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.