"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance

 and a people who mean to be their own governors

 must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Blue State Blues

It can be really tough living in a “blue” state these days, some would say downright depressing. But you know things are really bad when an Optimist Club calls it quits. After 24 years of community service, the Quakertown Optimists Club is disbanding due to a lack of interest.

Bush Taking A Major Risk?

Here we have a Rutgers political science professor concerned that President Bush may drive some Republicans to become Democrats for tackling Social Security and income tax reform. We wonder if Professor Baker ever considered that a success by the President in these two areas might drive some Democrats to become Republicans? Or how about bipartisan support for actually fixing these tax programs to the benefit of all Americans? Anyway, last we checked any plans the President has for Social Security and the income tax would have to be passed into law by the Congress, meaning a consensus had been formed around these issues. But then again what would we know, we're not political scientists.

Ross Baker, a Rutgers University political scientist, said that overreaching "is a problem for all presidents." When presidents go too far, he said, the negative ripple effect can last for decades. In pressing his proposals for partial Social Security privatization and overhauling the tax system, Bush is taking a major risk, Baker said. "These are controversial matters that might drive some Republicans to become Democrats." Baker rejected the notion that Bush won't be accused of overreaching if he goes ahead with his Social Security and tax-reform plans. "I don't believe you have a consensus forming around these issues either," he said.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Inspector General Position Created

Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey created the position of inspector general today with responsibility for ferreting out fraud and wasteful spending at all levels of government. The inspector general will report to the governor and have duties that include reviewing procurements and public contracts and conducting investigations wherever public money is spent to ensure accountability. The inspector general will also examine programs to assess their effectiveness and look at the latest technology and business practices to determine if they can save time and tax dollars. The position will be nonpartisan and the officeholder will be prohibited from seeking elected office for two years after leaving the job. Codey expects to name someone to the post within two weeks and have the office up and running by Jan. 1, eventually with a staff of 12.

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Sunday, November 28, 2004

God Forbid

A fifth-grader had the word ‘God’ removed from a Thanksgiving poem she authored before it was hung up at school because school officials were fearful of violating rules about religion in the classroom, reports the Newark Star-Ledger.

Kaeley Hay, 10, penned the poem for an assignment at Lincoln-Franklin Elementary School in Garwood. The poem read:

Leaves are falling out of the air,
Piles of leaves everywhere.
Scarecrows standing high up with the corn,
Farmers harvest in the early morn.
Pilgrims thank God for what they were given,
Everybody say ... happy Thanksgiving!

Kaeley's classmates liked the work so much they voted to display it in big black letters on the hallway bulletin board just in time for parent-teacher night. But when posting it, someone at the school omitted the word ‘God.’

The school superintendent Bill Murphy maintained the school acted with appropriate caution. "We were always instructed as educators to keep a clear separation between church and state," he said. "There is a very fine line between children's work and the use of the word 'God.'"

Only after Kaeley’s mother complained and school officials consulted with their lawyers was the poem restored to its original state. Kaeley said she's glad her poem was restored. But she's not quite clear on the reason it had been changed. "It was a good poem the way I wrote it," she said. It didn't sound right, the way they changed it."

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Constitutional Convention Task Force Debates Delegate Issues

A task force created to decide how a constitutional convention aimed at reforming New Jersey's property taxes met on November 23 to debate how delegates might be selected and whether they should be paid.

Task Force Chairman Carl Van Horn pushed off a proposal to hold a preliminary vote on whether a convention should be held, saying it will be up to the Legislature to decide if the convention question should be placed on the ballot.

Van Horn also delayed discussion of what the scope of a convention should be, such as whether it should be allowed to deal with state spending issues or just tax revenue.

Instead, the meeting focused on smaller issues, such as the possibilities of legislators being allowed to be convention delegates, legislative districts being used in picking delegates, the election of delegates during a general election in November or a special election and whether delegates should be paid.

No decisions were made, but a consensus emerged that delegates should be chosen from the 40 legislative districts. Some members argued the vote should be in the November general election with its higher turnout.

A question of whether delegates should be paid for serving in the convention, which is expected to take several months, ran into the question of whether lawmakers should be allowed to serve because the state Constitution bars legislators from being elected to another state office during their term unless they are elected governor or to a different house in the Legislature.

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Friday, November 26, 2004

$8.6 Billion - Not Enough For School Construction

Lawmakers demanded an accounting of expenses for New Jersey's expansive $8.6 billion school construction program, and proposed a committee to consider "innovative" ways to keep paying for the initiative.

Jack Spencer, chief executive officer of the Schools Construction Corp., told lawmakers that $5.7 billion of $8.6 billion initially promised by the state has already been spent and that by January 2006, the program will no longer have the funds to approve construction of any new schools.

Meeting the continued need, he said, will cost billions more -- including $2 billion just to cover one additional year of court-ordered construction work in 31 of the state's neediest communities. In these needy districts, Spencer said, New Jersey has so far approved $3.5 billion worth of schools or school repairs, including $433 million in design costs, or about 12 percent of the project totals, and most of the $479 million approved in project management fees so far.

Lawmakers endorsed plans to extend funding for the program beyond the $8.6 billion already earmarked for the initiative. But they were unsuccessful in getting a firm estimate from Spencer as to how much the program might ultimately cost. "I believe the figure to be in the billions," Spencer told the Assembly Education Committee. He said he will not have a more precise estimate until late next year, after school districts across the state have submitted five-year projections of the school building needs.

The Assembly panel endorsed legislation to set up a committee to review school program's needs and to suggest alternative financing methods. In addition, Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Newark) said he is sponsoring a bill that would authorize the state to borrow another $2 billion for the program in 2006 -- enough to keep it running for one extra year, Spencer said. So far the state has borrowed $3.4 billion for the program, which will cost about $250 million a year to repay over the next 20 years.

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Thursday, November 25, 2004

Property Tax Solution

Robert Schroeder, candidate for Governor, says that our property taxes continue to skyrocket, rising out of control and yet, the career politicians who fail to address the problem remain in office year after year.

Schroeder says as a local elected official and fiscal conservative, he knows first hand that quick fix budgets and funding gimmicks (like bonding and tax increases) are useless. Until you cut costs, eliminate waste, and curb the political abuse of taxpayer dollars, property taxes will continue to rise according to Schroeder.

Schroeder is an ardent supporter of shared administrative services among municipalities looking to lower their property taxes and plan to utilize cost cutting measures like this to create savings. “Sharing staff and administrative duties, coordinated purchasing of supplies, and sharing public works, employees and equipment all create tremendous savings. Without ever touching local emergency services, we can accumulate substantial savings in the payroll, benefit and financing costs that make up a big chunk of local budgets.”

Most importantly, Schroeder believes “we must eliminate the political deals and no-bid insider contracts that drive up the cost of government. It's time to throw the career politicians out and save taxpayer's more of their hard earned money.”

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Automatic Front-Runner

When Democrat Jon S. Corzine spent $60 million of his $300 million-plus fortune to move from Wall Street to Capitol Hill in 2000, he doubled the previous record for spending on a Senate race. Critics dismissed Corzine, formerly co-chairman of Goldman, Sachs & Co., as a dilettante politician with an expensive midlife career crisis.

Today, Senator Corzine, is the automatic front-runner to become New Jersey's next elected governor in November, 2005. His whatever-it-takes campaign spending will discourage challengers, and independent wealth is viewed as a plus in his state's often-disreputable politics. "New Jersey voters swoon over old money because they figure that personal wealth puts politicians above corruption," says political scientist Ross K. Baker of Rutgers University. A couple of years in the governor's mansion could even position Corzine for a run at the White House in 2008.

So why would Corzine, who has served less than one full term, want to leave the Senate? "I was an executive most of my life," Corzine tells BusinessWeek. "Having the ability to set the agenda and fight for that agenda" is more satisfying than the struggle to pass legislation. That's especially true when you are a member of the Senate's minority party.

Fixing what ails New Jersey would give Corzine a résumé tailor-made for the national stage. But talk of a run for the White House is premature, he insists. And if there is a downside to Corzine's chances nationally, it could lay with his left-of-center politics. He opposed the Bush tax cuts and voted against lucrative farm subsidies. Those stances might not play well in Iowa or New Hampshire. Another potential problem: the image of Corzine as a moneybags politician. With millionaires making up 40% of the Senate, "My problem with Corzine is that he is a symbol of a very disturbing trend," says Charles Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington watchdog group.

Corzine insists that voters don't care how he finances his races. And if a Governor Corzine succeeded even marginally in eliminating the sleaze from Jersey politics, his reputation as a reformer would overshadow a liberal voting record in the Senate.

A few years spent cleaning up and running the nation's ninth-largest state could make Corzine a national star. Or a stint in a capital beset with corruption and grueling fights over school funding, auto insurance, and state pensions could do for Corzine what it has done for so many other aspiring Jersey pols -- dash any hopes of higher office.

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Ending The Culture Of Corruption

Doug Forrester launched his bid for Governor, pledging to clean up state government and stating that he is the best hope of victory next November. "The people deserve leadership that will end the culture of corruption and reverse years of fiscal mismanagement."

Forrester said that while he served a term as mayor of his hometown, and spent several years in Trenton in bureaucratic posts, including a stint as the state pension director, he is a political outsider who can shake up the Statehouse establishment and restore the state's battered reputation. That reputation, he said, has been tarnished by former Gov. James E. McGreevey, several federal investigations and a slew of convictions against elected officials of both parties.

"Nearly 230 years ago, a handful of patriots began their march to Trenton to throw off arrogant governors and judges who taxed them too much and substituted their judgment for the will of the people. It's been said that I'm not a back-slapper, that I'm too serious. They're right, I am not a professional politician and that's good because we've seen what the professional politicians and back-slappers have done to New Jersey. Corruption and high taxes may be a fact of life in New Jersey today. It doesn't have to be that way tomorrow. The politicians created this mess. We can clean it up."

Call For Transparent Government

John Murphy, candidate for Governor, says that to have property tax reform we need two things: we need a more transparent government in Trenton and we need the governor and the legislature to honor the state Constitution and stop illegal borrowing of billions of dollars.

The key to cutting property taxes is not raising some other tax, it's to cut spending and stop wasting the public's money. Murphy also said he would enact meaningful ethics reform and overhaul the state's conflict of interest law to hold the executive and legislative branches accountable to the people. He would revamp the state's ethics boards to include members of the public, rather than just those appointed by the governor. It is time to elect of governor more interested in serving our interests rather than the interests of campaign contributors to build his political dynasty.

Murphy, who has been testing the campaign water for the past year said that he is ready to help lead the Republican Party back to its once-dominant position in the state. "I am standing in front of you tonight because I am ready to lead the battle to change Trenton. We will win by returning to our core principles of fiscal responsibility, and demonstrating to the people of this state that we have the courage of our conviction to bring real change to New Jersey."

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

A New Tax Model For School Funding

The Cascade Policy Organization believes a tax model for education that connects revenue to those who benefit could provide significant funding for schools and demonstrate that parents and students value education.

Discussion of education funding should acknowledge and appreciate that many taxpayers do not have children in the public schools, but they are still required to fund schools through taxation. One of the primary rationales for this is that K-12 education benefits the general population; thus widespread taxation is justified.

Even if one accepts a social benefit justification for taxes, it is certain that some advantages of education accrue to individuals. After all, society does not sit in a classroom, individuals do. Individuals acquire skills and knowledge and use them to earn an income.

There is much evidence that individuals benefit from education. According to the American Council on Education, a person who completes high school will make about $400,000 more during his or her lifetime than someone without a diploma.

Higher compensation provides an economic justification for families to pay a portion of education costs. Why should all taxpayers pay the full costs of education when individuals receive substantial benefits?

Education funding fails to connect who pays for education with who benefits from it. Those who attend public schools receive significant economic benefits from their education and should directly pay a portion of the cost of school. Parental financial responsibility for education will help create incentives for improved school performance and efficiency.

Policymakers give lip service to the benefit principle, but they have either ignored or misapplied it in considering how to raise revenue for schools. Parents and their children receive a substantial benefit from K-12 education and it is reasonable for them to pay for this service. After all, if parents do not value education enough to spend their own money on it, why should other taxpayers be forced to fund it for them?

The complete article can be read

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Acting Governor On Education

Acting Governor Codey says his “education initiatives have helped improve New Jersey schools by ensuring that students receive a well-rounded education and achieve their educational goals. For example, to assist schools in teaching students the important lessons of the holocaust, Acting Governor Codey created the State Commission on Holocaust Education.”

“Currently, Acting Governor Codey is working on
passing a measure to make community service a requirement for high school graduation. He believes such a requirement would teach students a valuable life lesson and could help foster a lifelong commitment in New Jersey's youth to helping others less fortunate than themselves.”

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Tax Convention Rigged?

Steve Lonegan, candidate for Governor, believes the task force working on a New Jersey constitutional convention concerning property taxes is rigged to produce one outcome: higher income and sales taxes on middle class New Jerseyans. "Whatever this commission comes out with won’t be good. The overwhelming majority of members are pro-tax increase liberals whose political philosophy can be best described as far-left. This group is committed to massive tax increases on productive working families across the state in order to create a new income redistribution scheme worthy of Karl Marx,"

Lonegan said that he will fight whatever proposal the group puts on the ballot. "Anything this group comes up with will be bad, cost taxpayers more money and expand state government even further. There is no chance that when you get a dozen ultra-liberals in a room that you will get anything other than an ultra-liberal plan.”

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Monday, November 22, 2004

Agent For Change

Bret Schundler’s - Reform NOW Agenda
Bret Schundler says that for too long, the corrupt politicians who run the state of New Jersey have been raising our taxes, misspending our money, and padding their pockets. Since every member of the New Jersey State Assembly has to run for re-election in November 2005, Schundler says we should demand that they support permanent property tax, spending, and anti-corruption reforms before next year's election, or know that we will vote against them.

Schundler has gathered into one package a set of reforms which represent the top priorities of the people of New Jersey, and he is dedicating his campaign for Governor to trying to pass these reforms NOW!

The passage of the “Reform NOW Agenda” would:

Force Politicians to Control Their Spending!
Reforms will place reasonable, but binding annual caps on state, county, municipal and school spending that can only be exceeded with voter approval.

Increase Your Community's School and Municipal Aid!
A much fairer share of your state tax dollars will be returned to your local community to reduce the percentage of school and municipal costs borne by local property taxpayers.

Lower Your Property Taxes!
If this agenda had passed a year ago, the average property tax bill in New Jersey would already be 12% lower this year, and property tax rates would continue falling.

Clean Up Corruption!
Reforms will close the loopholes in today's “pay-to-play contracting ban” – loopholes which allow corrupt politicians to trade your tax dollars for political contributions.

Shundler says he wants state and local spending in New Jersey to be kept under control and focused on the basics, so every community in New Jersey can enjoy high quality public schools and basic services, and affordable property taxes. Additionally, he wants New Jersey's citizens to be able to know that their tax dollars are being spent to advance the public's interests, not the private interests of corrupt politicians.

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Reforming Property Taxes

The Star Ledger thinks it has a tax fix for our times. “Reforming New Jersey's long addiction to the property tax will require bold moves, difficult choices and many compromises. The result can be a system that recognizes that a house is a home first and foremost, and that taxes can be more fairly targeted to actual wealth.”

Sunday, November 21, 2004

NJ Constitutional Convention

Governor McGreevey signed legislation in July, 2004 that moved New Jersey one step closer to conducting a constitutional convention to reform the state’s property tax system. The new law called for the establishment of a task force to issue recommendations regarding the process of conducting a constitutional convention and to identify issues the convention should consider. The task force must complete its study and issue a report by no later than Dec. 31, 2004. The call for a constitutional convention must be approved by voters in 2005 to enable a convention to meet in 2006.

Task force website

The task force consists of 15 members: nine appointed by Governor McGreevey; two appointed by the Senate President, one of whom is a Senate member and one of whom is a member of the public; two appointed by the Assembly Speaker, one of whom is a member of the Assembly and one of whom is a member of the public; one member of the Senate appointed by the Senate Minority Leader, and one Assembly member appointed by the Assembly Minority Leader. The Governor appointed the chair and vice chair.

Information concerning task force members can be found

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