New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine unveiled his 2008 state budget this week, and in the land of “What’s in it for me?”, the citizens and legislators are in an uproar. Everyone complains about how expensive it is to live here in the Garden State, but nobody seems to want to change the status quo and tighten belts.
The problem is that the state of New Jersey is carrying a $32 billion debt. That is equivalent to $3,700 for every man, woman and child in the state. The interest on the debt is $2.7 billion per year. Having to pay that interest every year keeps the state from upgrading bridges and highways, and expanding and maintaining programs. The state debt was about $15 billion in 2000, but it has increased on average about $2.5 billion per year since then.
The Gov’s proposed 2008 budget is $33 billion, which came about after his staff trimmed $2.7 billion from what the different departments of state bureaucracy had asked for. Notable amongst his cuts were disbanding three state departments – agriculture, personnel, and commerce. Two are good moves, but not the Agriculture Department. Axing it would not save much money, plus its responsibilities would shift to the NJ Dept of Environmental Protection. They already mess up everything they touch, so why give them the farmers?
The budget would also cut state police patrols from 77 municipalities that exclusively depend on the state police. Hurray! In Cape May County, that’s Upper Twp, Dennis Twp, and Woodbine. Let them hire their own police department. Why should all state taxpayers fund their policing? Pay for it yourselves.
The budget proposal would also trim roughly in half the state aid to towns under 10,000 population. In Cape May County, that’s the 12 municipalities other than Ocean City, Upper Twp, Dennis Twp, and Middle Twp. Good. Maybe this will force consolidation, or at least more scrutiny towards their own budgets. All these towns want to be their own fiefdom with their own patronage jobs, so pay for it yourselves.
The Gov also wants to eliminate 3,000 state jobs. Considering the state has 83,000 employees, maybe they should cut 5,000 or so. Have you ever had to deal with the state hierarchy, or better yet gone to Trenton to transact business. Whether by phone or in person, you’ll find that too many employees are on vacation, out sick, or took a personal day off. It’s a joke.
The plan would also reduce aid to colleges and hospitals. It would eliminate earned income rebates to those families making over $150,000 a year, and cut in half the rebate to those in the $100,000 to $150,000 bracket. Okay, no problem.
The last part of the Gov’s scheme, announced a month ago, was to boost highway tolls. On the Garden State Parkway, they’ve been 35 cents just about forever. So, make ‘em a buck apiece, I say. But Corzine wants to double the toll every four years. Yikes! That would make a trip on the Atlantic City Expressway go from $2 now to $17 by 2022. That’s a good way to cripple the casino industry.
The biggest overall complaint local government officials have with the Corzine budget is that it shifts more financial responsibility to their towns. “We can’t afford it,” they cry. I think that passing the buck to the municipalities is the right way to solve this problem. Let the counties and towns economize. Cape May County has an annual operating budget of $135 million. You gotta be kidding me. The county where we have a home in West Virginia spends $2.5 million a year. The county needs to roll up its sleeves and get it under $100 million, for Pete’s sake!
The town I live in here in NJ has an annual budget of $21 million, not counting schools. Of that, an incredible and unconscionable $8.5 million was for salaries. C’mon, this is a little town of 17,000. Do we really need 50 police officers and 40 police cars? When the state reduces its aid, maybe the town will finally sit down and make some much needed budget cuts of it own. Big cuts.
Residents of the state of New Jersey are being asked by the Governor to share the burden. Pay for what you get, and get rid of what you don’t really need. Sounds reasonable to me.
- Mountain Man