These ‘numbers’ might fix high deficits in New Jersey’s budget

LEGALIZE IT AND TAX IT: The New Jersey Municipal Prosecutors Association Has endorsed a bill that would legalize possession of marijuana and allow its sale to everyone 21 or older, subject to state regulation.

By Mark Lagerkvist | New Jersey Watchdog

If the Garden State turns to pot, would some of the state’s budget woes go up in smoke?

New Jersey is facing a budget shortfall of $526 million through July 2015, a reoccurring crisis that’s become an annual drama in Trenton.

“In the words of New Jersey Hall of Fame member Yogi Berra, ‘déjà vu all over again,’” testified David Rosen, budget and finance officer for the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services

All of the governor’s men are digging into their bag of accounting tricks to artificially produce a balanced budget, as required by the New Jersey Constitution. They are refinancing bonds, cutting pension contributions and relying on rosy revenue projections that usually fall far short.

The New Jersey Municipal Prosecutors Association, meanwhile, has endorsed S-1896, a bill that would legalize possession of marijuana and allow its sale to everyone 21 or older, subject to state regulation.

New Jersey could rake in a least $100 million a year in new revenue from legal marijuana sales, according to state Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, the bill’s sponsor and Linden city prosecutor.

The country — and New Jersey, in particular — has a long history of turning the indulgence of so-called sins into tax revenue.

With the end of Prohibition in 1933, the feds put the squeeze on bootleggers like Atlantic City’s Nucky Thompson and soon started getting a big piece of the action in the form of alcohol taxes and license fees.

States later took over the illegal numbers racket and turned it into a legal lottery racket. Secret poker parlors and craps games in alleys were replaced by state-sanctioned gambling casinos on the Jersey Shore, with government getting its cut of the house.

Before anyone stocks their cupboards full with Doritos, Twinkies and Devil Dogs, also consider this:

Gov. Chris Christie has vowed never to sign a law to legalize pot for the masses. So unless the governor gets whacked — politically, that is — marijuana as a fix for the state budget is likely to remain not much more than a pipe dream.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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