Christie is Right, Further Changes to NJ Pension System are Needed

I sympathize with our public workers whose pensions are funded by the state - particularly folks in the PERS and teacher systems. It totally stinks that state leaders over the 20 years preceding the 2011 reforms made promises they should have known they couldn't keep, and then shortchanged an already over-stressed system. To be fair, union leaders were guilty as well. Everyone sitting at those bargaining tables knew - or should have known - that they were setting up our public pension systems to fail in the future.

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There's No Magic Bullet to Fix NJ's Budget Woes

Too many people - on the left and the right, politicians and editorial boards - act as if there is a politically expedient magic bullet that will painlessly fix New Jersey's budget problems. There isn't. Gov. Chris Christie is right when he says our budget problems are serious. The solutions are going to be painful.

First, let's understand that the this problem is rooted in 20 years of bad decisions, by governors and legislatures, by Democrats and Republicans. Some were careless, others were craven. But the bottom lines is that we are in deep trouble.

Our structural deficit is around $6.75 billion - inclusive of $1.6 billion in transportation investment per year, but exclusive of things we'd love to do, such as cut property taxes.

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O'Scanlon Slams Paul For Baseless Attack on Christie

Yesterday Senator Rand Paul attacked NJ Governor Christie suggesting that the Governor’s landslide victory last week was the result of the federal aid package sent to NJ following Superstorm Sandy.  

I occupy the unique combination of positions of Republican Assembly Budget Officer, long term fiscal conservative who has warned of New Jersey’s irresponsible spending polices for years, long-term advocate for reforms like pension benefit and collective bargaining reforms – and my District (13) covers the area of the bayshore hardest hit by the storm.

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Storms and Fires Aren't the Only Disasters Our Governor Has Lead Us Through

While storms and fires can’t be ignored or missed as we go through the motions of our daily lives, one of the biggest threats to the well-being of our state was silently ignored – or even enhanced – by the folks supposedly in charge for the 8 years preceding Governor Christie’s election.  When Governor Christie took office our state was on the precipice of insolvency.  Governor Corzine and the folks leading the legislature – Barbara Buono amongst them – continued, either blindly or incompetently, to steer us toward utter disaster.  Some of you public workers still upset over the pension and benefits reforms that helped to dramatically turn our outlook around?  Get real.  The only alternative would have been huge, economy-strangling tax increases, or insolvency.  You don’t want to imagine the negative impact on your pensions – or our state’s economy – had that outcome become reality.

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Both Sides of Shared Services Debate are Wrong

There is a heated debate raging within our government at every level.  Not as heated as the debates over toll increases or the State budget, but ultimately as significant.  The debate is the one over the value and savings that might be had from our small towns merging or sharing services.

 

On the one hand we have our Governor and some in the legislature who argue that merging and sharing of services is THE answer to our intolerably high property taxes.  On the other hand we have folks arguing that merging or the sharing of services won’t save enough $ to make it worth the work or hassle and will lead to intolerable, if not catastrophic, reductions in the government services we’ve all come to expect.

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Extend Key Property Tax Reform - Earn the Respect We Claim to Seek

When Gov. Christie came to office in 2010, he took action to address the biggest problem New Jerseyans have faced for decades – property taxes. Working with the Legislature, historic tax reforms were signed into law. These included a two percent limit on property tax levies, increased health and pension contributions by public employees and a two percent cap on awards arbitrators can grant when towns and their unions can't agree on a contract.

These cost control tools are working. Recent property tax data shows the average property tax bill grew by 1.7 percent in 2013 and by the lowest consistent rate in decades since the reforms were passed. While our ultimate goal is to actually cut property taxes, slowing their growth is an essential first step.

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Time to Make Interest Arbitration Law Permanent

Following up on his comments last week that allowing the interest arbitration law to expire on April 1st would have disastrous consequences on towns and property taxpayers, Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon will introduce legislation on Thursday that would make the law permanent.

From January 2011, when the law took effect, to September 2013, average raises in contracts, whether through arbitration or negotiations, were 1.86 percent — the lowest in at least 20 years. O’Scanlon was a member of the task force charged with studying the effects of the law since its inception and said there is no doubt the cap has been the single most significant tool responsible for the stabilization of municipal budgets.

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Trenton Gamesmanship Must Stop to Avoid Financial Disaster

It is distressing that even now – with New Jersey on the brink of fiscal disaster – powerful people in Trenton, with the ability to get real things done, are more interested in gamesmanship and political advantage than in simply fixing things.

There is not a caring resident in New Jersey who isn’t aware that one of the biggest threats to our State’s fiscal health is the mess that has become our pension system.  For more than a decade our State’s leaders – governors and complicit legislative leaders – have simultaneously increased promised benefits – to buy the votes of workers – and failed to make billions of dollars of payments to cover those promised benefits – using the money instead to buy votes of other constituencies.

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Why You Should Care About Red Light Cameras

More people approach me regarding the red-light camera issue than any other. Despite that level of passion — virtually all of it appropriately against the devices — there are still folks who say, “This is a minor issue,” or “Just don’t run red lights and you have nothing to worry about.” Those people are wrong on both counts.

Let’s agree that it wouldn’t be fair, or safe, to do away with yellow lights altogether, with lights changing from green directly to red. By the same token, yellow lights that simply flashed for a split second wouldn’t be fair or serve their purpose, to permit people who are too close to the intersection to stop, to have enough time to travel through safely.

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Proper Setting of Yellow Light Timing is the Correct Course

The single activity which exposes us to government rules and regulations more than any other is driving. Every single day we have to deal with traffic laws. When they are irrational or unfair - or purposefully designed to rip us off rather than improve safety - it is particularly irritating. Traffic safety issues gave me my entree to policy and politics more than 20 years ago - so I know from what I speak.

Today we have an ongoing debate about red light cameras in New Jersey. Never mind that every single objective study in towns throughout other states has shown that these cameras are all about money - and that something as simple as proper setting of yellow light timing reduces dangerous straight-through red light running by up to 90%. Folks trust me, if the prospect of death isn't enough to dissuade someone from running a light, the presence of a camera isn't going to make the difference!

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