Monthly Archives: June 2010

N.J. Gov. Chris Christie signs an unbalanced budget

Good editorial from the Star-Ledger this morning dealing with the realities of the “unbalanced budget” signed by Gov. Christie yesterday:

“The budget signed yesterday by Gov. Chris Christie will reduce state spending for the third year in a row. The total now is roughly at the same level it was in 2005.

No serious person disputes the need for austerity in these times. We are headed in the right direction.

The pity is that this governor failed to demand the shared sacrifice that he himself made a central criteria for judging the final product. Yesterday, he continued to deny that central fact.

“We tried to spread the pain as evenly as we could,” he told a national television audience.

Here are the facts: The 16,000 families in New Jersey earning more than $1 millon will get an average tax break of $40,000 apiece under this budget. At the same time, a single mom working for minimum wage will pay $300 more in state taxes.


The biggest cuts in this budget are painful but unavoidable. That includes the deep cuts in aid to schools and towns, and in property tax rebates. His single biggest move was to short the pension fund by $3 billion. Together, those moves account for the bulk of the governor’s spending reductions.

The problem is the tax break. If the governor had not insisted on that, he could have softened the blow on the needy considerably.

He would not have had to increase taxes on that working poor mom, or make deep cuts in health care, affordable housing, child-care subsidies and school lunches.

So no, the governor is not spreading the pain. This budget plainly favors the wealthy.

Denying that fact doesn’t make it go away.”


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Filed under editorial, Gov. Chris Christie, NJ State Budget, the Star-Ledger

It’s Your Town Newsletter Volumn 2, Issue 12, 6/21/10: The Budget Presentation

This is the first of two newsletters coming this week due to the fact that there were two separate Township Committee meetings held on June 21,2010 this month.

This first newsletter deals with the special budget meeting held earlier in the evening before the regularly scheduled meeting of the night. It includes the presentation of the Township budget for calendar year 2010 (which began in January) that was given by Middletown’s CFO Nick Trasente.

The second newsletter coming later in the week will deal with the regular business meeting for the month.

Please read and pass this newsletter on to your friends in Middletown. This budget will affect every homeowners pocketbook, there is a 12.87% increase in our municipal taxes for this year. The budget is 63 pages and can be found here, it has comparissons of what was spent on line items from last year and because of this, residents will be able to see where the increases in the budget are.

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Filed under budget presentation, Its Your Town, Middletown, Middletown Township Committee, Newsletter, Nick Trasente, township budget

NJPP Monday Minute 6/28/10: WHY THE BUDGET FALLS SHORT FOR VULNERABLE FAMILIES

There has been much fanfare regarding the restoration of a few programs that serve vulnerable people in the FY 2011 budget. But make no mistake; the budget expected to pass the Legislature today requires the greatest sacrifice from vulnerable working families hit hardest by the recession.

Let’s put the restorations in perspective. They amount to about $68 million, not including PAAD which was restored in an earlier separate agreement, in a budget which would spend just over $28 billion. As the governor’s chief of staff pointed out, these restorations amount to only about two-tenths of a percent (.02%) of the total state budget. He thought that was a good thing.

The Anti-Poverty Network indentified 26 programs (see list below) that were cut in the Christie budget that primarily affect the most vulnerable: low and moderate income families; the elderly; and people with disabilities. The list is conservative in that it does not include program cuts to items such as transportation and education, which serve mostly middle class and higher income groups as well as large numbers of low income people. The budget restorations only fund seven of those programs, leaving $262 million in program cuts to the most vulnerable.

The largest restoration was in General Assistance, which provides temporary financial assistance to unemployed adults without children. The Christie budget would have eliminated the entire $140 a month stipend, which is often the only source of income they have. The Legislature and the governor are to be commended for at least partially restoring this vital safety net program.

However, the administration did not restore cuts to the two largest programs that help vulnerable families remain independent. State and federal funding for New Jersey FamilyCare, which provides affordable health insurance for children and certain low income parents or guardians, was reduced by about $100 million. Enrollment has already been closed for parents with incomes between 133 percent and 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($24,352 to $36,620 for a parent with two children). This cut will be continued in FY 2011 resulting in 39,000 uninsured parents being denied health insurance at the same time many employers are dropping health coverage. Also, about 11,700 legal immigrant parents who have been in this country less than five years and currently receive health insurance through FamilyCare will lose their coverage altogether.

The state Earned Income Tax Credit was cut by $45 million, which will in effect increase taxes for 485,000 lower income households. At the same time, the governor refused to continue higher tax rates on those in the uppermost brackets, households with more than $400,000 in annual income. About 77 percent of the households that received the state EITC are working families with children. A parent earning the minimum wage in a full time job ($15,000) with two children will see his or her taxes increase by $300 as a result of this action. Taxes for wealthy households, on the other hand, will be cut by thousands of dollars.

It is also disturbing that the governor has opposed legislation which would restore the funds for the state EITC, if federal funds become available specifically for this purpose. Congress appears likely to act on legislation that would make $120 million in emergency contingency funds available to New Jersey without costing the state a dime. But the administration has rejected a budget resolution from Sen. Shirley Turner which would require that if such funds become available in FY 2011 they would be used to restore the state EITC cutback.

While the budget treats each of these programs separately, the cutbacks will have a cumulative impact on vulnerable families. Virtually all of the families that will lose or be denied health coverage in FamilyCare will also have the state EITC reduced. Many of these same families will also be denied vital supports like family planning, school breakfast, legal services, and affordable housing. None of the cuts in these programs have been restored in this budget. The combined effect on some families will be devastating and have long term consequences for them and the state’s economy.

Attempts are being made to restore some of these funds to vulnerable families in separate legislation. Senator Loretta Weinberg has introduced a bill to restore funding for family planning and Senator Joseph Vitale and Assemblyman Lou Greenwald have bills to restore funding for FamilyCare. If these bills pass the legislature, however, the governor is likely to veto these bills, as he did when the legislature passed a millionaires’ tax increase a month ago.

What some see as fiscal conservatism might be seen by others as plain mean-spiritedness.

It would appear that the deal on the FY 2011 budget is final but the fight to protect and support struggling working families in this high cost state must continue.


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Filed under budget cuts, budget deficit, Gov. Chris Christie, Loretta Weinberg, Monday Minute, New Jersey Policy Perspective, NJ FamilyCare, poverty, tax credits

Saturday Morning Cartoons: Aquaman – Menace Of The Black Manta

It’s that time again, pass the Cheerio’s and sit down for a new toon.

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Filed under Aquaman, cheerios, Saturday morning cartoons

President Obama’s Weekly Adress 6/26/10: Finishing the Job on Wall Street Reform

With Congress having finalized a strong Wall Street reform bill, the President urges Congress to finish the job and send the bill to his desk. The legislation reflects 90% of what the President originally proposed, including the strongest consumer financial protections in history with an independent agency to enforce them. It ensures that the trading of derivatives, which helped trigger this crisis, will be brought into the light of day, and enacts the “Volcker Rule,” which will make sure banks protected by safety nets like the FDIC cannot engage in risky trades. It also creates a resolution authority to wind down firms whose collapse would threaten the entire financial system. Wall Street reform will end taxpayer funded bailouts and make sure Main Street is never again held responsible for Wall Street’s mistakes.

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Filed under FDIC, financial oversight, President Obama, Wall St. Reform, weekly address

Behind Christie’s budget is the largest property tax hike New Jersey has ever seen

NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
BY STEVE LONEGAN

Rush Limbaugh is singing the praises of Governor Christie’s budget. National pundits talk of “spending cuts.” Some enthusiasts have gone as far as starting a “Christie for President” chant.

So many words. But as the big government spin machine rolls on, what is really happening?

Sweep away the bluster and the attitude, and behind it all is the largest property tax hike New Jersey has ever seen.

As was said of Bill Clinton’s budget in 1996 — “The era of big government is over — and all the programs are in place.” Underneath the hype that cocoons Christie’s budget is the fact that it grows state government by more than 6 percent — more than double the proposed 2.5 percent cap on local governments.

Beyond the rhetoric of phantom “spending cuts” is the fact that there are no layoffs in the bloated government payroll that exploded under the direction of Govs. Christie Whitman, James McGreevy and Jon Corzine. Every entitlement program is not just in place, but expanded. Property tax relief to suburban and rural taxpayers is reduced by an astonishing $2.56 billion.

Under Christie, New Jersey’s own Cap and Trade program is being implemented. This program not only mirrors, to the word, President Obama’s proposal, but places an enormous cost of $70 million on utility ratepayers this year alone.

And that’s not the only plank of the Obama agenda in the Christie budget. This budget implements the “public option” — called “family care” — and expands it by an astonishing $107 million, as the Christie administration announces its participation in the Obama “catastrophic pool.”

Christie’s budget expands entitlement programs as well, with food stamp eligibility expanded to 185 percent of poverty level, up from the traditional 135 percent.

Under this budget, state government grows at three times the rate of inflation. No departments are eliminated. No departments are consolidated. All bureaucrats remain in place and the central planners are in their glory.

Limbaugh, in common with other Christie cheerleaders, claims that the budget cuts spending by $11 billion. These are the infamous “phantom cuts” I spoke of earlier.

Here are the facts: The budget adopted by the Legislature in June of 2009 was $29.8 billion. The Christie budget spends $28.3 billion. Where’s the $11 billion cut?

The cut appears to be $1.5 billion, but where does it come from? Some $840 million of the cut comes from property tax relief in the form of school aid to primarily suburban school districts. Another $420 million comes from cuts to municipalities. And $1.3 billion in property tax rebate checks are eliminated.

This all adds up to a massive suburban property tax hike.

Are these real spending cuts — as in cuts that reduce the size and scope of government — or simply a cover story that hides a 6 percent spending increase?

Whatever it is, Limbaugh is buying it. It doesn’t matter to him that aid to taxpayers is cut by $2.56 billion, that the budget is down only $1.5 billion, with the other $1 billion being shifted to funding bigger government in Trenton.

State funding for pre-school programs, primarily in what used to be referred to as urban Abbott districts, is at a record $613 million, up from $593 million under Corzine. Christie called this “babysitting” during the election, but under him this “babysitting” is averaging more than $12,000 per child.

It’s shocking when you consider that places like Hoboken — with six-figure median incomes — were actually classified as Abbott districts and receive millions in free day care provided by Christie’s pre-school program.

Christie’s budget sends a record 60 percent of our income tax to these districts. Under Corzine the amount was 54 percent. Christie is doing to the suburbs what Corzine would never have succeeded in doing.

To further burden taxpayers, the runaway debt continues with the state borrowing an additional $500 million in new debt for school construction — primarily in the Abbott districts — without voter approval. The beleaguered State Pension System receives not a cent of the state’s required contribution, down from the $160 million budgeted by Corzine in 2009. This is not a cut — this is kicking the can down the road.

In this fragile housing market, homeowners can expect their home values to drop even further as buyers discount purchase prices due to higher taxes. The loss of school and municipal aid will drive up property taxes at a record pace, resulting in a corresponding loss in property values. This means a loss of annual income and a loss of wealth.

At a time when our nation is struggling to recover from a recession, this budget drives a dagger into our economic recovery. I wonder if Rush Limbaugh supports such policies?

Voters should urge their legislators to vote no on the Christie budget. A vote for this budget is a vote for record property tax hikes.

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Filed under Gov. Chris Christie, Middle Class, New Jersey, New Jersey Newsroom, property taxes, Rush Limbaugh, Steve Lonegan, tax increase

Could Middletown Have Introduced "THE HIGHEST TAX INCREASE IN THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY"

A reader sent along the following comment, it was too good to bury in the comments section so I’m posting it here on the main page for everyone read:

We may be the biggest small town in New Jersey, but we now hold a far more dubious distinction. The town with the highest tax increase in the State. When Gerry Scharfenberger proposed his budget Monday night it included a staggering 13.9% increase. When I hear Chris Christie talking about a 2.5% cap I really have to laugh, because his lapdog, Gerry (who was meeting with him the next day) is proposing a budget increase over 5 times that amount. Is this something Christie is going to let his local finance board approve? He said NO, but I really wonder what he will do for his pal Gerry.

One has to wonder why Scharfenberger, Fiore, Massell, and Brightbill support this budget? They all ran on platforms saying they would lower taxes and now they approve the highest tax increase in the state. At the meeting they claimed it was beyond their control. If that’s the case then they should resign so we can have committee member who will really work to control our taxes.

Is it any wonder why Sean Brynes and the rest of the town is clamoring for a Finance Committee? With a tax increase 0f 13.9% we need outsiders looking at this budget. The insiders certainly don’t understand that we can’t afford their budget plans.


Do you agree? It sounds about right to me.

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Filed under budget planning, Gerry Scharfenberger, Gov. Chris Christie, Middletown, Sean F. Byrnes, tax increase