Assemblyman O'Scanlon was featured in an NJ Spotlight profile, where he spoke about his political background, his fight against Red Light Cameras, and his proposals for solving the state's budget problems.
The profile can be found here, or you can read it below:
PROFILE: FISCAL REFORMS AND TOP GOP MEMBER OF ASSEMBLY BUDGET COMMITTEE
Declan O’Scanlon helped retire NJ’s red-light cameras, puts social media to work to open dialogue with constituents, opponents
Name: Declan O’Scanlon
Title: State Assemblyman
Why he matters: O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) is the top-ranking Republican on the Assembly Budget Committee, the panel in the lower house of the Legislature that is charged with holding hearings on the annual state budget. He’s also a leading voice in the GOP caucus on public-employee benefits reform, debt, and other fiscal issues, frequently taking to social media to make his case directly to constituents. And O’Scanlon has been among the loudest critics of the use of red-light cameras in New Jersey, a practice that was stopped late last year.
Elected office: O’Scanlon, a resident of Little Silver, was first elected to the Assembly in 2008. He was immediately assigned to serve on the Assembly Budget Committee and was named Republican Budget Officer in 2011. Being on the budget panel puts him right on “the front lines,” O’Scanlon said.
“That was where I wanted to be even before I was elected,” he said. “Virtually all of the state’s problems stem from budget issues.”
Prior to serving in the Assembly, O’Scanlon was a member of the Little Silver Council from 1994 to 2007. That experience still plays a role in how he approaches issues as a lawmaker, keeping his focus on the state’s high property tax bills.
“I know firsthand where to go and how to get it done,” O’Scanlon said.
Education and professional experience: Born in Marlboro, O’Scanlon has degrees from Monmouth University in finance and psychology. He currently serves as chief executive officer of FSD Enterprise, a wireless communications consulting firm that he said works with towns and wireless-phone companies to figure out where best to locate cell-phone towers.
Use of social media: Under the Twitter handle @declanoscanlon he’s become one of the Legislature’s most active communicators on social media. He’s engaged in debates with other lawmakers -- including a lengthy back-and-forth on public-employee pension funding with Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Burlington) in April -- and also regularly interacts with constituents.
“Anything that broadens access the public has to their elected officials is a good thing,” O’Scanlon said about his use of social media.
And though he’s been attacked by political opponents on Twitter, O’Scanlon said far more good has come from his interactions than bad experiences. It’s also a good way, he said, to directly confront “the misinformation out there.”
“At the very least you can start a dialogue,” he said. “It’s a really cool way to expand people’s access to you.”
Red-light camera activism: O’Scanlon was a loud opponent of red-light cameras, which were allowed to operate in many New Jersey towns until the end of the past year when a five-year pilot program expired. Though the red-light cameras were designed to encourage responsible driving, they also became known as a way for municipalities to fill their coffers with revenue during the last recession. And there were also problems with mistimed lights and delayed summonses.O’Scanlon said his activism on the issue grew out of a longstanding concern with “motorist issues,” and the basic position that New Jersey drivers should be respected. “Our rules and laws of the road need to reflect reasonable people behaving reasonably,” he said.
Biggest issues facing New Jersey right now: His legislative priorities have ranged from working to reform New Jersey’s bail system to expanding access to medical marijuana. But O’Scanlon in recent months has been zeroing in on the cost of public-employee benefits.
The new state budget Gov. Chris Christie signed into law at the end of June includes $1.3 billion for the chronically underfunded pension system -- a record payment for the state for one fiscal year. But none of the cost-saving recommendations that were released earlier this year by a nonpartisan commission of benefits experts convened by Christie have been adopted by lawmakers. They include freezing the current pension system in favor of a new retirement plan with features of a 401(k) and moving employees into less-generous healthcare plans.
O’Scanlon, citing the commission’s work, notes that without reform the annual cost of paying employee pension and health benefits will rise as high as $7 billion on a $34 billion budget. Though the Legislature is often accused of “kicking the can down the road” when it comes to pensions and health benefits, he said it’s more like “kicking a toxic-waste drum down the road.”
“It would be tragic to miss this moment of opportunity,” O’Scanlon said.
Political future: Like everyone else in the state Assembly, O’Scanlon is up for reelection in the fall. Still, he said he has no plans to start changing his approach just to win the next election even as Republicans this year are looking to wrest back control of the Assembly
“If I lose my office because I tell people the truth … I’m OK with that,” O’Scanlon said.
And even though his name has been floated at times as a possible contender for a seat in Congress or even for governor, O’Scanlon said he’s content with being an assemblyman.
“I like to tell people I’m unshackled by the burden of aspiration,” he said.
“I pinch myself every day for the honor to have been given the seat I have now,” he said. “I’m thrilled with it.”
Assemblyman O'Scanlon spoke on the Assembly floor regarding the proposed constitutional amendment for pension payments.
TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) blasted Democrats for preventing members of the Assembly from speaking today at a public hearing on the constitutional amendment mandating quarterly pension payments that will be on this November’s ballot. The Assembly Judiciary Committee took only 32 minutes and 54 seconds to discuss ACR-109.
O’Scanlon, the Republican budget officer, served on the committee and issued the following statement after the hearing:
“This was a shameless attempt to stifle any criticism of their plan, which could go down in history as the single most ill-advised and destructive action in the history of the state Legislature. Insolvency would be almost inevitable.
"We have representative government for a reason. The public counts on us to thoroughly debate policy before dumping it in their laps. When we pass something like a constitutional amendment it sends the message that we have thoroughly vetted and endorse the policy. That hasn't happened here. By stifling debate in committee we are abdicating our responsibility as a legislative body. It's shocking.
“They have shown no way to pay for this multi-billion-dollar obligation, which will voraciously consume every additional revenue dollar coming in - and then some. Absent reforming our health benefits and pension systems, this plan will require significant cuts to every discretionary area of the budget. Services for the mentally ill, developmentally disabled and other providers will be in peril. These areas of the budget are already operating on what has been essentially a budget freeze for the last six years. It's already hard to hire some people for these vital positions.
“If this amendment had been in place over the last three years, we would have needed to cut $4.36 billion - or increase taxes by that amount. That would have been one of the largest tax increases in our history. Not only would vital state services be cut, but it would require massive cuts to critical services like education and municipal aid. The impact here goes beyond the state budget. If this ill-advised amendment goes into effect it will dramatically impact property taxes as well. I don't think I can overstate how badly this will hurt taxpayers and those that depend on state services should this go through.”
At the start of the meeting, Chairman John McKeon limited public testimony to 2 minutes and would not allow members on the committee to speak.
“The Governor has demonstrated once again that he is a worthy steward of New Jersey taxpayer money. With yet another responsible, conservative budget, the Governor has maintained critical funding of important services without increasing taxes on New Jersey families.
“Our state faces some serious financial challenges. With the Governor’s vision and leadership, we will meet those challenges and make New Jersey a model for other states to follow.
“Trenton Democrats should borrow a page from Christie’s playbook and work together with us to make New Jersey more affordable for residents, and more attractive to employers. By fueling New Jersey’s capable economic engine with responsible policies, we can improve finances for all hard-working New Jerseyans, increase state revenue across the board, and make our state prosperous again.
“I look forward to working with my Democrat friends on the budget committee to ensure a fiscal plan that provides job opportunity and financial stability for working families, preserves pension and health benefits for public employees, and funds investment in our roads and bridges.”
TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, the Republican budget officer, responded to the N.J. Supreme Court’s 6-1 decision today that retired public employees do not have a contractual right to receive increasing cost-of-living adjustments.
“The decision supports the Legislature’s 2011 reforms that save taxpayers $70 billion over the next 30 years,” said O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth). “Had this decision gone the other way, it would have been a disaster for N.J. taxpayers as well as the very public workers who filed this ill-advised lawsuit in the first place. With that in mind, we need to continue our work to reform and protect workers’ pensions, starting with reducing health benefit costs to fully fund pension payments and to begin the tough work towards a long-term solution to balance our state budget. This decision and these reforms are essential to that effort.”
On Monday, O’Scanlon introduced a three-bill package to make annual pension payments by reducing health care costs for state and local government employees.
TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, the Republican budget officer, issued the following statement commending the work of the state Department of Corrections and the Parole Board:
“New Jersey has been an easy mark. Legislators, the media, entertainers and the public find it easy to point their fingers at the state and say ‘Things Stink!’ Often this declaration is with good cause: New Jersey ranks last in ‘such and such,’ New Jersey lags other states in ‘you name it,’ New Jersey has the highest rate in the history of the world of ‘some malady. It’s refreshing to know, however, that this isn’t the case every time. In something as crucial as preventing crime, rehabilitating offenders, reducing recidivism, New Jersey has become a successful model for other states to follow.
“Through addiction treatment services, and education and occupational training opportunities, not only are we locking up the bad guys, we are effectively preparing them for a successful transition to life outside the prison walls. Providing ex-offenders with the tools and resources to attain long-term employment and housing is the most effective way to slow the revolving door of return offenders.
“Clearly, the Governor’s leadership in how the courts and the prisons deal with addiction, incarceration and rehabilitation is paying dividends. It’s no wonder other states want to duplicate what New Jersey is doing.
“Dealing effectively with crime and incarceration is a win on every level -- Lower crime impact on residents, lower costs of the criminal justice system and, on the moral level, people who are not in jail are people in their communities, working, spending time with family, and living productive lives. About all this – FEEL GOOD NEW JERSEY!”
- New Jersey is the recognized leader in the reduction of recidivism and incarceration rates.
- A recent publication by The Sentencing Project found 12 states with double-digit declines in prison population from 1999 to 2014. Only four states in the study reduced prison populations by 20 percent or more, and New Jersey stood above all the other examined states with a 31 percent decline.
- The state recidivism rate during the same period decreased from 48 percent to 32 percent in 2015, one of the most significant reduction in the country.
- The crime rate in New Jersey shrank by 20 percent between 2011 and 2014, and according to a crime survey by SafeWise released in 2015, “New Jersey’s crime rate is approximately 30 percent less than the typical state in the U.S.”
- Inmates earned 3,000 vocational training certificates in 2015, in industries including masonry, culinary arts and horticulture
- 38 high school diplomas and more than 340 high school equivalency diplomas were earned in 2015
TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, the Republican budget officer, made the following comments during the Assembly Budget Committee hearing with the Department of Education:
“The days of legislators loudly promising everything to everyone and quietly doing nothing for anyone have to come to an end. There are fundamental flaws in the structure of the budget, and leaky holes in the roof. Too many legislators are inclined to believe the pockets of taxpayers are bottomless pits of cash.
“In this committee we have heard about horror stories about conditions in the Paterson school district from Assembly Wimberly, staff and parents, and we know there are many other districts facing serious obstacles. There are parents from Red Bank Borough in the committee room today. Taxpayers in Paterson pay 30 percent of the districts local fair share, while they pay 83 percent of fair share in Red Bank. Paterson is below adequacy by 16 percent, and Red Bank falls 30 percent short of adequacy.
“We need a new school funding formula. It is unfair and it is unattainable. It isn’t working. We are going to have to come together in a bipartisan effort to solve these issues. This is not about playing one school district against another. This cannot be about legislators selfishly defending the school districts we represent.”
According to Commissioner of Education David Hespe, Gov. Christie has allocated an increase of $548 million for education in the fiscal year 2017 budget. To fully fund the school formula, including eliminating artificial caps will cost an additional $2.1 billion. Of the state’s school districts, 365 are funded “above adequacy” and 226 are below.
TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon sent Democrats scurrying for rhetorical cover for the sixth year in a row after they made assertions that women have been deprived of healthcare services in New Jersey. For the past six years Republicans have challenged the Democrats to demonstrate this problem exists. For six years, no Democrat has reached out to any Republican office or Health Commissioner with an instance of a woman not being able to access health services.
“If there are any women who have trouble accessing care, please call my office,” said O’Scanlon, the Republican Budget Officer. “It is stunning to me how some Democrats can convince themselves into believing there is zero funding for women’s healthcare in New Jersey’s budget. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
O’Scanlon was responding to a press release issued by Pintor Marin after the two engaged in a congenial exchange about women’s health funding at the conclusion of the Budget Committee’s morning hearing with the Health Department.
“I count at least seven line items where we put money to women’s healthcare, including $135 million for family health services to provide prenatal and perinatal care for expectant mothers and their children,” said O’Scanlon. “The results of the Republican investment in women’s healthcare speak for themselves. New Jersey is in the top five States with the lowest STD rates in the country. Other states look to New Jersey as a model for STD prevention.” O’Scanlon also pointed out that the Democrats have failed to provide any additional funding for Family Planning Services in the Fiscal Year 2016 budget they passed last June.
“While certainly there is somebody out of touch in this state, it isn’t me. One need look no further than Assemblywoman Pintor Marin’s own words to make my point. This morning, when asked directly if she came across even one constituent who couldn’t access the healthcare they needed, she answered, ‘No.’ I rest my case,” concluded O’Scanlon.
Trenton, NJ- Assemblyman Republican Budget Office Declan O'Scanlon, R-Monmouth, issued the following statement regarding today's report by the Treasury Department on state debt:
"This report demonstrates the fiscal prudence of the Christie administration, which has limited the growth of the state's bonded obligations to 3.3 percent since last year. Over the last five years, borrowing has grown less than 3 percent annually, compared to the 12 percent growth when Democrats had a monopoly on power. This administration has been a responsible steward of New Jersey's fiscal situation, limiting debt growth to just a fraction of past levels.
"New debt was the result of investments in school construction, capital construction projects, and voter approved higher education bonds. Not a penny of added debt was used for operating expenses as Democrats did when they were in charge.
"While debt for other postemployment benefits is increasing, it is almost entirely tied to the Obamacare cadillac tax that's adding $6 billion in future obligations. This highlights the importance of reforming health benefits to provide quality healthcare at an affordable price for both the state and its employees.
"If not for the initial reforms spearheaded by Republicans and the record high contributions to the pensions during the Christie administration, pension and debt payments would be dramatically higher."
“The commission’s recommendations hit the nail on the head. Unless we implement the necessary reforms, we cannot make the projected massive payments into the system. We will be digging our huge budget hole even deeper.
“The Democrats’ constitutional amendment mandating pension payments won’t change that reality. Virtually every ratings agency – the same ones whose pronouncements are cited by the amendment’s proponents when it’s convenient – agrees emphatically. No realistic amount of economic growth that will magically enable us to make the required payments. That would leave only two alternatives – massive, economy-killing tax increases or massive, service-crippling cuts to state government.
“Asking public workers to shift from ‘platinum plus’- level health benefits – benefits much more generous and expensive than virtually all of the private sector workers who are paying the bills – down to ‘gold’ isn’t asking too much, and can save billions. Other adjustments can be negotiated and derive value for our taxpayers and provide fairness to our workers – without destroying their retirement plans. This problem is solvable if we all work together – and act quickly. The hole gets deeper, and the remedy more painful, every day.
“Every day we wait to fix this problem essentially sets $10 million in taxpayer dollars on fire. The commission’s recommendations should be implemented to guarantee the system’s long-term sustainability.”