>Sweeney: Gov. Christie’s tools aren’t the sharpest in the shed

>NJ Senate President Stephen Sweeney has written the following article that appears online this morning on NJ.com. It’s a must read for anyone who thinks that Governor Christie’s “Tool Kit” is the be all, end all solution that will control the rise of property taxes in the state.

Of the 33 bills in the Governor’s “tool kit”, Sweeney rightfully points out that some of them overlapped and were combined to form 24 and later reduced again to by the Governor when he finally realized that proposals about higher education would do nothing to lower property taxes, leaving 20.
Sweeney points out that the Legislature has passed 8 of the 20 bills thus far, the 2% cap on property tax increases and arbitration reform for police and fire contracts being the key pieces passed. While 2 other bills dealing with civil service reform and a cap on sick-leave payouts were passed by the Legislature but vetoed by the Governor. Sweeney then goes on to tell how many of the remaining “tool kit” reforms will do little to bring down property taxes.
So the next time anyone has to hear Republicans in Middletown chastise Democrats in Trenton for not acting on the “tool kit” and saying that these reforms are necessary so that they can control themselves from overspending, I think Sweeney’s article should be read into the record and see what comments, if any Tony Fiore, Gerry Scharfenberger or the others have to say:

The governor has blamed everything and everyone for the highest property tax increase in four years. He continues to state that if only his “tool kit” were passed, New Jersey’s property tax problems would magically disappear.

Closer scrutiny of the governor’s kit proves his claims are false and are merely meant to distract from his own culpability in property tax hikes. The governor cut more than $2.4 billion in funding to schools and municipalities last year. That is why your taxes are going up. The tool kit will not make up that shortfall.

There are reforms that must be implemented, such as pension and health benefits reforms, which I have supported since 2006. I am committed to getting those done. But those reforms are not — and never were — part of the governor’s proposed tool kit.

First, let’s have truth in numbers. The governor started by saying there were 33 bills in the tool kit. Actually, there were 24 after items were combined. Now the governor says there are 20, because he finally realized that four proposals dealing with issues at colleges and universities have absolutely nothing to do with property taxes.

The Legislature did pass eight tool-kit items. First was the creation of the 2 percent cap on annual property tax increases, which the Legislature lowered from the 2.5 percent cap the governor initially proposed. Second was arbitration reform for police and fire contracts, which was heralded across the state by local officials as key to reining in property taxes.

Two others — comprehensive civil service reform and a cap on sick-leave payouts for public employees upon retirement — were passed and sent to the governor, who vetoed them. We have no reform in these two areas because the governor chose to kill reform.

Civil service needs to be reformed and modernized, but abolishing it will not lower property taxes. Only one-third of New Jersey towns are bound by civil service rules, and those towns actually have lower property taxes per capita than towns without civil service. Civil service was established to protect against political corruption and nepotism. It is puzzling that the governor wants to completely eliminate this protection.

Sick-leave payouts should be capped, but the governor vetoed a bill to do that because he wants to take away benefits workers have already earned. That may be a nice talking point, but it won’t stand up in court. And it would create a flood of new retirements as workers cash out before the law would take effect. If the governor got his way, this tool would actually cost taxpayers even more.

Two other parts of the tool kit are already in comprehensive shared services legislation I am sponsoring with Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt and Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, which goes far beyond what the governor envisioned, and which will move through the Legislature later this spring.

These are the only parts of the tool kit that will save you money on your property tax bill. We did them. The handful of remaining bills that the governor clings to won’t save you anything.
One would cap spending on state government operations — which already exists under law, and even if it did not, would have no impact on local property taxes. Another would allow local governments to use furloughs to save money — which they already can do as long as furloughs are negotiated.

Another bill to centralize all power over civil service decisions in the Civil Service Commissioner (read: czar) would only consolidate the governor’s power and do nothing to lower property taxes.

One bill would move school and fire commission elections to November — a move whose total property tax savings, according to the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Service, would be “minimal.”

Others would change the way some employee discipline measures are handled (OLS estimated savings: $140,000), require the mailing of only one sample ballot per household (OLS estimated savings: $1.4 million), and allow municipalities to offset property tax delinquencies against state income tax refunds (OLS estimated net savings: zero).

The governor’s rhetoric does not stand up to simple math. The tool-kit bills that haven’t yet been passed offer no real help from New Jersey’s crushing $25 billion property tax burden.


Filed under 2% cap, arbitration reform, civil service, Gov. Chris Christie, NJ State Senate, NJ.com, property taxes, Stephen Sweeney, tax saving tool, toolkit

4 responses to “>Sweeney: Gov. Christie’s tools aren’t the sharpest in the shed

  1. >Some of the appointments this governor has made clearly show Chris Christie's short comings……choosing political patronage over more qualified individuals, Just more of the same actions the republicans keep blaming the democrats for.The republicans should remember that the first time the failure to make payments to the public retirement system occurred,the governor at fault was Christie Whitman and the 9% pension increase granted a few years ago was also a republican BOO BOO. Stop blaming all the wrongs on one party. The sand box fights won't fix anything….ever.The recent opinion letter in the APP from Declan O'Scanlon ( who is now in the district representing Middletown ) clearly indicates he conveniently has amnesia about those facts. His diatribe just indicates his immaturity.Time for all these elected officials,regardess of political affiliation, to stop making excuses and get on with the business of governing. The people have had enough of the "pit bull" fights and want the state legislature and the state senate to do the business of the people…..NOW!

  2. >anon 7:13, well stated. You are obviously an Independent voter.We need more people like you to remind both parties that it's not about winning an election, it's about working for the people, not corps or the powerful rich. There are twice as many registered Independents voters now. I believe 2 thirds probably lean more Republican than Dem. I hope more of the Independents recognize that in Middletown as well as the county, it has been ruled by the Republicans for decades. That has created an incestuous behavior and practice which has robbed us blind.Brookdale is just one example of how years of control has cost us.Party affiliation is not as important as it might be at the national level. It's should be all about fiscal responsibility and accountability. Right now it's all about pay to play.

  3. >Shouldn't these tools in the tool kit still be fixed? I want the government to fix all of these programs/services. There is money being wasted…..this money comes from somewhere (according to my husband's paystub and mine we paid over $70,000 in taxes, state and federal (not in property tax)…..So I for one would like to see Christie re-direct how my money is being spent.

  4. >Thank you anonymous 9:28. Am an independent that has lived in Middletown getting close to 50 years and agree with your statements. In recent years the republicans in this township disgust me and currently there is not a person on that platform that commands any respect from this resident.It's not about party affiliation and the time has come for the residents in this town and in the county to remove their blinders and realize politics as usual is raping the taxpayers blind and it will continue until we have bi-partisan representation.We have choices and it is clear we are desperately in need of change….the sooner the better.Since there are republican majorities in both the township and in the county,these republicans are clearly to blame for the current problems and the fiscal irresponsibility that they repeatedly demonstrate.Every voter should educate themselves and vote with the realization that their economic health and welfare depends on how they cast that vote !!

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