Editorial published in the Star Ledger, Monday, January 07, 2008.
(Text highlights are mine.)
Reckless legislators are determined to vote today on a new school aid formula, ignoring calls for a more deliberate review of Gov. Jon Corzine’s overhaul of school funding.The bill would restructure the state’s allocation of $7.9 billion in education aid — the heftiest spending category in the budget. Yet the Democratic leadership wants to force a final vote just five days after a writ ten version of the legislation was introduced. In subsequent days, at least 14 amendments were added.
Knowing the way Trenton operates, it’s likely very few lawmakers have even read the 100-plus-page bill. (Folks – we have a voice and these Legislators need to understand THIS IS THEIR LAST TERM!)
Our advice to them: If you couldn’t pass a pop quiz on the governor’s plan, don’t vote on it. Keep in mind what happened the last time education funding was given drive-by legislative treatment.
In 1990, Gov. Jim Florio came up with a new school funding plan. With Democrats in control of both the Senate and Assembly, the legislation — introduced in May — won approval in June. Democrats increased the income and sales taxes to raise $1.1 billion for education spending.
Florio and Democratic legislative leaders assured the pub lic the new formula would be fairer, provide more aid and reduce property taxes. Sound familiar?
After the vote, Democrats’ hands were red from all the back- slapping they did. Six months later, faced with a citizen tax revolt, they had to backtrack. They skimmed $450 million of the $1.1 billion for di rect property tax relief. So much for boosting school aid.
The problem, of course, was the bill didn’t do what had been promised and nobody bothered to look at the details until it was too late.
Embarrassed Democrats offered an even more embarrassing defense, admitting they didn’t understand the funding bill when they passed it. They coupled that with a bit of blame-passing, saying their legislative staffs and the Florio administration did not provide enough information.
Even Daniel Dalton, then a Democratic senator and spon sor of the legislation, admitted he failed to have a “good reality check done” on the bill.
“We went out after we passed the original Quality Education Act and we found out some things from school board members, from administrators, from property tax payers with regard to this whole program,” a red-faced Dalton said in January 1991.
If the mulish Democrats insist on following their ill-advised script of passing the measure today, we wonder who will play Dalton this time around.