Wishful Thinking In New Jersey
It's May 19th and Governor Corzine is still hoping the New Jersey FY 2009 Budget will be adopted by June 19th. Based on the past performance of the New Jersey Legislature, that's unlikely.
Right now it seems to boil down to a few issues, including municipal aid, retirement incentives for state workers, proposed cuts to health care programs and increased school aid.
Governor Corzine is proposing offering retirement incentives to some 3,000 state employees. The Administration claims that will save $135 million. The Legislature worries that while there will be an initial saving, the state's pension liability will increase.
Legislators point to a 2002 early retirement plan that covered 4,000 employees. While those 4,000 early retirees saved the state $314 million since then, the Office of Legislative Services reports those retirements added an additional $645.4 million to the state pension fund obligation. That's a net loss of more than $331 million.
Another point of contention is state aid to municipalities. The Governor originally proposed huge cuts to towns with populations less than 10,000. It was hoped that some of these communities would begin to examine shared services. He has since backed down a little and is now proposing that the cuts be limited so no town would need to increase property taxes by more than $100.
And as always the debate continues over aid to municipalities, big vs. small.
Another concern is the proposal to cut health care programs by 14 percent and Medicaid copayments. This issue has garnered the attention of NJ Senator President Richard Codey (D-Essex) and he's now trying to come up with proposals that will ease the burden these cuts will place on NJ residents.
There are still some legislators looking for money without raising taxes, let's hope that's something that doesn't end when the budget is signed into law.
The Governor wants the budget by mid June so state residents don't face a government shut down, which inconvenienced them in 2006. The NJ Constitution requires the budget be adopted by July 1.