Monday, November 30, 2009

Alternative Public School Funding

It’s About the Kids.

The New Jersey State Constitution Article VIII; Section IV REQUIRES public funding for the Instructional, Administrative and Capital Maintenance of all Public Education (ages 5-18); but does not specify How Public Money is to be raised or used for this purpose. The existing system of Local Property Taxes levied specifically to fund Home Rule for free, public education from Kindergarten thru 12th Grade is hopelessly broken because of the demographics of the population density and property values are not homogeneous throughout the State (hence the identification of the “Abbott Districts” are those communities with Real Estate Tax "ratable properties" which are insufficient to fund their own schools). Therefore - in my opinion (for what its worth) - a radical new approach is required, rather than just tinkering with a broken system, to wit:

The establishment of an EDUCATIONAL TRUST FUND

which will addresses all of these issue (and more) by:

(1) Providing a ongoing and stable source of Primary Educational Funding

(2) Equally funding all students on a per grade level (eliminating the need for Abbott Districts, and all other “pet project” funding initiatives)

(3) Provides safeguards for Capital Funding and Facilities Maintenance

(4) Eliminates the burdensome Real Estate Tax AND

(5) Retains Home Rule over the administration of local education; and allows for additional local funding contributions with voter approval while also facilitating Consolidation where appropriate.

Does this sound to good to be true? Read On......

A short History of Real Estate Taxation.

Land (Real Estate) has traditionally been the most prized asset throughout recorded history, and was once all owned by a KING. In order to control large territories, the King allocated his land among his Vassals (See Feudalism) who paid him a "rental". When lands passed into the hands of non vassals (common folks like you and me), the King lost the ability to obtain LAND DUES, and so a TAX on the privileged of owning the land was assessed, based upon the value of the land (as verse its “economic use”) to wit, our modern day real estate tax laws.

Historic Advantages of Real Estate Taxation are:

(a) the Historical Precedent (this is the way “we” have always done it) and was based upon The “Ohio Model” (promoted by President Thomas Jefferson) used as a basis for funding Public Education,

(b) Principal Asset of large dollar amount, with low volume of transactions makes it easy to administer (and the best part is: owners can afford to pay taxes, if they can afford to buy land), and

(c) Land Records are Easy to Trace because they are activated by registration of deed - Land can’t be hidden or concealed (as with cash, personal property or Swiss bank accounts), and the valuation is reasonably assured (i.e., based on Fair Market Value at time of last sale, plus a periodic “reassessment”).

While Real Estate Taxation offers the benefits (as discussed above) these are a few problems (many of which reading will recognize here in New Jersey):

(a) Land is no longer the Principal Asset for generating income, because modern commerce tends to be a function of the use of “financial capital” and “intellectual property” and mobility of tenants facilitates economic relocation,

(b) the lack of mobility restricts use and the resulting loss of landlords and tenants (and their associated economic activities) reduces value of land (i.e. Urban Centers verse Suburban Districts – Do the Abbott Districts contain any high Real Estate Values? Not usually), and

(c) geographical restriction creates disparity in valuations and substantially identical land parcels can receive different values depending upon their locations.

THE NEW MODEL - Prerequisites Assumptions:

#1 – We must acceptance of the BASIC PREMISE that Taxation upon Real Estate Valuation for proposes of Funding Public Schools within the State of New Jersey is no longer a viable methodology - it is a broken model, to be replaced not "tinkered with" (chewing gum and duct tape) in terms of exemptions, allowance, and rebates.

#2 - While studies will be required to determine reasonable calculations, the Instructional, Administrative and Capital Maintenance (a) per Student Cost and (b) per Grade Level can be reasonably be determined, and projected.

#3 - We must also use of diverse sources of taxation will provide a more stable source of funding, rather than a single funding source (i.e. Real Estate Taxation); in order to smooth out economic fluctuations.

#4 - Because some school districts are no longer viable stand-along entities; consolidation of school districts and or the ability of neighboring districts to share common services should be encouraged and facilitated, rather than impeded.


Abolish and Repeal all Real Estate Taxation Laws and or Regulations which exist for proposes of Funding Public Schools within the State of New Jersey and concurrently establish an EDUCATIONAL TRUST FUND (hereafter the “Trust”) under Article VIII; Section IV for the Instructional, Administrative and Capital Maintenance of all Public Education (ages 5-18) [and mandated preschool activities as have been determined by the NJ Supreme Court] within the State of New Jersey. With respect to the Trust:

1) The Governor shall nominate (with the advice and consent of the State Senate – see Senate Rules) Five (5) Independent Trustees who shall each serve for staggered 5 year terms, such that one Trustee shall be replaced or re-nominated every year.

2) The State Legislature shall provide that some portion of funds from State Revenues from: Personal Income Taxes*, Corporate Business Taxes*, Sales and Use Tax* be apportions and transferred to the Trustees (THEREFORE, ALL FUNDS PREVIOUSLY ALLOCATED TO THE “REAL ESTATE REBATE PROGRAM” ARE HEREBY RELEASED - see "seed capital" below). * this may require tax increases, which will be tolerable if the overall level of taxation remains less than or equal to the current aggregate dollar amounts.

3) The Trustees shall annually determine, and project the Instructional, Administrative and Capital Maintenance on a “per Student Cost per Grade Level” for each Grade Level from Kindergarten thru 12th Grade (High School), as mandated by law. {Shouldn't students in Camden, Cranberry or Cape May receive the same level of instructional funding? Wasn't this the point of the Abbott Decision?}

4) Each School District, as is currently required (and as certified by the State Secretary of Education), shall report their student enrollment to the Department of Education and to the Trustees on a periodic basis.

5) The Trustees shall periodically (monthly or bi-weekly) pay over to each School District, funds for Instructional & Administrative per student per grade level; to each district.

6) “Seed Capital” (to be 20% of the projected five (5) year average Budget of the Trust) shall be appropriated by the State Legislature as the Corpus of the Trust.

7) The Trustees shall annually project the funding / disbursement requirements of the Trust for the succeeding School Year and shall formally advise the State Secretary of Education of any additional funding which they deem shall be required; any projected deficit funding requirements such funding will be appropriated by the State Legislature.

8) Capital funds shall be accumulated (based on student population data previously reported) and held for each School District; such funds shall be dispersed in accordance with the previously approved multi-year capital funding plan. {How often - in the past decade - were facilities maintenance projects "postponed" in order to fund current operations?} TO BE DETERMINED - the ability of the Trustees to issue Bonds to build current schools based upon expected Capital Funding Allocations.

9) School Districts which, upon the appropriate submission of their Student Census Data, and the resulting Funding which shall be provided under this Plan, wish to appropriate additional funding may make such requests directly to the Municipal Authority within which the School District resided; however the Municipal Authority shall not be required to provide any additional funding.

10) School Districts which conclude that they will not be able to meet the educational mandates of the State Department of Education within the funding provided under this Plan, may elect to combine their educational activities (Schools or Specific Grade Levels) with those of activities of Neighboring School Districts (see Regionalization).

11) Severability: If any portion of this Agreement shall be held to be invalid or unenforceable for any reason, then the remaining provisions shall continue to be valid and enforceable. If a court finds that any provision of this Agreement is invalid or unenforceable, but that by limiting such provision it would become valid and enforceable, then such provision shall be deemed to be written, construed, and enforced as so limited by the Court Order.

12) This TRUST AGREEMENT shall be subject to amendment or revocation in the 4th year following its inception, and every 4th year thereafter, by Act of the New Jersey State Legislature which shall be made by an affirmative 2/3rd vote of the Senate and the Assembly and Signed by the Governor; unless formally instructed to be amended or revoked at any time by an order of the Supreme Court of the State of New Jersey.

13) This Trust shall terminate, cease to operate, shall pay over all remaining funds and transfer such records and documents as may exist to the care, custody and control of the Secretary of Education of the State of New Jersey, or as may be designated by the New Jersey State Legislature, on the 1st business day 100 years from the date that the Corpus of the Trust shall have been transfer and accepted by the Trustees, unless otherwise amended (See - NJ Law Against Perpetuities).

New Jersey was a founding partner in the American Experiment, so now is the time for all New Jersey Citizens to work together to bring New Jersey Education into the 21st Century – It’s About The Kids!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How to legally tax the Internet by extending the Use Tax.

Background – The Unique Properties of the Internet

1. The Internet is a pervasive technology, which by its very nature, is both all encompassing and “borderless”.

2. The protocols of the Internet are designed to be fluid, transparent, and anonymous so that they may easy facilitate the transfer of information (including commercial transactions) between any connected end user (client).

3. The ability of any government to regulate the content or transactions over the Internet is practically impossible because of the inherent nature of the technology to mask or otherwise evade regulator surveillance.

4. The Internet however can be (and in some countries is) controlled through the regulation of ACCESS by Client (end users) and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) which represent the “terminal points” of any Internet Transmission - i.e., In order to access the Internet from within New Jersey, the typical end user would dial the local NJ access telephone number of their ISP. The fact that the end use may be accessing the ISP from a location, other that one physically within the State of New Jersey, using long distance, or other level of technology, is irrelevant.

Understanding: Sales and Use Tax

1. States commonly assess a transactional Use Tax based on specific sales (or rentals) which occur within their borders, without regarded to the location of the ultimate consumption of the purchased product or service. When this tax is assessed (and paid) at the Point of Sale, it is commonly known as a "Sales Tax” - something with which most people are familiar.

2. Purchasers are generally required to pay a Use Tax on purchase transactions occurring outside of its borders and then when the goods are repatriated into another State for ultimate consumption - i.e., a book purchased in Philadelphia or New York City, which is then brought back into and used (read) within New Jersey, would be subject to Use Tax; as verse a book purchased and used within New Jersey would have been assess a Sales Tax. The fact that such out of state transactions are virtually (until now) untraceable; has made such efforts impractical.

3. NEXUS – this is the legal term which is used to define if a business or person has a “taxable presents” within a State. Businesses determined to “have Nexus” to New Jersey are thereby required to collect appropriate Taxes and Fees; while business without New Jersey Nexus are exempt from these regulations and laws.

4. KEY POINT - Obviously, businesses which are physically domiciled in New Jersey (i.e., Local) are “competitively disadvantaged” when competing with out-of-state vendors who are not obligated to collect NJ Sales Tax (i.e. Internet Commerce or Catalog Sales). The State of Delaware publicly states that consumers should shop there in order to avoid the payment of any Sales Taxes - although they fail to discuss the consumer's obligation to pay their own State's Use Tax.

Understanding Internet Commerce:

1. Given that Internet Commerce occurs at an indeterminate location rather than a specific point of sale (i.e., the local grocery store), THIRD PARTY PAYMENT confirmation (i.e., Credit Cards ) is generally used to effect these transactions.

2. Credit Cards may only be issued by Banks (and other "Financial Institutions") which have registered with a State’s Department of Banking and are in compliance with a given State’s banking regulations. That the Bank does not actually have to have a “branch office” within a state or that the actual processing the Credit Card account takes place outside the given State is irrelevant once the Bank is “registered” to transact business by the Department of Banking.

3. Financial Institutions are most likely to register with a State Department of Banking, so that in the event that they (the Bank) need to enforce collection (against you the credit cardholder) they will have the "Legal Standing" to make their lien and collect any outstanding account balance. The process of registering gives the bank "NEXUS" within that State.

4. The Name, Address and Taxpayer Identification Number are all information which is already collected in the process of issuing a Credit Card.

5. Credit Card Issues apply their transaction against known vendors (or member). These Vendors are identified by the nature of the product or service which they provide and this information is readily accessible; as well as any Sales Tax collected.


Since Congress has forbidden any State from "Taxing the Internet", how could any State's "Sales and Use Tax" be legally extended and applied to the Internet?

SOLUTION: Expand the Existing New Jersey Sales and Use Tax Regulations as follows:

1. Require all Credit Card Issuers licensed by the Department of Banking to provide to the Department of the Treasury, Division of Revenue and also to each Credit Card holder: a summary of all Non New Jersey Credit Card purchases (see example) for an annual report of activity (i.e. 1/Oct through 30/Sept - so as not to interfere with year end tax processing). This summary shall be broken down by State, and Status of the Vendor. Given the amount of additional revenue this proposal would accrue to the State, the Treasury make wish to allow a “processing credit” (based on the number of cardholders) to each Credit Card Issuer, which would off-set their cost of compliance with this regulation.

2. The “out of State” purchases shall indicate the amount of USE TAX (currently 7%) which may have been previously assessed against all stated purchases with were consumed or brought into New Jersey. Some States have entered into a "reciprocity agreements" where in they agree to allow a credit from the Sales Tax assessed on Out-of-State purchases, to be netted against their own State's Sales Tax.

State APPLE $100 @ 5% Tax = $5.00
Home State $100 @ 7% Tax = $7.00
Home State USE TAX due = $2.00 (7.00 due less 5.00 paid to Reciprocal State)

Obviously items which are purchased and consumed out of state are already exempt (i.e., hotel room and meals consumed during a vacation within the State of Florida); whereas a book purchased in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania would be subject to USE TAX if the book was “used” in New Jersey.

3. The amount of qualifying purchases, less any adjustments, shall be include on the New Jersey State Income Tax Return Line Number 41.

Talking Points - This is a lot of $%%##@$^&; you can't do this - It's UNFAIR!

1. Sales and Use Taxation has been thoroughly documented and upheld by State and Federal Courts with respect to its constitutionality.

2. Expanding Use Taxation, as discussed above, would not be subject to the existing Federally imposed prohibitions with respect to Internet Taxation – this expansion would be assessing a Use Tax on the transaction, not on the internet. Making transactions with ALL VENDORS (regardless of physical location) subject to the same set of Sales and Use Taxes to not only "more fair" with respect to the unfair subsidy provided by a "Sales Tax Free State", but it also provides a competitive LEVEL PLAYING FIELD for all local New Jersey Merchants, who are key members of our society.

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL (fill in the blank)

3. Will the Poor pay more? Generally, consumption taxes are most burdensome to citizens of lower economic status (i.e., poor). However, this proposed change should not be expected to impact with group, because they have little access to either Credit Cards or Internet purchases – as they tend to be “cash based” purchasers. It might also be argued that broadening the tax base is "more fair" and the additional tax revenues are used to support state services.

4. Consumers who wish to avoid the implementation of this proposed expansion of the New Jersey Sales Tax would be obliged to establish credit cards in another State; however it is unlikely that a Credit Card Issuer would permit “out of sale” billing, as this could impede their efforts to collect unpaid account balances and other delinquencies (see previous).

5. Vendors, who have previously registered with the Department of the Treasury, will indicate a New Jersey Billing address on the Credit Card transactions, and thus be exempt from double taxation – since any NJ Sales Tax previous assessed would be indicated on the report.

6. The issue of permitting a credit for “sales tax” already paid to another State at the time of purchase to be used to partially (or fully) offset the “to be assessed” NJ Use Tax Liability; is permitted ONLY if that State has sales tax reciprocity with New Jersey, as previously discussed.

MY PARTING SHOT: The Elephant in the room ...

Another potentially beneficial (if unintended) consequence of this legislation will be that Internet Gambling would now be subject to Sale Tax, thus providing both an additional source of revenue as well as indirectly supporting and expanding local New Jersey Gaming interests (i.e., Lottery Tickets, Bingo, and Atlantic City Casinos).

comments ?


“… Nothing is more uncertain, than to effect change – for those who will benefit from the proposal do not fully comprehend its advantages, while those of the old order know full well what will be their losses...” - Nicholi Machiavelli

The number of new creations, technologies and knowledge within all forms of human endeavor (Art, Science, Commerce, etc.) is a never ending quest for improvement in both efficiencies (productivity arising from doing more with less) and effectiveness (attaining high results for a given amount of effort). In reacting to these changes, American Society over the past 200+ years has adapted and matriculated on a continuing basis, through in a cornucopia of actions and reactions. The act of embracing change signifies that the “body politic” has determined that the former methods of action are no longer viable and acceptable; and accordingly - a new order needs to be implemented.

Yet, despite all of the changes occurring, governmental structures within New Jersey seem frozen in a time-warp of the 19th Century – determined to cling to inefficient, ineffective, and expensive notions of governmental service and administration simply because:

(a) they are (at lease) known quantities,
(b) bestow favor and benefits upon the existing power structure,
(c) the voters don’t seem to care and
(d) alternative practices, procedures, and methodologies have not been publicly discussed and evaluated - YET.....

Given that past solutions can no longer be relied upon, this BLOG is dedicated to simulate a debate and discussion among the citizens of State of New Jersey by offering alternative solutions, in the hope that by working together - we can make New Jersey a great place to live and work.

Make your voice heard - here's my 2 cents, for what its worth.