Have You Heard About the $1 billion State Tax Cut?
Below are the state’s revenue projections for this year and for 2009 from New Jersey’s 2008 budget. As you can see, the state will take in $948 million more revenue for 2009 than 2008. Since Corzine promises not to spend more than last year, taxpayers are due a big tax cut in 2009. Why haven’t we heard more about this?
Mitt Romney For President
New Jersey Needs $38 Billion Plan For Employee Benefits
In 2002, the total for all benefits (health insurance, pension, etc) for active and retired employees cost taxpayers approximately $2 billion and comprised 8.8% of the state’s budget. By 2008, that number had grown to $4.9 billion, gobbling up 14.8% of the state’s budget. Teacher retirement benefits, paid from the state’s income tax revenues, are included in those numbers.
The Governor’s 2008 budget (current year), also provided a forecast for employee health insurance and pension benefit costs for the next five years. By 2013, the total for health insurance was estimated to be $4.6 billion and pension contributions, $3.3 billion. That’s $7.9 billion per year, excluding employer paid payroll taxes.
Read the Governor’s January 2008 asset monetization presentation and you’ll find he’s now projecting that by 2010, health insurance costs will jump to $4.9 billion, just for retired employees. Missing from Corzine’s chart are the projections for health insurance for active employees and the pension contribution required for teachers.
The Report of the Benefits Review Task Force from December of 2005 sounded the alarm with the following cost projections for employee health insurance. The Governor and Legislature thanked the task force kindly and then did essentially nothing about the skyrocketing costs.
We reluctantly acknowledge that such a large reduction in the liability might be achieved through the sale of a publicly-owned asset. While we are generally opposed to a one-time asset sale to generate revenue, we feel compelled to put aside our reservations and make the recommendation.That’s the reality and that’s the problem Governor Corzine is trying to solve with his $38 billion asset monetization plan and the huge toll hikes required to pay for it.
That’s why we reluctantly support Jon Corzine’s Financial Restructuring Plan. (If someone has another way out of this mess we’d like to see the details.) However, taxpayers should insist on some key changes to the plan and future state spending as the price for their support. We’ll write about that in future blog posts.
The Report of the Benefits Review Task Force – December 2005
The state of New Jersey Debt Report – November 2007
State of New Jersey Financial Restructuring – January 2008
Why The Sudden Panic Attack Over New Jersey’s Bond Debt?
Does New Jersey Need A $38 Billion Asset Monetization Plan To Solve an $800 Million Transportation Funding Problem?
Does New Jersey Need A $38 Billion Asset Monetization Plan To Solve an $800 Million Transportation Funding Problem?
The Governor says he needs the money to pay down the state’s debt to a more manageable level and to provide additional funding for the state’s Transportation Trust Fund Authority (TTFA).
In our last post, we showed that New Jersey is not having a problem paying its bond debt. The required annual debt payment was about $2.6 billion for the past two fiscal years and will remain at that level in the coming years, provided the state does not take on new debt. TTFA bond debt payments are included in the state’s $2.6 billion debt payment schedule.
Today, we’ll show why the state doesn’t need to borrow $38 billion to properly fund New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund Authority (TTFA). But first, a bit of background on the Authority, how it operates and its future needs.
The TTFA is responsible for funding the capital requirements of the New Jersey Department of Transportation and NJ Transit. It is an independent agency of state government that is responsible for financing the cost of planning, acquisition, engineering, construction, reconstruction, repair, resurfacing, and rehabilitation of the state’s transportation system.
The Authority receives its funding from revenue that is dedicated by the state’s Constitution, by statute and by issuing "state contract" bonds.
Constitutionally dedicated revenues include New Jersey’s motor fuels tax, the petroleum products gross receipts tax, and a portion of the general sales tax. Statutorily dedicated revenues include "good driver" vehicle registration surcharge fees, heavy truck registration fees, and contractual contributions by NJ Turnpike Authority and South Jersey Transportation Authority. These funding sources are collectively called appropriation revenues.
The TTFA issues "state contract” bonds for capital funding requirements which exceed the Authority’s annual appropriation revenues less debt payments. For FY 2008, TTFA received $895 in appropriation revenues and will have debt payments of $736 million. This leaves $159 million for new capital projects or debt payment on new bond issues.
The Authority’s project plans require a capital program of $1.6 billion annually though 2011. These transportation projects will be financed with bonds issued in a manner that will keep overall TTFA/NJT debt service below $895 million each year. In 2011, the state’s transportation trust fund will be depleted and additional appropriation revenues will be needed to pay for new projects.
Realistically, New Jersey will need to come up with $800 million in additional dedicated appropriation revenues each year to support the state’s transportation infrastructure needs. These additional revenues would provide roughly equal shares of "pay-as-you-go" and debt financing for future transportation projects. It would also ensure the state receives the full benefit of federal matching funds.
So, do we really need Governor Corzine’s $38 billion asset monetization plan to raise $800 million? The answer is no.
We could begin by ensuring all funds that are supposed to be dedicated to the TTFA actually go to the Authority and not diverted to other purposes as in previous years.
We could dedicate a larger share of the state’s sales tax revenue to the TTFA. In 2006, the Governor raised the sales tax and extended it to previously untaxed goods and services. This increased sales tax revenue by nearly 25 percent in just the first year. In 2006, sales tax revenue was $6.7 billion and this year it will bring in $8.8 billion, a 31 percent increase since 2006. Surely some of that additional $2 billion could be used for something as essential as the state’s transportation system.
We could eliminate “Christmas Tree” grants which this year amounted to $100 million. We could eliminate wasteful spending and dedicate those savings annually to the TTFA. And, if we absolutely had to, we could raise the gas tax.
Those are some of the actions lawmakers could take if the TTFA was the only funding problem we had to solve. It’s not. The real problem is glossed over in Governor Corzine’s talk about state debt payments and transportation funding needs.
The real problem Governor Corzine is trying to solve is truly staggering and quite frankly, requires leveraging state assets as he has proposed. So while we solve our huge financial problem, we might as well make it a package deal and pay down some of the debt to fund our transportation needs.
The bulk of that $38 billion in toll hikes will be used to fund the real culprit of the state’s financial crisis, which we will explain in our next post. Until then, we’ll give you a hint. It’s Governor Jon Corzine’s favorite cause.
Why The Sudden Panic Attack Over New Jersey’s Bond Debt?
That’s not to say New Jersey’s debt isn’t much higher than it should be. Take a look at the state’s credit card statement as of June 2007. (Click on the graphic to the left) There are things on there you’d expect to see - $7.98 billion for transportation, $1.5 billion for open space and farmland preservation, even the infamous $2.7 billion for pension funding. But some of the other stuff? Who remembers why we charged some of these things or what several of the charges are for?
There’s $616 million left to pay for the Sports and Exposition Authority - was that debt really necessary? Cigarette tax revenue, $1.4 billion – a cash advance, but what the heck did we do with the money? Anybody remember?
Then there are items put on the state’s credit card that only benefit certain municipalities or special interests - $6 billion for school construction in the Abbott districts, $176 million for municipal rehabilitation and $240 million for a business employment incentive program.
Look over the list and you’ll find your own “huh?” items.
Anyway, there’s no sense in crying about it now. We’ve already put this stuff on the credit card and we have to pay it back. But, why the sudden panic attack over the state’s bond debt? We can continue to swing the payments on our current income.
Sure our credit cards are maxed out and we can’t afford to buy new stuff, but why is Governor Corzine running around the state claiming we need to raise $38 billion when our current debt is only $30 billion? Or did Corzine charge up $2 billion more since June and the tab is now up to $32 billion? Either way, we can make the payments without new or increased taxes.
This year, state sales tax revenue will be $8.8 billion, half a billion more than last year and next year, it will be $800 million more than 2007. So, what’s up with all this talk about a financial melt down if we don’t adopt Corzine’s asset monetization plan?
Making our debt payments isn’t causing the state’s financial crisis. Raise road and bridge tolls a little bit and we’d have the money to pay for the expansion and maintenance of our transportation infrastructure. Obviously, the large toll increases Corzine is proposing are for a different purpose, which we explain in our next post.
The Traitorous Twelve
A tally of 41 yes votes was needed for the governor's measure to pass in the Assembly. The final vote was 41-36. In the Senate, 21 votes were needed and the bill passed the upper chamber with exactly 21 votes.
Here’s the list of the Traitorous Twelve:
Voting Yes On School Spending and State Aid Bill
(Lame Ducks In Red & Assemblyman Moving to Senate in Blue)
Nicholas Asselta (LD 1)
Martha Bark (LD 8)
Joseph Palaia (LD 11)
Peter Inverso (LD 14)
Robert Martin (LD 25)
Robert Singer (LD 30)
Gerald Cardinale (LD 39)
Bill Baroni (LD 14)
Jennifer Beck (LD 12)
Francis Blee (LD 2)
Ronald Dancer (LD 30)
Joseph Malone (LD 30)
All of them are unworthy of calling themselves representatives of the people and Republicans.
Senators Nicholas Asselta, Joseph Palaia, Robert Martin and Gerald Cardinale nullified the no votes cast by both assemblymen in their legislative districts. Bill Baroni and Jennifer Beck leave the Assembly on this sour note to take up new jobs in the Senate. These people are beneath contempt.
Over time, we will discover why the Traitorous Twelve voted against the best interests of the people. Nicholas Asselta’s reason was exposed today:
Yesterday, hours after Asselta cast a pivotal vote to help Gov. Jon Corzine win approval for his $7.8 billion school funding proposal, the governor approved his BPU appointment.Defeated in his bid for reelection, Asselta sold out for a $125,000-a-year state Board of Public Utilities post.
These people have no shame.
Republicans Should Support Corzine’s Plan
In our view, Republicans are going about this all wrong – trying to stop Corzine. Instead of stopping him, we believe Republicans should make Corzine pay a big price for their support – one that will actually make the state more affordable.
What’s Wrong With New Jersey? 2008 Edition - Exhibit #2
The saga of a recovering sex addict and a film about a serial-killer piano tuner are among 11 movies that were approved for tax breaks today to encourage filming in New Jersey.Well, at least your hard-earned tax dollars went to struggling artists making quality entertainment, suitable for the entire family. The state’s action also has the side benefit of encouraging people who pay taxes to leave.
New Jersey had a net 2006-2007 internal migration loss of 69,160 people…
State Aid Profile – Quick Facts
Corzine’s plan is complex, but there are a few key figures in the State Aid Profile you should review to understand what the plan will mean for your school district and your property taxes. After reviewing the numbers, you can contact your representatives in Trenton here.
Local Fair Share: is the amount your distinct can afford to pay in school property taxes according to Corzine’s plan.
2007-08 Tax: is the amount of school property taxes actually paid in your district last year
Calculate Key Tax Number: Subtract the 2007-08 Tax amount from the Local Fair Share amount. The difference between the two amounts will be key to understanding the impact Corzine’s plan will have on your school district and your property taxes going forward.
A positive “key tax number” indicates your district could afford to pay more school taxes, while a negative number indicates your district might receive more school property tax relief in the future.
State Aid Summary
There are five key figures on the State Aid Summary Box you should review from your district’s State Aid Profile.
Equalization Aid: is the amount your district will receive for educating regular and gifted students, low-income (“at-risk”) students, limited English proficiency (LEP) students and combination “at-risk & LEP students.
Security Aid: is a new aid category Corzine added at the last minute as a “sweetener”.
Adjustment Aid: is used for districts that would otherwise not receive a minimum school aid increase of 2 percent based on formulas in Corzine’s plan.
Total 08-09: is the total property tax relief your distinct will receive from the state in school aid.
State Aid Difference: is the total school aid increase your district will receive over last year.
Using the Key Numbers - Example School District: LivingstonKey Tax Number from Wealth Summary: $16,484,961
This number is the difference between Livingston’s Local Fair Share and actual school property taxes.
This means that according to Corzine’s plan, Livingston could afford to pay $16,484,961 more in school property taxes.
Total 08-09 School Aid from State Aid Summary: $4,987,544
This is the total school property tax relief Livingston will receive from the state based upon Corzine’s aid proposal for next year.
Compare Total 08-09 school aid and the Key Tax Number:
According to Corzine’s plan, Livingston is paying $16,484,961 less than its Local Fair Share of school costs. Total school aid for the district is $4,987,544.
This means that according to Corzine’s plan, Livingston could afford to lose all of its state school aid. Should Corzine’s plan be adopted, without “sweeteners” and other ad hoc aid adjustments in the future, Livingston could eventually lose all school property tax relief.
Equalization Aid from State Aid Summary: $0
This means Livingston doesn’t receive any education aid under Corzine’s plan for its regular and gifted students, low-income (“at-risk”) students, limited English proficiency (LEP) students and combination “at-risk & LEP students.
Compare Corzine “aid sweeteners” to State Aid Difference
There are two major “aid sweeteners” Corzine has proposed for next year to help get his plan passed - Security Aid and Adjustment Aid. Neither aid category existed in previous years.
Livingston is slated to get $425,774 in Security Aid, but the district’s total aid increase is only $240,457 over last year. This means Livingston would have actually lost aid without this “sweetener”.
For a fuller explanation of the State Aid Profile based read this post.
Decoding Your School District’s State Aid Profile
To help you understand Corzine’s plan and the State Aid Profile, we’ve created this post to guide you along using the Livingston school district as an example. Livingston is represented by Senator Dick Codey, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey and Assemblyman John McKeon.
First, an overview of Livingston’s school aid for next year. As you can see from the chart below, Livingston’s property tax relief is limited to special education, transportation and security aid. The school district won’t receive any state aid for education.
Now, on to an overview of the School Aid Profile using the Livingston school district as an example.
School Aid Profile - Property Tax Relief
Understanding The State Aid Profile
Wealth Summary - Your Fair Share Of School Costs
First, look at the last two lines in the third box, which is labeled Wealth Summary. Here you will see an amount for Local Fair Share and 2007-08 Tax.
Local Fair Share is an amount your distinct can afford to pay in school property taxes according to Corzine’s plan. The amount shown next to 2007-08 Tax is the amount of school property taxes paid in your district last year. The difference between Local Fair Share and 2007-08 Tax is the amount of school aid your district is entitled to under Corzine’s plan.
The following is Livingston’s Wealth Summary chart from the Aid Profile.
Districts with a Local Fair Share figure greater than the property tax figure are vulnerable to state aid cuts in future years.
State Aid Summary – Your Share of Property Tax Relief
To see the total aid your district received last year and a breakdown of state aid your distinct will receive next year, look at the first box in the Aid Profile, labeled State Aid (K-12) Summary. The chart for Livingston is shown below:
The total shown under FY08 is the amount of state aid your school distinct received last year. School Aid for FY09 is broken by various aid categories: Equalization Aid, two lines for special education student aid (Spec Ed Cat and Exord), Transportation Aid, Security Aid and two lines for aid adjustments (Adjustment Aid and Education Adequacy Aid).
Equalization Aid – State Aid For Education
Equalization Aid is the amount of property tax relief your district will receive under Corzine’s plan for the cost of educating students. This amount comprises aid for all students, including low-income (“at-risk:”), limited English proficiency (LEP) and those who are both low-income and of limited English proficiency (Comb).
Education aid per student is equal to the amount of Equalization Aid divided by the projected 2008 enrollment for your distinct.
Livingston will not receive any Equalization Aid under Corzine’s plan based on the district’s student enrollment and Local Fair Share.
Enrollment Summary – The Students In Your School District
Look to the middle box of the Aid Profile, which is labeled Enrollment Summary, to see your district’s enrollment in 2000, 2007 and projected for 2008. This box also provides a breakdown of students receiving free and reduced price lunches (at-risk), of limited English proficiency (LEP) and students who are both low-income and of limited English proficiency (Comb) who are enrolled in your district.
Livingston’s Enrollment Summary chart from the Aid Profile is show below:
The Livingston school distinct has students enrolled in all three “special needs” categories, but the district will not receive any state aid for their education. State education aid does not “follow the child” under Corzine’s plan.
Special Education Aid
Your district’s special education property tax relief is the sum of categorical special education aid (Spec Ed Cat) and extraordinary special education aid (Exord) as shown on the Aid Profile.
Seventy-nine percent of Livingston’s school property tax relief comes from special education aid. The distinct is slated to receive a total of $3,918,063 for special education students next year.
Categorical Special Education Aid
The Enrollment Summary does not provide special education student enrollment figures. It’s unnecessary, because under Corzine’s plan, Categorical Special Education Aid is not based upon the actual number of students receiving special education in your district. The plan uses a formula to arrive at a hypothetical number of special education students for aid calculation - your district’s total student enrollment multiplied by 14.69%.
Categorical special education aid is $3,632.33 per special ed student, adjusted slightly up or down depending upon the cost of living in your county.
Livingston will receive $3,243,212 in categorical special education aid. That amount is based on $3,788.80 per special ed student multiplied by 856, the number of hypothetical special education students in the Livingston school district.
Extraordinary Special Education Aid
Extraordinary special education aid (Exord) is allocated based upon the actual education costs of specific students in your district. The Extraordinary aid your district will receive is equal to 75% of the special education costs above $40,000 for educating a student in-district and 75% of the costs over $55,000 for educating a student in an out-of-distinct placement.
For the Livingston, this means that the district will receive $3,788.80 in Categorical Special Education Aid for the first $40,000 the district spends for a student with extraordinary special education needs, plus 75% of the costs above $40,000 in Extraordinary Special Education Aid. That’s assuming the student can be accommodated within the local school system.
For students with special education needs requiring an out-of-district placement, Livingston will receive $3,788.80 in Categorical Special Education Aid for the first $55,000 the district spends for the student, plus 75% of the costs above $55,000.
Livingston is slated to receive a total of $674,851 in Extraordinary Special Education Aid.
The Aid Profile provides the transportation aid your district will receive without providing any explanation of how the aid was calculated. However, Corzine is proposing to update the formula in the future based upon recommendations of the new Executive County Superintendents.
Until then, Livingston is slated to receive $643,707 in Transportation aid for its 5,826 students, an average of $110.49 per student. Transportation aid represents 13 percent of the district’s school property tax relief.
This is a new category proposed in Corzine’s plan that will provide security aid on a per student basis. Your district will receive $450 in aid for each low-income (“at-risk”) student enrolled in your district and $70 each for all other students.
Livingston is slated to receive $425,774 in security aid, which represents 8.5 percent of the school aid the district will receive. Without this new aid category, Livingston would have actually have received less school aid than last year. This means the district lost aid in other categories under Corzine’s plan.
The Adjustment Aid category is used for districts that would otherwise not receive a minimum aid increase of 2 percent next year under Corzine’s plan. If your district has an amount in this aid category, consider this as a warning from the Governor. According to Corzine’s plan, your school district is spending too much, not paying its local fair share in property taxes or both.
Education Adequacy Aid
Education Adequacy Aid is limited to those districts receiving aid in this category last year and meeting the following criteria for this year. Your district will be eligible again this year if your district: 1) is not spending an adequate amount per student and 2) is considered failing and/or overburdened by property taxes.
Corzine plans to phase out Education Adequacy Aid within three years.
What’s Wrong With New Jersey? 2008 Edition - Exhibit #1
Politicians in New Jersey and every state should wake up to this opportunity to fill their state treasuries. A system should be devised whereby all gift cards and certificates issued by chain stores, individual stores, shops and restaurants in a state must be consecutively numbered and accounted for. A state should be able to claim a substantial portion (75 percent) of any gift card or certificate that is not used or only partially used.The rationale:
That money is public money until the product or service for which it was purchased is claimed. It is not and should not be a windfall for the retailer that sold it.The hook:
That would truly be a gift to the children or residents of New Jersey.
Republican Leaders Introduce School Aid Proposal
Based upon Newark’s student enrollment of 44,720 students, Corzine’s spending and state aid per student is as follows:
Corzine’s Proposal – Newark District
Adequate budget per student: $15,918
State aid per student: $15,812
Funds per student required from Property Taxes and/or Federal Aid: $116
According to this press release, Senate Republican Leader Leonard Lance, Assembly Republican Leader Alex DeCroce, and Senate Republican Leader-elect Thomas Kean have a better idea.
The Republican leaders propose a 3.5 percent increase in state aid for the Newark school district, bringing the total to $717,507,475.
Based upon the Republican proposal, spending and state aid per student for Newark would be as follows:
Republican Proposal – Newark District
Adequate Budget per student: $15,918
State Aid per student: $16,044
Funds per student required from Property Taxes and/or Federal Aid: - $126
Truly mind boggling.
Update: We thought you might be interested to see how the hometowns of Republican Leaders make out under Corzine’s plan and the one Lance, DeCroce and Kean were scheduled to introduce today. Here are the details
Leonard Lance, Flemington
Corzine Proposal Flemington
Adequate Budget = $38,886,199
State Aid = $7,612,601
Enrollment = 3,412
Adequate Budget per student = $11,397
State Aid per student = $2,231
Funds per student required from Property Taxes and/or Federal Aid: $9,166
Republican Proposal Flemington
No Change from Corzine plan
Alex DeCroce - Morris Plains
Corzine Proposal Morris Plains
Enrollment = 838
Adequate Budget = $10,894,790
State Aid = $985,690
Adequate Budget per student = $13,001
State Aid per student = $1,176
Funds per student required from Property Taxes and/or Federal Aid: $11,825
Republican Proposal Morris Plains
Adequate Budget = $10,894,790
State Aid = $1,000,186 (reflects 3.5 % increase, a total of $14,496 more than Corzine’s plan)
Adequate Budget per student = $13,001
State Aid per student = $1,194 (reflects $18 more per student than Corzine’s plan)
Funds per student required from Property Taxes and/or Federal Aid: $11,807
Tom Kean – Westfield
Corzine Proposal Westfield
Enrollment = 6,205
Adequate Budget = $77,743,063
State Aid = $5,051,068
Adequate Budget per student = $12,529.
State Aid per student = $814
Funds per student required from Property Taxes and/or Federal Aid: $11,715
Republican Proposal Westfield
Adequate Budget = $77,743,063
State Aid = $5,125,348 (reflects 3.5 % increase, a total of $74,280 more than Corzine’s plan)
Adequate Budget per student = $12.529
State Aid per student = $826 (reflects $12 more per student than Corzine’s plan)
Funds per student required from Property Taxes and/or Federal Aid: $11,703