Category Archives: budget deficit

>President Obama’s Weekly Address 6/25/11: Strengthening America by Investing at Home

>WASHINGTON – Speaking to the American people from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, President Obama discussed the vital role advanced manufacturing will have in strengthening our economy and creating good, middle-class jobs. The President believes that realizing our nation’s potential requires more than simply cutting spending; we have to foster development at home, so that the United States will continue to grow and attract the world’s best talent, ideas and job-creating technologies. This week, the President announced the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, which will link the federal government with our nation’s finest minds to insure that our best ideas quickly become our best technologies. By providing American innovators with the resources they need to make their ideas a reality, our nation’s strong legacy of manufacturing, development and middle-class opportunity will continue to grow.

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Filed under Afghanistan, budget deficit, Carnegie Melon University, economic growth, Education, Innovation, Job creation, Manufacturing, Middle Class, President Obama, weekly address

>Contrasting Styles Between Cuomo & Christie; Different Approach, Same Outcome No Animosity

>NJ.com yesterday had an interesting editorial that I think a lot of people should be reading.

In the face of an $11 billion dollar budget defect, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo balanced NY’s budget by cutting spending and entitlement without raising taxes just as our governor did last year (although that is somewhat debatable). Cuomo achieved this by reaching out to legislator and including them in the process. Gov. Christie on the other hand, has created divisiveness between the governor’s office and those in the legislature with his take it or leave it approach and sledgehammer style.

Interestingly Cuomo was able to balance his State’s budget without demonizing any one group (public employees) or had to hold nonstop “Town Hall” meetings to convince people that there is a problem and his way of solving it, is the only way that it can be done.

Resident of NJ should take notice and see how a different, less caustic and abrasive style can achieve similar yet far different results.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo just won agreement on a budget for New York state that cuts overall spending and contains no new taxes. He even blocked an attempt by fellow Democrats to extend a surtax on millionaires.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because New Jersey did all that last year. Perhaps Cuomo looked across the Hudson and liked what he saw.

Now maybe Gov. Chris Christie can return the compliment. Because Cuomo has something to teach him as well.

Note the lack of personal attacks in Albany. Cuomo was tough, but he wasn’t abusive. He didn’t call his Assembly speaker a liar, for example, or clear his schedule for a nonstop tour on the unlimited greed of teachers and cops.

And he negotiated. Especially relevant to New Jersey was Cuomo’s approach to Medicaid.

Like most states, New York and New Jersey are facing daunting increases in health care costs. Cuomo’s approach was collaborative.

He invited key stakeholders, including hospitals and unions, to sit together and hammer out an agreement on cuts. If they couldn’t come up with an answer, he said, then he would do it for them.

After two months, Cuomo’s committee pulled it off, agreeing to 79 cost-cutting measures, from lowering reimbursements to shifting patients to managed care plans.

Christie wants to cut $540 million in Medicaid spending next year, a huge sum that both sides expect to be a main point of contention. But he’s drawn up his plan in secret, and even now is keeping the Legislature out of the loop. People such as Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), a key architect of the current system, are still looking for basic answers.

“They are crafting their own proposal in a vacuum,” Vitale says. “They would be wise to include legislators.”

Cuomo’s collaboration ensured that his plan had broad political support, and would pass. Christie’s approach risks just the opposite.

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Filed under budget deficit, entitlement spending, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Gov. Chris Christie, health care costs, Medicaid, Millionaire'sTax, New Jersey, New York, NJ.com, tax cuts, tax increase, Town Hall

>In The Face Of Tax Increases And Layoffs Middletown’s Mayor Fiore Justifies $20K In Bonuses to Tax Assessors

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It never seizes to amaze me what the news media considers news when it involves Middletown. Case in point; Monday night was Middletown’s monthly Township Committee meeting and the only news coming from the Asbury Park Press, Redbankgreen.com and Middletown Patch about the meeting was that Middletown will be sticking to it’s intention of not exceeding Governor Christie mandated 2% cap on budgets, which is nothing new and has already been reported on numerous times, and that the budget will be introduced on April 4th, which I mentioned over the weekend.

What should have been reported as news by these three is the fact that in the face of a tax increase, employee layoffs and other potential service cuts, Tax Assessor Charles Heck and his assistant will be receiving bonuses worth $20,000 ($15K for Heck, $5K for his assistant).

Mayor Fiore justifies these bonuses because Charles Heck supposedly saved the Township $50,000 while negotiating the price of the recent Township wide reassessment with Reality Appraisal (a former employer of Heck’s) and worked many long hours helping prepare paper work for Reality Appraisal leading up to the reassessment.

When you factor in that Heck is will be receiving a statutory 2.5% raise to his $108,500 salary along with the $15,000 in bonus money, he will be receiving quite a windfall from the Township this year when other will be losing their jobs.
In the audio clip below you can hear Fiore at his best “fibbing” about why the Township Committee is giving Heck his bonus and about how last year, the entire Township Committee was in agreement about providing Heck and his assistant this windfall.
The thing is though, that when I spoke to former Township Committee Sean Byrnes about this he said that he had no recollection of a discussion taking place about Heck saving the Township $50,000. He stated that they wanted to pay him more because of all the tax appeals he had been working on, and that they subsequently approved the $400,000 price tag for reassessment by Reality Appraisal and that they (the Committee) must have worked this deal out later without him. He stated, as I had posted earlier, that last year when he was a Committeeman the Committee attempted to pass a similar resolution to reward Heck but t was dropped when he opposed it.
Fiore really needs to think about this before he opens his mouth again on this subject, I really can’t understand how he or anyone else can justify this when other peoples livelihoods are at stake. How can he look those, about to lose their jobs in the eye and tell them that someone will be receiving a bonus at their expense? If I were in contract negotiating with the Township right now, I wouldn’t cave in and give anything back when something as blatant as this is being waved in my face. I’d play hardball until the end.
It doesn’t make sense to spend $20,000 to save $30,000 when you expect a person to do a job that he is well compensated for already. Middletown tax payers should be benefiting by having the complete $50,000 put towards tax relief, after all it is their money more so than Heck’s.
On a side note, I hope those on the Library Board are paying attention to this. This is a perfect example of what others tried to warn them about before they voted to hand over $500,000 of reserved funds to the Township. The Township Committee can not be trusted to spend OUR money wisely or prudently. It’s OK to give a$15,000 bonus to an already highly compensated tax assessor but it is unconscionable give 1% raises to the lowest paid employees of the library, a raise that would average out to about $1 per week in their paychecks?
Shame on you Kevin Settembrino and the rest of you who sit on the Township Committee for allowing this to move forward.

http://www.archive.org/flow/flowplayer.commercial-3.2.1.swf

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Filed under bonuses, budget deficit, Charles Heck, layoffs, Middletown Library, Middletown Township Committee, tax increase, taxpayers, Tony Fiore

>Doesn’t Anyone Remember Christine Whitman?

>In a CountyFair blog post on the website MediaMatters.org, blogger Jamison Foser asks a simple question “ Doesn’t Anyone Remember Christine Whitman?

It’s a great read and analogy of what transpired in the early 1990’s when young Republican Governors were swept into office and faced huge budget deficits after Bill Clinton became President and what is happening today.

“A young Democrat is elected President on a theme of hope and change, does some of the things he was elected to do, Republicans howl and win control of Congress in a landslide mid-term election, and the media becomes infatuated with a new crop of Republican governors who are trying to dramatically reconfigure state budgets.

“That’s a reasonable summary of the current state of affairs, but it also describes the first few years of Bill Clinton’s presidency. But it isn’t the similarity that’s striking: After all, there’s a reason the phrase “history has a way of repeating itself” exists. Or, perhaps more appropriately: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” See, what’s really striking about the current situation is how few reporters seem to remember what happened in the 1990s.

Most notably, the past few weeks have seen massive media attention paid to state budget deficits, and attempts by Republican governors like Chris Christie to blame out-of-control pension obligations for those deficits (even as they pursue deficit-increasing tax cuts…”

Foser goes on to talk about how NJ Governor Christie Whitman cut taxes and raided the state pension fund in order to close New Jersey’s budget gap even though many critics warned that the State Pension system would see significant shortfall 15-20 years down the road, which of course is what is happening to be now!

“Whitman was one of those star Republican governors of the early 1990s. Like so many other Republican governors who win media attention for innovative approaches, she made her name through the not-so-innovative strategy of cutting taxes. Since she had to offset those tax cuts in order to balance New Jersey’s budget, she reduced payments into the state’s pension system. And that, as the New York Times noted last August, “contributed to the growth of the unfunded liability” that is now widely blamed for New Jersey’s budget shortfall.”

He went on to state that none of this should have come as a surprise to anyone because “when Whitman was defunding the pension system in order to cut taxes, there were warnings that this is exactly what would happen. Here, for example, is a September 5, 1994 Washington Post article:
“The first thing Christine Todd Whitman did upon taking office as governor of New Jersey in January was to cut the state’s income tax. Then in July, as she signed into law her first state budget, the Republican cut taxes again while simultaneously closing the huge deficit left by her predecessor.

This is what her supporters call the Whitman miracle, the fiscal accomplishment that has sent her stock soaring among New Jersey’s voters and transformed her on the national scene from a political unknown into one of the Republican Party’s newest stars.

But the key to the Whitman miracle lies neither in her political philosophy nor in her spending cuts, but rather in the fine print of her budget. Contained there is a series of arcane fiscal changes that some experts say amount to this: Christine Todd Whitman has balanced New Jersey’s books and paid for her tax cut by quietly diverting more than $1 billion from the state’s pension fund.

Whitman calls what she did a “reform” of the pension system that puts it on a more “sound actuarial footing.” Others are less charitable. The one thing that even the actuarial consultants hired by the Whitman administration agree on, however, is that the chief effect of the changes will be to shift billions of dollars in pension obligations onto New Jersey taxpayers 15 to 20 years from now.”


“At best, this represents a gamble that the state’s economy in the early part of the next century will be stronger than it is today and better able to shoulder pension responsibilities. At worst, according to fiscal experts, Whitman’s move represents politics at its most cynical.

In recent years financially strapped governments around the country — including Washington, D.C., and New York state — have raided their pension funds for cash, gambling that when the bills come due their local economies will be in a better position to pay them.

“The New Jersey pension system was highly rated in terms of its fiscal integrity,” said [Henry] Raimondo of the Eagleton Institute. “Now that’s compromised. She has effectively slowed down” the amount of “money going into the system, and in around 2010 the liability to New Jersey taxpayers is going to grow dramatically.”

Foser concluded his post by adding:
“Let’s review: A Republican governor of New Jersey reduced payments to the state pension system so she could cut taxes. Critics warned doing so would cause significant budget shortfalls in 2010. 2010 rolled around, and — surprise! — so did budget shortfalls. And now those shortfalls are used by New Jersey’s current Republican governor (along with many in the media) to justify cutting pensions (while again cutting taxes.)

Basically, conservatives have staged an end-run around having a public debate over cutting pensions in order to pay for tax cuts. Rather than making the argument that tax cuts are more important than pensions, they just went ahead and cut taxes, raiding the pension system in the process, then waited 15 years for predictable — and predicted — deficits, which they now point to as evidence that the pension system is unsustainably generous. And they’ve done it with the help of countless news organizations that fall for this shell game.”

You really need to read the full post, it’s fascinating how history has once again repeated itself.
You can read it >>> here

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Filed under 60 Minutes, Bill Clinton, Bill O'Reilly, budget deficit, Gov. Christie Whitman, Media Matters, New Jersey, pension deficit, Republican Governors, state pension system, tax cuts

>Township Makes New And Improved Request Of $500K To Library

>Instead of the over inflated request of $1.2 million that the Middletown Township Committee wants to steal from the Middletown Library, local officials have now made a new and improved request to the library for only $500,000 of its reserved funds according to an article online this morning over at the Asbury Park Press.

What strikes me about this article is that Township Attorney Brian Nelson, who is not an elected official but somehow seems to think he is very often, is out in front of this without he lead quote ” This is our official request”. Where is the mayor or deputy mayor on this; Why no word from them?

The other quote that sticks out is from Township Administrator Tony Mercantante, “Both sides could sue each other, and we’d end up in court for three years, but no one wants that.”

This to me seems like an ill disguised vile threat if you ask me, especially if you add it to other inflammatory remarks already made by those who represent the township that threatened to change the composition of the Library’s Board of Trustees by not reappointing current trustees and by adding more trustees that would be more sympathetic to the Township’s wishes, along with handing the Middletown Library over to the County to run.

The article also reiterates what I have been reminding people of since the February 16th Library Board meeting, which is that this request will not save the jobs of the 26 employees already scheduled to be laid off:

Township officials have said they need the money to avoid laying off more than the 26 positions that are already part of a plan it submitted to the state Civil Service Commission last month. Included in the layoff plan are 10 township police department and 13 parks and recreation department positions.


So now the Township feels that the ball is in the hands of the Library’s Board of Trustees at this point, Wednesday night is the next scheduled Library Board meeting and the Township expects an answer to their request.
The last I heard the Library Board was unwilling to give the Township much more than ~$250K, which is what they feel the library is obligated, by state law to return.
I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens Wednesday night.
Read the article >>> Here

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, Board of Trustees, Brian Nelson, budget deficit, budget surplus, Middletown Library, Middletown Township, surplus funds, Tony Mercantante

>N.J. municipalities scramble to notify voters on property tax referendum; I wonder if Middletown has plans to hedge it’s bet

>According to the Star-Ledger, today is the last day that municipalities around the State have to notifiy their votes of the potential to hold a property tax referendum that would enable a municipality to exceed Governor Christie’s 2% cap on budgets.

I posted Saturday about how Middletown’s Administrator Tony Mercantante and others have stated that they had no intention to exceed the 2% cap and that there would be no referendum needed, especially since Mercantante had no idea how a referendum would work. He stated at the February 16th Library Board meeting that the State Legislature(code word for Democrats) in its bill, provided no guidance or allocated any type of funds to municipalities for the purpose of such an event. So Middletown wasn’t going to even consider such a possibility.

Instead of planning for the possiblility of a referendum, Middletown’s Mayor Tony Fiore, and others that control the town planned to follow Governor Christie’s lead and stay with in a 2% budget increase.

That sounds great in theory but wouldn’t be a good idea to hedge your bets and announce a referendum just in case they can’t stay with in the cap?

Is the Township Committee really prepared to lay off 10 or more police officers and the whole department of Parks & Recreation if they can not get union consessions during contract talks or if they Library Board refuses to hand over any more reserved funds then they are legally responsible to do, which at this point is in the neighborhood of $250,000?

I guess these questions will be answered at tonight’s Township workshop meeting.

TRENTON — New Jersey enters a new era today as voters get to find out if they may be asked next month to raise their property taxes beyond the Christie administration’s new 2 percent limit.

Under the law signed by Gov. Chris Christie last summer, residents will decide if their town or school budget can exceed the 2 percent cap through a referendum on April 27, the same day as school board elections.

Towns and schools were scrambling last week to meet today’s deadline to publish a newspaper ad notifying voters a referendum may be held. As of Sunday, five towns — Plumsted, Mount Holly, Riverdale, North Arlington and Chesilhurst — had placed ads and at least five more towns and two schools planned to, according to groups representing towns and schools….Read more >>> Here

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Filed under 2% cap, budget deficit, budget surplus, Middletown, Middletown Library, property tax referendum, the Star-Ledger

>Arrogance Prevails In Audio Of Library Director’s Address In Front Of Middletown Committee

>It’s been almost week now since the last Middletown Township Committee meeting took place and the controversy over reserved library funds have not died down, if anything as the calendar gets closer to March 15th and the Middletown Township Committee needs to produce a proposed budget to the State, the rhetoric could heat up even more than it already has.

As I stated in an earlier post, during public comments at last weeks Township Committee meeting, Library Director Susan O’Neal, spoke about the virtues of the library and attempted to talk about the perceived surplus funds that the Township insists are available for it’s taking, but when she was badgered and talked down to rather arrogantly by appointed mayor Tony Fiore, she ended the discussion and sat down.

Fiore was waving in the air a piece of paper that he claimed was a 2008 MTPL Foundation IRS 990 form that showed the Library held in excess of $350,000 (but he didn’t present it to O’Neal), he wanted to know how much was currently in this account. O’Neal stated that she thought there was $35,000 available as per the 2010 IRS 990 form. Fiore then wanted to know what happened to the surplus funds, what were they used for?

Ms. O’Neal said that NO portion of municipal funds are included in the Library’s surplus, at which point Township Attorney Brain Nelson, attempting to interject himself into the conversation, rose from his chair next to the Mayor waved his finger at O’Neal and said that her statement was false.

It was at this point that Director O’Neal ended her discussion, probably feeling somewhat frustrated and intimidated by the aggression shown to her by both Tony Fiore and his “goon” Attorney Brian Nelson.

The below 10 minute audio clip is from Tuesday night’s meeting and captures Susan O’Neal’s entire 10 minute address in front of Township Committee. To hear the exchange between Tony Fiore, Susan O’Neal and Nelson as described above, you will need to advance the audio to about the 7:50 mark.

It doesn’t shed a very good light on Fiore or Nelson,it just adds to the perspective that Township Committee and it’s attorney are arrogant and don’t care to hear about the truth or worry about how they chose to intimidate others when they have their minds made up.

http://www.archive.org/flow/flowplayer.commercial-3.2.1.swf

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Filed under Brian Nelson, budget deficit, Library Reserves, Middletown Library, Middletown Township Committee, surplus funds, Susan O'Neal, Tony Fiore