Tag Archives: New Jerseyans

Governor Christie’s pared down budget

The Star Ledger reports that Governor Christie, “took an axe” to the state’s budget and “slashed $900 million in a budget he blasted as ‘unconstitutional.'” Cuts were made to state aid to municipalities, college tuition aid, Medicaid and aid to suburban schools leaving $640 million in surplus. He also vetoed bills to tax millionaires for more school funding aid.

In an analysis of New Jersey‘s fiscal problems we found that these areas are some of the primary weaknesses in New Jersey’s budget. The school aid formula, guarded by the court since 1976, effectively prevents the legislature and Governor from making appropriations decisions. This result of the court’s involvement in school funding has been a fiscal and educational disaster for the state. Since the 1970s many changes in tax rates have been to the income tax in order to fund schools and provide aid to municipalities. Over thirty years later and there are few to no improvements in urban school districts. The price for New Jerseyans is one of the most progressive income taxes in the nation and a property tax crisis.

As for Aid to Distressed Cities this program highlights another long-running problem in New Jersey’s fiscal landscape. Several of its cities rely on state aid in lieu of property tax revenues because they have not recovered from long-running economic problems. The problem with state aid is that it masks the cost of spending to local residents,  subsidizing local inefficiencies and the continuance of failed approaches to local economic development.

Inefficiencies and poor performance are rampant in areas that have relied heavily on aid, notably the education system. What is needed is the kind of reform being discussed by some leaders in the state – both Republican and Democrat. Cities like Camden need to be able to try new approaches to schools. A new pragmatism among Democratic city leaders in other parts of the country shows a willingness to confront fiscal reality and ask: how much of our budget is being consumed by unsustainable benefits packages and how much is left over to  run the city? Atlanta, Georgia, Montgomery County, Maryland are two such recent examples.

New Jersey Network (NJN) to be operated by NYC public broadcaster

New Jersey Network, known to New Jerseyans as NJN is now NJTV and is to operated by WNET the New York public broadcasting station. Governor Christie made the announcement today saying, “no one elected me to be programmer in chief.”

The sale saves the state about $11 million a year. The state of New Jersey will retain the TV license and will sell nine public radio licenses to Philadelphia (WHYY) and New York City (WNYC and WQXR).

New Jerseyans essentially have two out-of-state markets for their news: New York City and Philadelphia, a void NJN was to fill when it began in 1968.  According to reports the new non-profit will be required to dedicate 20 hours per week to New Jersey programming and will be made up of a board of New Jersey residents.

The legislature has 15 days to veto, otherwise the deal goes into effect on July 1.

 

Fixing Education First

Eileen Norcross has an op-ed in the Asbury Park Press arguing that Governor-elect Christie must deal with New Jersey’s education system before it will be possible to deal with the budget deficit, property taxes, income taxes, and outmigration:

School funding is a mess not because of decisions by the Legislature, but edicts from the state’s Supreme Court. For more than 30 years, the courts have controlled the schools through the Abbott decisions (which number 20 separate rulings over 24 years).

To wit, 31 court-designated Abbott districts must spend the same amount per student as the highest-spending district in the state. While other state courts have ruled on state funding formulas for education, none have effectively taken over the Legislature’s policymaking functions as the New Jersey courts have. Continue reading

Something in the Water? New Jersey’s Spider Web of Corruption

Last week’s bust of 30 elected officials by the FBI in a corruption probe in  New Jersey is unfortunately not a shock to many residents. Abuse of public office and public funds in New Jersey is big, and it is small, and it is everywhere.

But is it an expectation?

According to the Cliffview Pilot, that’s how the Mayor of Hoboken, Peter Cammarano, now in custody for allegedly accepting $25,000 in cash bribes, sees it. This spring, then-candidate Cammarano told an FBI cooperator posing as a corrupt developer his election as Mayor was in the bag, “I could be indicted, and I’m still gonna win 85 to 95 percent.” The conversation, recorded in the Malibu Diner, is now evidence of how the Mayor agreed to suspend zoning laws for a developer in exchange for, “some green.”

New Jerseyans like corruption about as much as they like impending state bankruptcy and high property taxes. But what’s not often mentioned is  these things are related.  These arrests fight the symptoms but not causes.

As FBI Special Agent Dun stressed in Thursday’s press conference, “Corruption in this state will not end due to law enforcement’s effort…it’s time for the citizens of New Jersey to ask what do we need to do to wipe the spider web of corruption off the face of this state.”

That spider web has everything to do with the state’s institutions and how individuals choose to profit from, or avoid, the regulations those institutions have created. This is what provides the opportunity for civil servants to take bribes: “I might be willing to waive this permitting fee, but it’s going to cost you.”

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