, Governor Christie abruptly announced that he was withdrawing New Jersey from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). 

RGGI is a cap-and-trade initiative started by New York Republican Governor George Pataki in 2003, with participation from several states in the Northeast. Its goal is to reduce the amount of pollutants in the atmosphere by imposing a small tax on carbon emissions. Polluters can purchase offsets at quarterly auctions, which would bring money into state coffers. That money is supposed to go to conservation and energy efficiency programs. 

In response to the Governor’s foolish and unilateral action, Senators Sweeney and Smith have introduced a bill (S1322) which requires New Jersey to participate in RGGI. 

Today, Senator Smith chaired the Environment and Energy Committee hearing, receiving testimony from advocates on both sides of the issue. 

There is a difference between New Jersey and some of the more backward states that cater to the Rick Santorums of the world. At least in today’s testimony, there were no witnesses who opposed the bill on the basis of climate change denial. Those opposing RGGI put forth what seem to be fallacious economic arguments on how RGGI will raise electric rates. The arguments were quickly shot down by RGGI advocates. 

Of particular interest was the testimony of a small businessman from Princeton who pointed out how RGGI actually creates jobs in the state – jobs that are desperately needed as our unemployment rate exceeds the national average. 

The bill passed the Senate committee unanimously, including the vote of the lone Republican present, Senator Kip Bateman. Once it passes the full legislature, we’ll wait to see if the Governor continues to put his national political ambitions ahead of the health of New Jerseyans and vetoes the bill, or if he does what is right and signs it.

Testimony video below the fold…

A Triad Multiplying Wealth for the Wealthiest and Leaving the Rest in the Dust

America’s slow, steady slide toward economic oligarchy has been neither beyond human control nor bereft of resistance.  It is about how the “Have-It-Alls” have managed to restructure the economy to shift the risks of their economic playground downward saddling Americans with greater debt, tearing new holes in the safety net, and imposing broad financial risks on workers, investors and taxpayers. We find that most Americans experienced extremely modest gains over the last 30 years in which the rewards at the top multiplied. From 1979 until the eve of the great recession the top 1% received 36% of all gains in household income. In 2009 at the 38 biggest financial companies investors and executives earned $140 billion.” – WINNER TAKE ALL POLITICS: How Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson (Simon & Schuster – Sep. 2010)

Hacker and Pierson argue that too many books on US politics focus on the electoral circus which determines who can set policy. However, this is not the only period of policy choice, nor the only source that determines outcomes. Elections do have consequences, but most recently we have had both Republican Governor Christie and Democratic President Obama be influenced into maintaining a lower tax rate for millionaires. Hacker and Pierson place their emphasis on the broad, interconnected, influential nexus of policy research groups, organizations representing special interests, and governmental institutions. Together individuals in this triad  – some working on behalf of middle and low income families and others in full-throttle support for the wealthy – battle it out with each other. The victors over the past 30 years, achieving a knockout, have been a fortunate few – the rich and the superrich.

Policy research and setting, the first leg in the triad, does not easily grab the attention of the general public or the media, but its influence is everywhere. The anti-gay marriage policy and talking points were framed in part by the NJ Family Policy Council and used throughout the debate. David Evans, Advisor to Drug Free America Foundation sent out a mass email on proposed policies to make the medical marijuana law even more restrictive, and his arguments and talking points were used word-for-word by people testifying during the legislative resolution hearing. The Tax Foundation develops NJ financial data which has been used for a variety of causes benefiting the wealthy.

There’s more about special interest groups, governmental institutions, how the correct path is not always clear, and the trend remains unabated.