Blue State Blues
Bush Taking A Major Risk?
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.
Inspector General Position Created
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."
Constitutional Convention Task Force Debates Delegate Issues
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.
$8.6 Billion - Not Enough For School Construction
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.
Property Tax Solution
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.”
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.
Ending The Culture Of Corruption
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
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."
A New Tax Model For School Funding
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 here.
Acting Governor On 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.”
Tax Convention Rigged?
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.”
Agent For Change
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.
Reforming Property Taxes
NJ Constitutional Convention
Task force website link
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 here