Category Archives: tax increase

Congressman Frank Pallone Calls on Republicans to Stop Efforts to Raise Taxes on the Middle Class

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 20, 2011

WASHINGTON D.C.—Today, Tuesday, December 20, 2011, Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. (NJ-06) stood with Members of the House Democratic Leadership at a press conference calling on Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans to vote for a Senate bill extending the current Payroll Tax cuts and Unemployment Insurance. Both the Payroll Tax cuts, instituted by President Obama in 2009, and Unemployment Insurance for Americans who are out of work to no fault of their own, are set to expire on December 31, 2011 if the House fails to take action.

Earlier in the day in a speech on the Floor of the House of Representatives Congressman Pallone stated that, “The consequence for the American people is that the economy is in a very perilous situation right now, if you take this tax cut and you don’t extend it, then it’s very possible people won’t have money to spend, the economy won’t grow, and this teetering economy could easily fall back into a recession again.”

“They are playing a dangerous game with the lives and livelihoods of all Americans, at a time when we can afford it the least,” said Pallone. Their agenda is clear; end tax breaks to working Americans and the middle class while cutting the lifeline for the unemployed at a time when they can afford it the least.”

If Congress fails to take action and allows the Payroll Tax cuts to expire, Americans can expect to pay an additional $1,500 per year in additional taxes and 2.2 out of work Americans will lose their Unemployment Insurance.

View Congressman Pallone’s full floor statement here.

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Filed under 6th Congressional District, Congressman Frank Pallone, John Boehner, middle-class tax cuts, payroll tax, press release, tax increase, unemployment insurance

Taxpayers First ??? Not in “Your Middletown”

by guest blogger Linda Baum

If you’ve been driving anywhere in Middletown, you can’t miss the big red and white signs that claim Mayor Fiore puts “taxpayers first”. That’s been the line for years now. That the Republican majority continues to use it shows their arrogance. Sadly, they have managed to keep so many of us in the dark.

I suppose they should feel confident. Remember last year when our Republican-controlled Town Committee left you with the impression that a 13.4% municipal tax increase was just 2.8%? They had at their disposal all sources of communication coming out of Town Hall – the town’s own newspaper, press releases, robocalls, and a tax information sheet all delivered straight to your home and paid for with your tax dollars. You were probably scratching your head back then. And I bet, like me, for a while you were uncertain of your own basic math skills. And that was the idea – not to inform, but to mislead. That is not how you serve taxpayers. What they did was deliberate and dishonest, and completely self-serving.

The Republican party’s control over information in Middletown has gone on for years. If you have ever asked a question at a Town Committee meeting, you may have experienced that first hand, and it has never been more true than it is now that an all-Republican committee sits on the dais.

Residents have just two opportunities each month – the first and third Monday — to connect with our representatives, but they don’t seem to want to talk to us. If you’ve been brave enough to stand at the microphone and ask nearly anything, you’ve most likely been made to feel like an annoyance. You’ve got just five minutes – that’s the rule. Use it or lose it, and no second chances after you sit down. If you aren’t satisfied with the answer you get, they may invite you to stay after the meeting when no one else is there to hear them. Or you can always try again at the next town meeting, if you don’t mind being scolded for being repetitive. I was, and my question went unanswered to boot.

It would be downright comical if it weren’t true. If you don’t believe me, then grab your popcorn and come down to Town Hall. You’ll have to catch the live show because town meetings aren’t televised in Middletown like they are in so many other towns. That’s for lack of funds, supposedly, but let’s see what the story is in 2014 when $200,000 in grant money becomes available from Comcast specifically for that purpose. What excuse will our Republican majority give then for continuing to keep us in the dark?

You won’t find much information about what was discussed at meetings in the Town’s meeting minutes, either. If you really want to know what happened, read “It’s Your Town Hall”, newsletter that are written by town resident Don Watson, who took it upon himself to attend town meetings and to keep others informed about what’s going on. If you want to be included in his distribution, send an email to Itsourtown@yahoo.com.

If taxpayers were really first, governmental proceedings would be accessible to all residents no matter what their schedule or ability to attend meetings, including those who are disabled or have limited mobility. And by the way, those folks are still waiting for the Township to fully comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Money is lacking, town officials say, among other reasons given for delays. However, since that law was enacted, our republican-controlled town committee has poured money into a host of costly unnecessary projects when better less-costly alternatives existed – the Pool Club and Arts Center are examples. Taxpayers are not only paying the debt for these purchases, but hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual upkeep as well.

And did you know that the town’s appointed engineer – the same firm now for 40 years –pockets about $1 million dollars a year in taxpayer funds awarded to them as no-bid contracts? Think how much tax relief could have been provided by putting those engineering contracts out to competitive bid. That’s money that could have been returned to you or used for other purposes. If taxpayers were really first, our republican majority would have done just that. Instead, members of that same engineering firm can be seen celebrating with republican candidates every year on election night. If it sounds like pay to play, that’s because it is. And you’re paying for it.

Somebody is first in Middletown, but not taxpayers. Not in a very long time. On November 8th, you can change that.

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Filed under americas with disabilities act, Arts Center, Middletown NJ, municipal tax rates, Robo-calls, Swim Club, tax increase, tax payers first

>Ringing Controversy; Concerned Citizens of Middletown Robocalls Strike A Nerve

>It seems that the latest round of Robocalls that went out yesterday afternoon by the group calling themselves “Concerned Residents of Middletown” have struck a nerve with some sitting on the Township Committee who say that the calls don’t ring true.

In a column published this morning over at Redbankgreen.com, Middletown Mayor Tony Fiore and his Deputy Mayor Pam Brightbill question the legitimacy of the group Concerned Residents of Middletown and it’s message.

It appears to be just another desperate attempt by the Middletown Democrats to spread misinformation to the taxpayers,” Fiore is quoted as saying in reference to who he thinks is behind the calls. He adds “the real truth will come out. The information they’re pointing out is just not accurate,” when referencing that the Townships budget will be introduced next week.

As if that has any real barring on the truthfulness of the messages contained in the robocalls. Remember last year how Mayor Scharfenberger and those sitting on the Committee, other than Democrat Sean Byrnes, insisted that the Township tax increase was only 2.8% when the proposed budget for 2010 was introduced in last June, when in actuality the municipal tax rate increased by 13.9%.
I think the people lacking credibility on budget issues are those that sit on the Township Committee. The real truth behind the budget numbers and any proposed tax increase which will be presented next Monday night, wont really be known until revised tax bills are sent out to residents, after the budget is adopted later in the year, just as it was last year. When residents looked at their tax statements expecting to see only an increase of 2.8% in the municipal rate, they were stunned by the difference.
Before passing judgment on these robocalls, it is important to see if the message included in them pan out as describe. Only then can we tell who was spreading false information to residents.

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Filed under 2% cap, Concerned Citizens of Middletown, Middletown Township, Pamela Brightbill, proposed budget, RedBankGreen.com, Robo-calls, tax increase, Tony Fiore

>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

>

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

>An Eyewitness Account Of How The Middletown Library Board Gave In

>By guest blogger Linda Baum

There were only about twenty attendees at Wednesday’s meeting of the Middletown Library Board, a fraction of the crowd that showed up last month. Aside from Committeeman Settembrino, who is on the Library Board, no one from the Township was there. And the mood was different. It was calm, and everyone was polite. I took that as a bad sign.

A handful of people spoke during the public portion at the start of the meeting.

One woman brought up Brian Nelson’s comment at the meeting last month that he had personally lobbied the NJ legislature for the new law that requires public libraries to give part of their surplus to towns. Brian Nelson is Town Attorney. The woman said she found it disturbing that he was being paid with tax dollars to do this. Mr. Settembrino responded that Mr. Nelson has other clients besides Middletown, but of course he failed to mention that many, if not most, of those clients are other towns and the county. So, essentially, Mr. Nelson was paid with tax dollars to do something that most taxpayers don’t support.

Jim Grenafege and I had a common message, that the Township has a history of mismanaging tax dollars, either ignoring problems or responding to slowly or inadequately. Add to that a history of nondisclosure and bad financial decisions – bad for the taxpayers, anyway — and it’s no small wonder they are looking for rescue now. My take is that if the Township is looking for a handout, the Town Committee needs to show that they have prudently managed the funds already in their charge. There is much evidence to the contrary, and I will get into all of that another time.

Right off the bat, Board President Gabrielan made a motion to give the town $250,000, half the amount that administrators and attorneys had come up with. Only he and Board VP Milne voted yes on the motion, and it failed 5 to 2.

At least one Board member expressed concern that much time had already been spent on discussion by the administrators and attorneys, who were charged with arriving at a figure. Mr. Gabrielan pointed out that they were not also charged with voting for the Board. Mr. Gabrielan felt the negotiations did not accurately represent facts or address concerns, and said that information could be presented in any manner to achieve a desired result. And with that, the sentiment from the last meeting reared its head.

Other Board members seemed just to want to get this issue behind them and get on with other library business. The Board members felt the need to agree to an amount to the town’s liking in order to be insulated from such attacks for the remainder of 2011 and to protect the library from the threat of transfer to the county system, a threat Mr. Gabrielan noted was without merit.

“Tax relief” was a handy feel-good phrase. It had to be obvious to everyone just how little relief the money would provide. I suspect the Board had an eye to how they would be painted in the press. In fact – if I heard right — a joint press release was part of the negotiated agreement.

There was also considerable concern about the town’s plan to handle the parking lot expansion on behalf of the library as part of the giveback, while still expecting the library to pay the debt service on a bond for the work. The issue, of course, was that the library should not have to pay anything after the giveback, which includes funds that were earmarked for the construction. I am not sure how this was resolved. I think the town backed down, and in the end it was agreed that after the giveback, the library would owe nothing more to the town for the lot construction.

After all was said and done, the Board voted to give just short of $500,000 to the town.

I stayed until the end, just me and two members of the press. There was a second public comment period at that time. I was the lone speaker. I felt the need to point out that the lot construction arrangement was not a good thing for taxpayers because the town would be using the library’s money for some other purpose and then bonding for the construction. That will burden taxpayers with additional unnecessary debt that we would not have had if the library handled the work itself. And it will be yet another reason why the town will be back before the Library Board next year and the year after crying for more money.

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Filed under Board of Trustees, budget surplus, Library Reserves, Linda Baum, Middletown Library, Middletown Township Committee, surplus funds, tax increase

>Wow Big News; Monmouth County Freeholders Reduce Proposed 2011 Budget by $3.7M

>Hey have you heard, the Monmouth County Freeholders have produced a new proposed budget for fiscal year 2011 that has reduced the previously proposed budget by $3.7 million?

I guess we’re all suppose to be happy with this latest budget proposal because it reflects a decrease of $1.1 million from last year’s adopted county budget.
That would be big new to me if the amount to be raised by taxes wasn’t increased by $6.8 million (or 2.26%) to fund the nearly 1/2 billion dollar budget.
I find it very hard to believe that out of a proposed budget of $492 million, the Freeholders can only find cuts that amount to less than 1% of this budget.
If you ask me, if the members of the Monmouth County Freeholder’s Board can point fingers at those who run Brookdale Community College to ferret out wasteful spending after the Burnham debacle, then they should be able to find wasteful spending with in their own departments that would lead to less spending and lower amount of tax dollars needed to be raised through taxation.
I wonder if the Bayshore or other Monmouth County Tea Party organizations have an opinion of their own on this?
I’m just saying….

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, Brookdale Community College, Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Peter Burnham, proposed budget, tax increase, Tea Party