NJ For Change

Friday, April 07, 2006

Sucking Taxpayers Dry

About ten days ago I wrote about the Camden city council submitting a new budget with a $40.5 million hole that supposedly will have to be filled by the state. Today, I read that Camden received a $37million bailout from the state last year, on top of a $175 million budget bailout the year before. These bailouts apparently are over and above the regular municipal aid Camden received from the state.

The Record is also reporting that just this week Governor Corzine approved a $31 million bailout for Paterson. The article also mentions that a key Paterson city administrator, Nellie Pou, is also an Assemblywoman who chairs a powerful state appropriations committee. When the extra $31 million is included, Paterson is slated to receive five times as much state municipal aid as last year. Why am I not surprised by the double office holding, special interest connection? Also, the Governor can stop saying municipal aid in his new budget will be flat. Flat for some, fat for others would be a more accurate description.

Officials say Paterson was recently hit with huge payments for the state pension system, increased sewerage rates and insurance costs in the final quarter of the fiscal year. They say without the bailout, the city would have to raise property taxes steeply and lay off half its police officers and firefighters.

Nonetheless, Mayor Joey Torres is still talking about hiring an additional 100 police officers, which the state would now have to approve.
This is basically the same excuse Camden gave for their city’s budget gap – increased costs for government employee benefits. This problem is not going to go away with pension and medical benefits costs for public employees rising by double digits year in and year out. The state’s taxpayers should not be stuck paying for overly generous union contracts the city negotiated and its taxpayers can not afford. But New Jersey government and taxes are never fair.

Plus, it makes no sense for Paterson to claim in one breath it would have to layoff half of its police officers and firefighters without the extra state aid, but in the next breath say with the aid they will be able to afford an additional 100 police officers. Don't expect the Corzine administration to say no to this added spending, complete with even more benefit costs for the additional employees.

This is an excellent example of the two biggest problems facing the state – urban centers sucking the state dry through huge transfers in school and municipal aid and the out of control costs for public employee benefits. The state’s taxpayers can no longer afford to pay for their own local government, subsidize an ever increasing share of the state’s bankrupt cites and pay for unreasonable public employee benefits all at levels of government.

I honestly don’t believe the state’s taxpayers know what’s causing New Jersey’s financial crisis. A real leader would be educating the public and proposing serious reforms. Instead we have Governor Jon Corzine pretending he has made ‘hard choices’ and patting himself on the back for his 'courage'. As far as I can tell it’s business as usual on ‘progressive’ overdrive.

P.S. Anyone care to guess the cost of illegal immigrants included in these budget holes?
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