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.

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EnCap – some very good questions…

  • The state selected EnCap in 2000 to cap landfills. Instead, the Star-Ledger of Newark reports that the state may have to pay $125 million to properly cap the sites. What caused the failure in environmental oversight?
  • EnCap said it had the financial means to build its projects. Instead, the state is on the hook for at least $51 million of loans that it granted to EnCap without proper guarantees. Now that EnCap has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the state may be on the hook for as much as $125 million. Where was the fiscal oversight?
  • EnCap was supposed to turn these landfills into a golf course, hotels and homes. Instead, the land may remain as landfills for many more years as this debacle is sorted out in court and a new developer is found at unknown cost to the state. Why couldn’t the commission protect the community?

Senator Kevin O’Toole, R-District 40, made the following statement about the Meadowlands Commission’s long-overdue realization that EnCap will never fulfill its promise to develop 785 acres of garbage dumps in Bergen County:

The Meadowlands Commission was legally and honor-bound to ensure that EnCap acted in the interest of the public. Instead, over eight long years, the commission let this shadowy company put taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars it may never repay, for a project it will never complete.

“Worst of all, this colossal failure at oversight has left huge garbage dumps in the middle Bergen County that aren’t properly capped and, therefore, remain a threat to the environment of everyone who lives nearby.

“I am asking in a letter that Senate President Codey schedule hearings before the full Senate, and that Senator Barbara Buono, chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, schedule hearings before her committee immediately after the budget is passed in June to hear testimony from commissioners and others involved in the EnCap debacle. We should demand answers from commissioners to the following questions:

NJ Republicans call for eliminating public advocate

Republicans Wednesday proposed axing the state public advocate’s
department, claiming the move would save money amid tough budget times and eliminate an agency they contend simply duplicates services.

The department is charged with making government more responsive to the needs of New Jerseyans, especially vulnerable citizens.

But Sen. Steve Oroho said the agency’s duties seem to overlap with other state
departments.

“I would think we have 120 public advocates in what’s called the Legislature,” said
Oroho, R-Sussex. “I just think that there’s certainly duplication that shouldn’t be
there.”

But Public Advocate Ronald Chen, during a Wednesday Senate budget hearing, said his department is “unique,” especially watching out for utility rate payers, nursing home patients and those with mental illness and developmental disabilities.

“None of us are interested in reinventing wheels or duplicating effort,” Chen said.

Senate Budget Chairwoman Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex, who once worked for the department, said she would oppose any effort to eliminate it.

“I think that you’re vital for the more vulnerable people in our population,” Buono
told Chen.

The department was eliminated by Republicans when they controlled state government in 1994, but reinstated by now-majority Democrats in 2006.

Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s $33 billion budget plan proposes $2.7 billion in
cuts to try to fix state finances troubled by deficits and high debt and taxes.

He has proposed eliminating the agriculture, commerce and personnel departments, but has recently said the agriculture department would likely remain.

The call to eliminate the department comes after it released a report Tuesday that
found numerous problems with the way the state screens, remediates and follows up on lead poisoning cases.

But Republicans said eliminating the public advocate would save up to $10 million.

“Despite its name, the agency does almost nothing to actually serve the public
interest,” Republicans said in a statement. “It has no defined responsibilities and
duplicates functions that other agencies have or should perform.”

Gov. Corzine, not yet happy with his level of spending, seeks $2.5 billion more

Folks; this was a bad idea having Corzine as Governor… this better be his one and only term!

TRENTON — Before Gov. Jon S. Corzine gets approval for his plan to halve state debt by hiking tolls and borrowing more money, he plans to begin a separate push to borrow at least $2.5 billion to fund school construction projects in the state’s poorest districts.

That plan was revealed in a letter released Wednesday as the state Supreme Court heard arguments from lawyers representing children in the so-called Abbott districts who want a court-ordered deadline for the governor to approve the $2.5 billion needed to restart dozens of projects that were delayed when it became apparent the construction fund was depleting.

“The bottom line for the children in this case, the plaintiffs, is not just the introduction of a bill. We’ve heard that before,” said David Sciarra, director of the Education Law Center, which brought the case. “… The bottom line is the actual provision of funds so that work can resume.”

Abbott advocates have been in court on this matter before. Last year, the state Supreme Court declined to impose a deadline because the state suggested the matter would be handled as part of the fiscal 2008 budget adopted last summer.

The Legislature passed a measures to reform the state Schools Construction Corp. and rename it the Schools Development Authority but allocated no funds.

“You said to us, “It’s going to be taken care of in the ’08 budget,”‘ Justice Virginia A. Long told the assistant attorney general representing the state. “… So again you certainly have to acknowledge there’s reason for them to be leery.”

Now, the state points out that Corzine has announced his financial restructuring plan, which calls for halving the state’s debt and funding 75 years of transportation projects by borrowing up to $38 billion to be repaid through large toll hikes.

With the plan targeted for approval this spring, Corzine plans to begin pushing a separate piece of legislation to borrow the $2.5 billion seen as a stop-gap for two more years worth of school construction projects.

The administration expects legislation to be introduced in February and signed by Corzine before the July 1 budget deadline but cannot vouch for the Legislature.

“That is what the administration can do,” assistant attorney general Robert Gilson said. “They are one branch of government. They have spoken as to what they will address in terms of their obligations.”

Gilson wrote to the court in a letter dated Tuesday that Corzine’s plan to borrow the $2.5 billion will strive to be repaid through existing taxes, meaning it wouldn’t have to be put before the voters, something Abbott advocates have feared after Corzine proposed requiring voter approval for borrowing without a dedicated funding source.

“Not that it gets around it,” said Scott Weiner, chief executive officer of the schools authority, “it’s consistent with his plan that voter approval is required in absence of an identified, dedicated source of funding.”

Corzine spokeswoman Lilo Stainton said via e-mail that funding will likely come from the income tax — a move Republicans are already questioning since that tax is dedicated to property tax relief.

Senators from both parties questioned more borrowing when the governor is pushing a controversial plan to cut state debt.

“We are in the trouble we are in now in New Jersey because we have borrowed and borrowed and borrowed without asking the people themselves for approval to borrow,” Sen. Leonard Lance, R-Hunterdon, said. “Almost 90 percent of our debt is based upon this type of borrowing.”

Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, also questioned the move.

“It sends a mixed message to the public,” said Sweeney. “It just sends the wrong message right now.”

Corzine chief of staff Bradley Abelow said it was an unusual situation.

“We’re responding to a court mandate where we must provide funding to construct facilities in a certain number of school districts,” Abelow said. “And that funding has run out.”

Kudo’s for Mike Doherty: GOP Assembly Members to Hold Public Meetings on Gov’s 800% Toll Hike Plan

It’s folks like Mike Doherty who inspire me to want to run for office. Thanks for hearing our voices Mike!

Millenium Radio

“Is this really the voice of the people of New Jersey or is this an orchestrated effort to put up the appearance that people are agreeing with this?” asks Assemblyman Mike Doherty. Doherty and his Republican Assembly colleagues, Rick Merkt and Caroline Casagrande says they will head a Republican task force that will hold a series of town meetings throughout New Jersey to seek public input on Governor Corzine’s massive 800% toll hike proposal.

Doherty says, “I am not at all confident that the town meetings being conducted by the Governor are an accurate representation of the public’s concerns on these matters.” He adds, “The Governor’s town hall meetings, in many instances, they’re hand-picking who they want in the crowd.”

The meetings will take place in several locations around the state between now and March and will be open to all members of the public. The schedule is expected to be announced shortly. No advance registration will be required.

“Based on the contact I’ve had with constituents, I can guarantee that there is a lot more anger about this issue than has been on display at the Governor’s town meetings,” says Merkt. He adds, “We want to make sure that all taxpayers have an opportunity to express their views in an open, public forum.”

Explaining his town hall meetings, Corzine says, “There is no restriction on what anybody can ask. There is no picking who is going to get the mic(rophone).” He adds, “People stand up, they can ask whatever they want and we try to respond.”

Toll hike – GOP says “Mother Of All Gimmicks”

Listening to NJ101.5

According to Governor Corzine, his office IS NOT receiving any public outcry regarding his Monetization rape. Apparently, the Gov. is DARING us to call.

Here’s Governor Corzine’s numbers – CALL and express your displeasure about ripping us where the sun don’t shine over the next 75 years – we’ll likely be dead – but it’s our children that will be paying dearly:

609-292-6000 or 609-777-2500

Let’s break the fax machine: 609-292-3454

“It’s the Spending Stupid!”

Trenton, NJ – New Jersey Republican State Committee Chairman Tom Wilson issued the following statement today in response to Governor Corzine’s State of the State message and proposed Toll Hike Plan:

“The Governor can dress this pig in whatever terms he wants, but it’s still a pig.

His proposal is the mother of all fiscal gimmicks that will leave New Jerseyans paying more so state government can spend more.

It is dishonest at best to call a plan that includes as much as a 500% driving tax increase and $40 billion in new debt fiscally responsible. The Governor needs to follow the lead of the millions of New Jersey families who’ve been forced to cut back on spending to pay their higher tax bills. We don’t need to restructure the state’s finances; we need to restructure state government to make it smaller and more affordable. The answer is simple: it’s the spending stupid!”