Republican Alternative Budget: A common-sense plan

BY TOM KEAN AND ALEX DeCROCE

Gov. Jon Corzine deserves credit for drawing a line in the sand and telling the members of his own party that, for the first time in six years, they must pass a state budget that reduces spending.

But Republicans in the Senate and General Assembly realize that New Jersey is enduring more than just a budget shortfall — it’s suffering from an affordability crisis.

Under the state Constitution, we have until June 30 to come up with a budget that addresses that crisis, not just patches over fiscal problems for one more year.

We need a budget that addresses affordability today. It’s become far more difficult to live in New Jersey because of rising fuel and food prices, a weakening economy that reduces incomes and, most important, some of the highest taxes in the nation.

During the last six years, state government has increased 101 state taxes and fees while freezing state aid to our municipalities and school districts, which resulted in dramatic property-tax increases, some in excess of 42 percent.

The combination of higher taxes, rising cost of living and a stagnant private-sector economy has led people to flee New Jersey for more affordable states. Those who left New Jersey took $7.9 billion in income with them — money that could have been reinvested in schools, bridges and other priorities that would have benefited our children.

The Republicans’ top priority in crafting an alternative to the governor’s budget was to make our state more affordable — to ensure that New Jersey families aren’t broken up by the exit of our children looking for jobs or senior citizens searching for homes they can afford on a fixed income.

This meant providing property- tax relief and boosting our economy so we can attract higher-paying jobs and dynamic new industries. We wanted to head off higher gas taxes or tolls that the Democrats say they may impose later this year. It’s time to restrain the urge to tax and do more to reduce the property-tax burden.

While the Corzine budget proposal reduces spending, it does so largely on the backs of the middle class. The governor’s budget cuts tax rebates, slashes municipal aid needed to keep property taxes in check, lowers funding for hospitals that provide charity care and reduces financial aid for outstanding college students.

We’d rather eliminate wasteful or unnecessary spending.

To fix the affordability crisis, we developed a long-term reform plan to put and keep our state on track. We looked at programs that were slated for huge increases in aid with no apparent justification.

When we dug deeper, we found these murky programs were full of waste, inefficiency and abuse — often documented by members of the governor’s own administration.

The programs were scaled back to find $1.32 billion in savings that could be spent on New Jerseyans’ priorities, not the State House’s.

We restored $525 million in property-tax relief. This includes $375 million that Gov. Corzine cut from the property-tax rebate program and $150 million in municipal aid cuts that would have resulted in dramatic property-tax increases. The cuts would have been borne only by people in small towns, regardless of the residents’ incomes.

We also proposed dedicating $500 million in permanent funding for state transportation projects, eliminating the need for any of the governor’s proposed toll or gas tax hikes.

Approximately $100 million will be set aside as a surplus or to pay down debt. The remaining $195 million will be used to help restore aid to vital programs the governor proposed cutting, including funding for hospitals and nursing homes, elimination of a proposed co-pay for Medicaid recipients, and restoration of higher education assistance programs for the most deserving scholars in the state.

We aimed to suggest cuts that were fair to everyone. The governor dismissed us out of hand. In doing so, he is putting his support behind programs that have been shown to be laden with pork for the politically connected.

We urge him to take another look. We’re ready to work with him and any member of the Legislature who thinks that an affordable New Jersey is more critical than reward ing the politically powerful.

We also urge the governor to champion our long-term reform proposals to make Trenton more accountable. They include caps on the growth of spending, voter approval of all debt and a two-thirds super-majority vote of the Legislature to raise taxes. We’d grant citizens the power to propose their own reforms through initiative and referendum.

We also propose reforms to bring state pensions and benefits more in line with those of the private sector. We take aim at the pension fraud and abuse reported over and over in the state’s newspapers.

Finally, we’d jump-start the economy and create jobs with an economic development plan that would make it far easier for businesses to get help and grow.

This common-sense strategy would make New Jersey more affordable and state government more accountable. We have listened to New Jerseyans. We think we have come up with a way to help citizens get more of what they want from government.

Learn more about our common-sense plan. And Sign The Petition. >

Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean represents the 21st Legislative District. Assembly Republican Leader Alex DeCroce represents the 26th Legislative District.

Governor Corzine Asked for a Better Plan

Very good article .

Governor Corzine stated in his State of the State Address that if anyone had a better idea than his Asset Monetization scheme that will raise a 35 cent Parkway toll to nearly $2 then he wanted to hear it.

Here’s the plan.

New Jersey’s state spending has increased from $21 to $33 Billion under Governors McGreevey, Codey and Corzine. That’s a 57 percent increase in just six years – far above inflation. To start, Governor Corzine needs to shut down dozens of liberal big government spending schemes created in the last six years, such as $37 million for Trenton Capitol Aid, $12 million non-competitive special arts programs and $8 million for the bogus Regional Aid Program that arbitrarily benefits five Hudson towns run by dual office holders.

New Jersey’s leaders cannot fund every costly idea politicians conjure up.

It is essential to determine just what government should be doing and return all functions feasible to the private sector. In short – downsize, prioritize and privatize.

Downsizing starts with the general appropriation budget, rampant with billions in pork barrel spending programs. The Governor needs to use his line-item veto to eliminate all of these items and a lot more.

READ THE REST HERE

Gov’s approval rating slips to 40%, poll finds

My Jersian neighbors: Please – Let our Legislators know how unhappy YOU are with the Governor’s toll plan NOW – before they cast their vote on it – heaven knows they never read anything… They must be put on alert that this just may be their last term if they don’t wake up and realize they represent you and I. 

   All the information you need is on the right. Click the Legislators tab and search for your district, click the contact and send an email. It’s that easy.

New school aid formula earns so-so reception

Gov. Corzine is receiving poor marks from New Jerseyans, a plurality of whom don’t particularly like the governor’s policies or his style of governing, according to a new Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey poll.

Midway through his four-year term, 40 percent of the statewide poll respondents said they approved of Corzine’s job performance, while 44 percent disapproved, the highest negative rating found by the poll since Corzine took office in January 2006.

Those polled gave Corzine an overall C-minus grade on issues ranging from cost-cutting, property taxes, government ethics, cost of living, schools and Corzine’s level of effort.

Corzine’s highest approval rating of 51 percent came in April 2007, shortly after he was critically injured in a car accident.

On the most substantial Corzine policy initiative adopted to date — a revamping of the formula allocating public schools’ state aid — 45 percent thought it was a bad idea, while 37 percent approved.

That plan, signed into law by Corzine on Jan. 13, will reduce the growth of state aid to the 30 urban school districts that take half of the yearly $7.8 billion in aid. The remaining aid will be reallocated to other districts based on student enrollment and demographics. In the works for two years, the plan was first unveiled by Corzine in December and was designed to provide more aid to suburban districts.

The plan sped through the lame duck Legislature, and 51 percent of respondents said they hadn’t heard of the plan, according to the poll. Among those who are registered voters, 47 percent were unaware of the plan.

Ironically for Corzine, the more the public knew about the plan, the more they liked it. Respondents who knew of the plan were split in their opinion — 45 percent approved, 44 percent disapproved.

Among people who had been unaware of the plan, only 33 percent liked it while 48 percent disliked it.

Distrust discerned

The results show that the public is distrustful of both Corzine and state government as a whole, said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

“The way things have gone in the governor’s first term have not led to a groundswell of public trust in the way government works here in New Jersey,” he said. “More than just the school-funding formula needs to be handled differently — there needs to be a showing that a fine-toothed comb is being run through the budget. He hasn’t laid the groundwork to show that he has the taxpayers’ best interests in mind.”

Jim Gardner, a spokesman for Corzine, said his office could not respond to the poll without having an opportunity to review the data.

Peter Harrison, 60, of Beachwood, who runs an auctioneering company with his wife, said Corzine is governing like the multimillionaire that he is — with little regard for the public.

Harrison said he particularly disliked the way the school-funding bill was quickly adopted.

“Who had a chance to study it in the three weeks before it was put through and voted on and signed by the governor?” Harrison asked. “I think he’s doing a terrible job. Everything’s wrong.”

But social work student Heather Harris, 31, of Highlands said she is willing to give the governor credit for his effort so far.

“I think he has a very difficult job,” she said. “He’s trying to do the best that he can.”

The telephone poll of 804 New Jersey adults was conducted from Jan. 9-13. The poll has a sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Gannett New Jersey newspapers are the Asbury Park Press, Courier-Post, published in Cherry Hill; Courier News of Bridgewater, Home News Tribune of East Brunswick, Daily Record of Morristown and Daily Journal of Vineland.

James W. Prado Roberts: (732) 643-4223; or jwr@app.com