State Journal: Taxing dilemma; Better than the real thing?

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Just when New Jersey has chosen a Governor-elect who promised to cut the state income tax by 30 percent, a commission appointed to find a better way to finance the state's public schools is pondering a statewide property tax.

"We have decided to take a look at that form of taxation,'' says Albert Burstein, the chairman of the Education Funding Review Commission.

Originally, the commission was to make its recommendations two weeks after the Nov. 2 election, but the task proved tougher than expected, perhaps more
so in light of Christine Todd Whitman's upset victory.

During her campaign, Mrs. Whitman indicated that education, though a big-ticket item, would not be a target of her tax-cut pledge.

But the courts have already ordered the state to come up with more money for poor urban districts.

Mindful of the judicial ruling, as well as the limited resources available, the commission is carefully weighing how to shift money to the poor districts without harming middle-income ones.

"We don't want to create a new underclass,'' Mr. Burstein says.

A group of about 150 Illinois high school students recently got to try its hand at making laws in a mock session held at the state capital in Springfield.

The session, focused on the issue of guns in schools, included committee meetings and floor debate, just like the real thing.

There were some differences, though.

"We don't have parties, and there are no special-interest groups pressuring us,'' Erin Harre, a 17-year-old from Carbondale, told the Associated Press. "I wish in government you could leave out all those groups.''

But the lack of political pressure may have rendered the experience somewhat less than realistic.

The students voted 111 to 42 to require metal detectors at school entrances.

To pay for this costly mandate, the young lawmakers decided to simply raise the state sales tax--a dangerous strategy for their adult counterparts.--KAREN DIEGMUELLER & JULIE A. MILLER

Vol. 13, Issue 15

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