Meeting to discuss affordable housing Obligations and effects

Yesterday’s APP article by Alesha Bord-Williams

MANALAPAN — Area legislators and the League of Municipalities will hold a public forum on the township’s affordable housing obligation and its possible effects 7 p.m., Tuesday at town hall, Route 522.

Sen. Jennifer Beck, Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande and Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, all R-Monmouth, will host the forum. Also in attendance will be representatives of the League of Municipalities, under which more than 200 towns have joined in a lawsuit appealing the state’s Council on Affordable Housing regulations, League Executive Director William Dressel said. A second forum will be held in Red Bank in October.

“We believe the regulations are based on faulty data,” Dressel said. “And from bad data comes bad numbers.”

The league in its appellate court complaint charges COAH regulations force development on land set aside for open space and will cram housing into built-out towns, Dressel said. New regulations also would ban municipalities’ ability to
transfer requirements to other towns through regional contribution agreements, or RCAs.

“After closer examination of their analysis, it appears they calculated such things as golf courses, backs of yards, recreational areas, median strips and highways and baseball fields,” Dressel said. “Also, we don’t believe there’s enough money (through developer’s fees) to be able to provide affordable housing, which we believe is going to increase taxes for towns generally to build the number of units that are being called for.”

Manalapan Mayor Michelle Roth said her municipality is experiencing similar problems with the state, which has calculated the township’s housing obligation by counting parks, preserved farmland and grass medians as buildable land.

“Therefore the numbers for Manalapan Township were extraordinarily high and not reflective of reality,” Roth said.

According to Beck spokesman Tom Fitzsimmons, Manalapan will be required to build 1,179 units. Beck said Red Bank will be required to build 672 units “for a 1.8-square-mile town of, maybe, 12,000 people…obviously it doesn’t make a lot of
sense.”

“These are all issues we’re going to explore a great deal on Tuesday because we believe people need to be educated about the impacts this new law and the regulations will have on each and every community in the state of New Jersey,”
Beck said.

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Alternative Budget Plan Presented By Republicans Goes Ignored By Trenton Majority

A note from Senator Beck, Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon

As you may be aware, the New Jersey Legislature passed the State
budget last Monday.

An alternative budget plan presented by Republicans contained over $1
billion in spending cuts, funded transportation and contained none of
the backdoor tax increases in the Governors budget. Unfortunately,
that plan was once again ignored by the majority in Trenton. The
Governor’s budget might look good at first glance- after years of
Republicans calling for lower spending, the budget is about $600
million less than last year. But a closer review of the budget shows
that some of the “spending cuts” are actually tax increases in
disguise, and an opportunity to fund the state’s transportation needs
for the foreseeable future was missed.

Because of those backdoor tax increases and the failure to fund
transportation, we voted against the budget.

One of the “spending cuts” was a decrease in aid to municipalities. In
most cases, if your town gets less money from the state, then they’ll
have to raise your property taxes to make up the difference.

Another of the “spending cuts” was a reduction in the Homestead Rebate
for some and the elimination of it for others. Given that last year we
were told the program was sustainable for the foreseeable future, this
was particularly disappointing, and again, a tax increase for some.

The budget also included the extension of a $62 million energy tax
which was scheduled to expire. At a time when energy costs are
skyrocketing, allowing this tax to expire would have been welcome
relief for many, but it was extended.

When Republicans offered an alternative budget plan in May, a central
part of the plan was to dedicate over $500 million a year to fund the
Transportation Trust Fund, which pays for the major repairs to our
roadways and bridges. This would have eliminated the need for a gas
tax increase, a toll increase or any of the other costly and
controversial plans suggested by the Governor. Unfortunately, this
budget does nothing to address those needs, leaving an opening for the
Governor to bring his toll road scheme back from the dead.

The debate in Trenton has now changed from ‘Can we cut?’ to ‘Where can
we cut?’. That is a victory for all New Jersey taxpayers. There is
still much work to be done, however. The pension reforms we passed on
Monday were a step in the right direction, but not as strong as we
would have preferred. We still need to fund our transportation needs
without a massive toll or tax hike. We still need to monitor the
waste, fraud and abuse of tax dollars that sadly continues to this
day.

We will continue to be your voice in Trenton and fight for the reforms
which will stop the exodus of people from New Jersey.

Sincerely,

Senator Jennifer Beck

Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon

12th Legislative District

Tom Fitzsimmons
Communications Director
Legislative District 12

Senator Jennifer Beck
Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande
Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon

Beck presses ethics plan, spurring rebuke by Codey

… this is how you know you’re representing the best interest of the people – when you’re publicly rebuked by the Democratic Senate President

TRENTON — Tensions flared in the Senate on Monday amid partisan bickering over financial aid for cities and allowing some legislators to continue holding more than one elected office.

In a rare instance, Democratic Senate President Richard J. Codey publicly rebuked Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth.

He did so as Beck continued to discuss her bid to bar everyone from holding more than one elected office, even though her bid to force a vote on her bill had already failed and senators were debating another matter — whether to give workers paid leave to care for a sick relative.

“I respect your right to speak,” Codey told Beck. “However, respect the chamber.”

Codey, D-Essex, grimaced and shook his head in dismay.

This came after Republicans asked the Senate to give the Senate budget committee subpoena power to investigate a special state aid program that mainly benefits cities. Sen. Steve Oroho, R-Sussex, said legislative staff told him his request was in order.

Senator Jennifer Beck says Fox should not be leading the BPU

State Senate Judiciary Committee Member Furious Over Plan to Keep Jeanne Fox as President of the BPU

A member of the State Senate Judiciary Committee is strongly criticizing Governor Corzine’s decision to re-appoint Jeanne Fox to a new six year term as President of the Board of Public Utilities.

THE ARTICLE IS HERE IN OUR OTHER NJ COMMUNITY BLOG

Beck and Scanlon Reaching Out With Town Hall Meetings Of Ther Own

Seeking input from us taxpayers on alternatives for fixing the budget crisis

Read the article by clicking NJCommunity.blogspot right here

Corzine’s Public Benefit Corp all but dead thanks to “A Different Road”

Corzine says the state is nearly broke: Wisniewski challenges that statement head-on:

“New Jersey maintains an “AA-‘ bond rating on Wall Street. “Goldman Sachs, who everybody would acknowledge is a world-class financial operation on Wall Street, shares exactly the same financial rating as the State of New Jersey,” Wisniewski said. Corzine used to run Goldman Sachs.

Corzine’s Public Benefit Corp is likely all but dead thanks to Assembly Transportation Committee chairman John Wisniewski’s recommended plan.

Although the 18 cents gas tax hike may not be the ultimate answer, it does have a much more reasonable moderate Toll increase schedule and he does have the Trenton Legislators buzzing about it. The problem as I see it however, is that IT DOES NOT ADDRESS THE ROOT CAUSE. In other words, there’s nothing in the plan that calls for CUTTING spending (only freezing). Some Republican legislators, (preferably a newly elected official(s) like Scanlon/Casagrande/Beck?) need to submit another alternative that may incorporate “a modest” gas tax with across the board cuts.

Wisniewski’s plan would not cut state debt, which is a key element of Corzine’s proposal to raise tolls by roughly 800 percent by 2022 and by inflation from then on. Corzine has said reducing debt could save the state $1 billion a year in interest payments over the next decade.

But Wisniewski said his plan would more fairly spread the costs among all motorists.

“An 800-percent toll increase was going to fund transportation. I find that unacceptable,” Wisniewski said.

He said Corzine’s proposal would unfairly hit seven counties, including Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean, that rely on the state’s toll roads while asking much less of the rest of the state. Wisniewski’s alternative would roughly double tolls by 2018 and would direct the money raised back to projects on the toll roads.

Corzine’s proposal would halve the state’s $32 billion debt, at least temporarily, and fund up to 75 years of transportation projects.

Under Wisniewski’s plan:

  • The gasoline tax would grow by 18 cents, with inflationary increases following to fund transportation projects.
  • On the Parkway, tolls would grow from 35 cents now to 75 cents in 2018. Corzine’s plan would raise the same toll, in four installments, to $2.70 by 2022.
  • The Turnpike would see three 25-percent toll hikes in place of Corzine’s four increases of 50 percent plus inflation. That means today’s $1.20 average trip would cost $2.35 in 2018 under the Wisniewski proposal, compared with the $9.85 by 2022 called for by Corzine.
  • A 50-cent Expressway toll would become $1 by 2014, compared with $4.05 by 2022 under Corzine’s plan.

Wisniewski also endorsed the same spending controls as Corzine, and even tighter restrictions on new borrowing.

“The governor is pleased that an active dialogue has emerged on how to put New Jersey on the path to fiscal responsibility while also recognizing the need to fund critical, long-term infrastructure improvements,” Corzine spokeswoman Lilo Stainton said.

Other lawmakers react

A Democrat whose support is key to Corzine’s plan, Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, applauded Wisniewski’s approach. Lesniak, who is sponsoring the Corzine proposal, said it will be much easier to convince toll-road drivers to support fee increases if they see the funding coming back to the highways they use.

“The governor trying to do everything all at once in one big bundle; that’s too complex to do it all in one way,” Lesniak said.

(That’s Trenton talk for: I’m not supporting Gov. Corzine’s plan any longer)

He said that once the state finds a source of transportation funding, a separate debate can begin on reducing debt.

But Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said talk of a gas-tax hike is premature.

“Right now, there’s no reason to talk about a gas tax, there’s no reason to talk about toll increases until (Corzine) presents his budget,” Sweeney said.

Corzine is scheduled to lay out his plan Tuesday, and Sweeney, like other lawmakers, has called for reduced spending to alleviate the state’s financial problems.

Wisniewski disputed Corzine’s assertions that the state is nearly broke.

“Bankrupt really means that you’re insolvent, that you can’t pay your bills. That’s not a situation where New Jersey is at. We can pay our bills,” Wisniewski said.

He said New Jersey maintains an “AA-‘ bond rating on Wall Street, similar to most other states.

“Goldman Sachs, who everybody would acknowledge is a world-class financial operation on Wall Street, shares exactly the same financial rating as the State of New Jersey,” Wisniewski said. Corzine used to run Goldman Sachs.

New Jersey’s debt costs the state $2.6 billion in payments each year, and growing pension and health care liabilities cost another $2.2 billion a year, according to the administration. Corzine has said those payments severely restrict the state’s ability to pay for needed programs and repairs.

Public Benefit Corp: The Few, the Privileged, the “Corzine Cosa Nostra”

Is there any way on this planet that this governor has credibility? NO

Is there any reason to believe that there’s no shenanigans going on here? NO

Is there any reason to think that this governor has our best interest in mind when creating this piggy bank for “the few, the privileged, the Corzine Cosa Nostra”?  Again: NO

Do you trust him? NO

Will you vote for him should he attempt to ever run for any office again? NO

Will you vote for any legislator that goes along with him? ABSOLUTELY NO

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is in today’s App: (highlights and comments are my own)

Gov. Corzine would bar the public from examining the inner workings of the toll-road corporation that he wants to create to raise $32 billion, even though it would employ thousands and spend billions of dollars, according to his proposed bill.

Under Corzine’s draft legislation for the toll-road monetization plan, the proposed Public Benefit Corp., which would operate more than 334 miles of state roadways and could increase tolls by as much as 800 percent in the next 14 years, would not be subject to the state’s Open Public Records Act. By failing to put the PBC under the open records law, it would omit from public scrutiny broad swaths of records from an organization that would have an initial toll revenue of about $900 million.

Not opening the PBC up to full public inspection would be “unconscionable,” said state Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, who opposes the monetization plan.

“I’m stunned. This entity would be in control of a significant public asset, and controlling multiple billions of dollars, and billions of billions over the next 99 years,” Beck said. “To me, it must be subject to (the Open Public Records Act), so there is transparency for the citizens.”

Under Corzine’s plan, the state would lease its three toll roads to the nonprofit corporation for up to 75 years, with a 24-year optional extension.

In exchange, and through a complex bond deal, the state would receive $32 billion to $38 billion that would be used to help the state cut its debt and provide more money for transportation needs, according to the plan.

The plan has generated strong opposition in public opinion polls and from all Republican members of the Legislature. U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., and state Sen. John Adler, a Democrat running for Congress, also oppose the toll-hike plan.

Corzine, a Democrat, wants the Legislature, controlled by his party, to approve the plan this spring. The agency would control the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway.

The Open Public Records Act, or OPRA, was signed into law in 2001 following a campaign by Gannett New Jersey newspapers and other open government advocates to allow easy access to such routine documents as payroll lists and bills. Until the law was adopted, many agencies withheld such records from the public.

“The PBC is being formed under nonprofit law and would be treated as a conventional nonprofit, none of whom are subject to OPRA,” Tom Vincz, spokesman for the state Department of Treasury, said in an e-mail response to questions from Gannett.

He did not respond to questions about why the PBC would not be covered by OPRA, or if payrolls, bills and other items commonly accessible under the law would be available in the future.

Nonprofit organizations must provide limited public financial disclosure, such as the salaries of the top five employees and basic budget data, to the Internal Revenue Service once a year.

Under Corzine’s proposal, the PBC would have to produce reports to its oversight agency, including annual budgets, capital expansion and maintenance programs. Such documents would then be public under the public access law.

Vincz said that the PBC’s operating contract would also “create a long series of other reporting including maintenance reports and traffic data,” that would become public records once the oversight agency obtained them.

Under the bill, the PBC would be required to conduct independent audits of its financial statements, Vincz wrote.

Elizabeth Mason, president of the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government, said to excluded the PBC from the records law is the opposite of what the state should be doing.

“What is the rationale for the government to do this? What is the rationale for the government to hide this information from the public?” she asked.

(I keep saying it over, and over again… it’s called THE CORZINE COSA NOSTRA – that’s the reason)

Thomas J. Cafferty, general counsel for the New Jersey Press Association, a newspaper trade group, said that neither he nor the association has finished reviewing the proposed legislation.

But he said that just because the bill does not require the PBC to fall under OPRA doesn’t mean that the proposed bill can’t be changed in the Legislature. The courts could also require the PBC to disclose its records, “given the extent of the public involvement in this entity,” he said.

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